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Saturday, May 2, 2009
May 2, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 10:34 PM :: 6495 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

No deal for state, OHA on lands

A bill that would have the state negotiating to transfer nearly 20 percent of its land inventory to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in exchange for giving up all future claims to ceded lands appeared dead last night at the Legislature.

Conferees from the House and Senate had until midnight to find an agreement on Senate Bill 995 which may end up settling, once and for all, how much OHA should receive as its share of the revenues generated from the use of ceded lands. But key House members declined to support the bill, effectively killing it.

But what really had people raising eyebrows was a new wrinkle in the plan that allows OHA the option of settling all ceded land issues involving OHA. The proposal was introduced by Sen. Clayton Hee, D-23rd (Kane'ohe, Kahuku), chairman of the Senate Water, Land, Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs.

By offering OHA $251 million in cash and 20 percent of the 1.8 million acres of ceded lands to be determined in negotiations between the agency and the Lingle administration, OHA would need to agree to no longer make any claims to "income or proceeds of any kind or nature whatsoever" stemming from ceded lands. It would also no longer receive $15.1 million annually.

While those in favor of a larger settlement see it as a way of resolving the ceded land dispute with the state once and for all, opponents say it is not enough to resolve the so-called "global" issue of the overthrow and worry that it could extinguish any of their claims.  (In other words, they couldn't use PASH to shake down developers--so they killed the compromise which is remarkably similar to one Hee failed to embrace when he was OHA Chair.)

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Lawmakers will work overtime for budget

With services and programs cut, taxes raised and a fight with Gov. Linda Lingle looming, the state Legislature readied itself last night to go home on Friday, two days later than scheduled.

The biggest project, a state budget with $800 million in cuts, cleared the House and Senate conference committee with only Republican leader Sen. Fred Hemmings voting no.

The budget, $10.4 billion in general funds over the next two years, could only balance with an estimated $300 million in new state taxes and the infusion of nearly $1 billion in federal stimulus funds.

A series of previously passed tax increases on state income, hotel rooms, cigarettes and real estate sales are awaiting consideration by Gov. Linda Lingle.

Lingle reinforced her promise to veto those taxes.

"I'll veto any tax increase except those related to tobacco, which I'll take a close look at," she said yesterday.

Advertiser: Hawaii lawmakers agree on budget

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Counties will continue to get TAT funds

State lawmakers have killed an attempt to balance the state budget by taking the counties' share of hotel room tax money, a move that would have brought the state $100 million annually.

Although the action means Maui County won't need to go without $18 million in transient accommodations tax revenue in fiscal 2010, Mayor Charmaine Tavares and Council Chairman Danny Mateo said that the $551.5 million county budget won't necessarily return to what it was before it was cut in anticipation of losing the revenue.

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SB: Rail system should continue as planned

In a commentary column in the Star-Bulletin Monday, Bainum maintained that the city will spend more than twice as much for an elevated rail system than it would cost for a rail system at street level that could be built in less than half the time of the nine years projected for construction of the elevated rail. Those arguments were made by a group of local architects in December 2007 and were rejected (by Mufi Hannemann, arbiter of Truth).

Mayor Mufi Hannemann had explained (not argued?) in a letter to the Honolulu chapter of the American Institute of Architects why the proposed street-level rail would be impractical, and why the architects' estimate of construction costs failed to consider various factors (like kickbacks). Wayne Yoshioka, director of the city Department of Transportation Services, reiterated those reasons (claims) in a column published Thursday. 

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Money for pilot program might go to general fund

HILO -- In a tight budget year, fair elections funds are proving fair game for a government raid, a move that could delay public financing of Hawaii County Council elections.
The state Legislature on Friday was considering draining the campaign trust fund to balance the general fund budget.
Using the money is essentially a back-door route to delaying the public funding pilot project, even though a bill formalizing the delay until 2014 died in committee. That's because Act 244 won't kick in if the campaign finance trust fund drops below $3.5 million.

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Hawaii school board votes to close Wailupe Valley Elementary

The state Board of Education yesterday voted 14-0 to close Wailupe Valley at the end of the school year and transfer its 75 students to 'Aina Haina Elementary School, about a mile away.

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Nanakuli High tries to turn itself around with new teaching style

Administered by the New Technology Foundation, the school reform radically changes teaching practices through ongoing teacher development and coaching, requires students to earn college credit while attending high school and requires schools to offer a one-to-one student-to-computer ratio for hands-on, project-based learning.

It's a model that Nanakuli educators say will help them to reach their majority Native Hawaiian student population disillusioned by traditional classroom environments and monotonous book learning.

"There's a sense of urgency," said Lisa DeLong, Wai'anae-Nanakuli Complex Area Superintendent. "The scores have been improving but they started out very low. They show five years of steady growth but it's not anywhere near where it needs to be," she said.

Over the next four years, Nanakuli will implement the New Tech model. Both Kamehameha Schools and the Harold Castle Foundation will pay for most of the $450,000 cost.

In the age of No Child Left Behind, where standardized test scores are used to validate the academic effectiveness of public schools, Nanakuli High and Intermediate School has consistently landed on the bottom of the list.

Last year, only 11 percent of Nanakuli's students were considered proficient in math, compared with the state's average of 43 percent. Also, about 41 percent of students were considered proficient in reading, compared with 62 percent for the state.

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