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Saturday, February 11, 2017
February 11, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:10 PM :: 1535 Views

HIDOT Mileage Fee: Meet Big Brother the Taxman

SB1129: Senate CPH Committee Schedules Assisted Suicide Bill

Neighborhood Board Elections: 327 Candidates Register for 437 Seats With One Week to Go

Demanding a Tax Hike, HSTA to Rally at Capitol

Jones Act and Maritime Security Program

Home Ownership: Hawaii Most ‘Equity Rich’ Properties

Justice Ginsburg at UH Law School: “We have a Dysfunctional Congress”

Study: 72 Convicted Terrorists Came From Countries Covered by Trump Vetting Order

Hawaii needs self-managed pension plan for public-worker retirees

Overtime Abuse? Ige’s Been Watching it Happen for Years

KHON: This past Sunday, 260 out of 733 workers staffing the state’s prisons and jails called in sick. Last year, 230 called in sick, and in 2015, there were 255….

We’ve been tracking the issue for years, because too much sick leave means overtime pay so that the prison can maintain its minimum staffing requirements….

Gov. David Ige says state workers abusing sick leave is a problem, and stresses the importance of a public employee doing his or her job. He says it’s been on his radar for years….

We asked if anyone’s ever been disciplined for faking sick. A spokesperson said yes, and (then, without laughing, said) “if there is suspected abuse of leave, we will investigate and take appropriate action.”

The department also admitted “curbing excessive leave use is a constant battle for (game in) all state agencies.”…

We reached out to other departments to see if anyone’s been disciplined for abusing sick leave.

The Honolulu Police Department said it’s looking into our request.

The Hawaii Police Department says one officer was caught abusing sick leave twice in 2016. The officer was given a total of 11 days suspension (somebody worked overtime to cover his shifts) ….

2014: Hospital Crisis: How to Use Union Work Rules for Fun and Profit

read … Governor weighs in on problem of state workers abusing sick leave

HB209: Progressive Democrats Demand Massive Income Tax Hike on Small Business Owners

IM: On Thursday, the House Finance Committee took up the issue of the regressive tax system in Hawai`i.

HB 209 would expand the low income-household renters' income tax credit based on adjusted gross income and filing status, establish a state earned income tax credit, and restore the income tax rates for high income brackets that were repealed at the end of 2015. The bill was amended and passed unanimously. (Better Idea: 100% Tax on ‘Vacant Positions’)

Chair Luke noted that the testimony was an inch-and-a-half thick; some 100 plus testifiers supported passing the legislation (which would squeeze small business, thus making the poor, poorer.)….

There were at least two groups in opposition: Hawai`i Association of Realtors and the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii opposed Section 3. The Tax Foundation of Hawai`i expressed concerns.

The Chamber noted that part 3 “restores the income tax rates for high income brackets that were repealed on 12/31/15. The Chamber takes no position on the other substantive parts of the bill. …This bill adversely affects small businesses and would severely limit their ability to reinvest in their business, create jobs, and keep their small business running. Business owners already face many restrictions and regulations and this bill is just another challenge for small business owners in Hawaii to survive.”

HB209: Text, Status

read … Regressive

Expensive Tickets? House votes to nix one of the HIDOT Money Grab Bills

HNN: The measure, proposed as a way to deter distracted driving after a sharp increase in traffic deaths last year, would have bumped the cell phone fine from $250 to $750.

Honolulu prosecutors said the high fines would likely jam the state's court system because so many people would ask for trials over the citations.

Another bill -- one that would raise fines for excessive speeding -- was kept alive for the time being.

read … Nix

TAT: Political Insiders Milk Cash Cow

HNN: Last fiscal year, the state collected $452 million in taxes from hotel rooms and time-share rentals.

After allocations from the transient accommodations tax to the counties and the Hawaii Tourism Authority, $236 million was left over -- and there's no shortage of requests for some of it.

"People see the TAT as the cash cow," said state Sen. Glenn Wakai, chairman of the Economic Development, Tourism and Technology Committee. "Everybody wants a piece of the action. They feel that they pay in and they should get the money out."

Every year, tax experts say, many organizations and individuals want the money automatically from tourist funds so they don't have to ask annually.

Tax Foundation of Hawaii President Tom Yamachika said that's problematic.

"They want dedicated pots of money so they don't have to deal with appropriations at the Legislature. They just get the money and run," he said.

He added, "As many interests there are out there you'll probably find bills (for TAT funds) that correspond to those interests."

HTA gets $82 million a year from hotel taxes to market Hawaii.

But Wakai thinks the authority should help University of Hawaii athletics from funds HTA gets for the Pro Bowl.

"Why not use $3 million of that $5.1 million to help defray the travel expenses for the University of Hawaii?" he said….

read … Milk and Honey

Energy Excelerates Flow of Tax Dollars to Crony Capitalists

SA: …Energy Excelerator, a Hawaii-based organization that helps energy and energy-related companies starting up, has selected the 12 companies it will assist this year.

With funding from agencies including the Navy, U.S. Department of Energy, GE Ventures, Blackstone and power utilities in five different countries, Energy Excelerator issues a yearly call for infrastructure-related companies from across the globe, conducts rigorous due diligence and eventually chooses a select class (less than 5 percent of applicants) to fund, train and help succeed through a vast array of partners.

This fifth cohort is drawn from across the world, from Hawaii to Indiana to Spain, but the road to 100 percent renewable energy goes through Hawaii. With the nation’s first 100 percent renewable energy statewide mandate and an existing renewable energy mix of almost 50 percent on some islands, Hawaii is pushing the boundaries of the new energy economy on several fronts and is often seen as a bellwether for electric grids and services across the globe….

read … Cash Exelerator 

Ing Rent Control Bill Deferred Amidst Laughter, Ridicule

MN: House Bill 1267 would direct the state Housing Finance and Development Corp. to initiate a rent-controlled housing project to encourage construction of new rental housing affordable to low-income tenants. The measure also calls on the agency to evaluate the impact of rent control on the state’s housing market….

The state House Committee on Housing took up Ing’s measure Thursday and recommended deferring it.

In written testimony, HFDC Executive Director Craig Hirai opposed the bill, saying that studies have shown “rent control is an ineffective and often counterproductive housing policy.”

(Handy Tip: When writing a bill to direct a department to do something, make sure the department supports you.  Duh!)

“When rents are artificially constrained through rent control laws, it removes an important incentive for rental housing development and preservation,” Hirai said. “In the long run, rent control has been found to reduce, rather than expand, the supply of rental housing.”

He maintained that the measure is unnecessary because rents are regulated through other state affordable housing programs, including Hula Mae multifamily bonds, low-income housing tax credits and the rental housing revolving fund. Maximum rents are computed based on very low income limits established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for different household sizes. Rent increases are tied to renters’ income.

Opposition also came from Myong Oh, director of government affairs for the Hawaii Association of Realtors.

“Rent control does nothing to increase the supply of rental housing and, ultimately, increasing supply is the true long-term solution to Hawaii’s rental housing shortage,” Oh said….

read … Another Ing Failure

Condos in Your Future: Anti-Agriculture Activists Grab for Last of HC&S Water

MN: Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. still needs around 115 million gallons of water per day for its plans to transform most of its 36,000 acres formerly used for sugar cane into diversified agriculture.

“To attract new farmers and new agricultural operations to Central Maui, there needs to be irrigation water. No farmer will risk making the investment in new agricultural operations without knowing suitable water is available to cultivate their crops,” said Darren Pai, a spokesman for HC&S parent company Alexander & Baldwin.

At full implementation of the company’s diversified agricultural plan, which is about 27,000 acres, A&B estimates that approximately 115 million gallons of water per day would be needed, Pai said. He did not say how much water the plantation used for sugar cultivation, but HC&S’ website said that 200 million gallons were used per day.

According to HC&S documents, water is still needed to irrigate fields that could be used for pastures; orchard, beverage and bio-energy crops; other diversified agriculture; and an agricultural park.

Critics of HC&S water diversions say that the former plantation has not provided sufficient plans to substantiate its claims on available water and that the company has not explored other ways to reduce its water intake.

How much water the former plantation needs and the amount of water it should divert to East Maui taro farmers were among issues debated this week when the state Commission on Water Resource Management reopened contested case proceedings to determine stream flows for 27 East Maui diverted streams.

The contested case was reopened after HC&S announced in January 2016 that it would shut down sugar operations.

read … HC&S’ need for E. Maui stream water weighed

Hilo Attempts to Free Itself from DLNR Indolence

HTH: Bills that would create the first-ever community economic district on Hawaii Island are inching their way toward a final form.

The companion bills were introduced in both chambers of the state Legislature by a cohort of Big Island senators and representatives. House Bill 1479 has one more hearing to go after clearing joint committees this week and Senate Bill 1292 was scheduled for a Friday afternoon hearing, but a final outcome was not available by press time.

The bills seek to form a Hilo Community Economic District, which would establish co-management of a broad area, including the Waiakea Peninsula and the Kanoelehua Industrial Area, between the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Hawaii Community Development Association.

The HCDA is part of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. It was created to promote development and planning for “underutilized urban areas” in Hawaii. There are three other such districts in the state, all on Oahu.

The measures have received considerable attention on the Big Island for their potential to help stimulate growth and redevelopment in Hilo. They are supported not only by directly impacted organizations such as the Kanoelehua Industrial Area Association, but also industry groups such as Hawaii Island Realtors and the Hawaii Island Contractors Association.

The University of Hawaii at Hilo and the University of Hawaii Community College System testified in support, as did the East Hawaii Region of Hawaii Health Systems Corp., which oversees Hilo Medical Center.

In addition, the Hawaii County Council plans to take up a resolution to support HB 1479 and SB 1292, along with a package of related legislation, during its Feb. 22 meeting.

read … Economic district measures advance

DLNR Police Harass Christmas Boat Parade Organizer

WHT: A Kona District Court judge has disqualified himself from hearing the case of Sean “Peaman” Pagett, who was cited Christmas Day for running an unpermitted race at Kailua Pier.

It was Pagett’s first court appearance (Overtime pay for DLNR Police witnesses) since Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers wrote a criminal complaint and court summons for Pagett not having the necessary permit to hold a “marine parade” at Kailua Bay. He pleaded not guilty before Kona District Court Judge Peter Bresciani Thursday to the single offense and Bresciani set Pagett’s next court appearance, a pretrial conference, for March 13….

Braswell also noted that “there’s some indecision in the Prosecutor’s Office as to whether or not they are going to move forward in the case. But I think that will be resolved in the fairly short-term.”…

The state alleges Pagett, 53, was advised prior to the Doc Ferren Hall of Fame Biathlon, the final race in the annual Frozen Pea Production event series, that a permit was necessary to hold the event. Peaman, according to the criminal complaint, told officers that he understood a permit was needed, but “it does not apply to him.” After giving race instructions and holding the biathlon, in which more than 150 people took part in, officers issued Pagett the citation at 9:58 a.m. (Triple overtime on Christmas!) for violating Hawaii Administrative Rules Chapter 13-244-19, which deals with authorization for staging a regatta, marine parade, boat race or exhibition.

The rule defines these events as any “organized water event of limited duration, which is conducted according to a prearranged schedule” that “will introduce extra or unusual hazards to the safety of persons or property on the water.” State law further requires the purchase of risk-management insurance to cover such events once a permit is issued.

The free Peaman series, which has grown into an informal institution in Kailua-Kona over the last three decades, first encountered resistance in November. A DOCARE officer tried to shut down the Post Pigout Peamania swim/run race that is held the first Sunday after Thanksgiving every year. The officers told Pagett then that if he didn’t acquire the proper permits and provide proof of insurance, further action would be taken.

read … Harassment

U.S. Transportation department executive approved grant days before taking job with rail contractor

LAT: A top Obama Administration executive at the U.S. Department of Transportation approved a $647-million grant for a California rail project in mid-January and less than two weeks later later went to work for a Los Angeles-based contractor involved in the project, the Times has learned.

The grant provides a significant part of the money required to install a $2-billion electrical power system on the Bay Area’s Caltrain commuter rail system, allowing the commuter rail to retire its diesel locomotives….

The grant was handled by Carolyn Flowers, the acting chief of the Federal Transit Administration.  Flowers announced the grant approval in a letter,  dated Jan. 18,  to Congressional leaders….

Thirteen days later, Flowers went to work for AECOM, a Los Angeles-based engineering firm. The company press release announcing her hiring says she will head its North American transit practice. AECOM provides  program management services to Caltrain for the electrification project, according to Caltrain documents. It was formerly a regional consultant to the high speed rail project as well.

(And AECOM works for Honolulu Rail, too, natch!)

2014: AECOM Contract conflict creates new concerns for rail project

read … Conflict is Profitable

Trump Backs Privately Funded high-speed rail projects

MC: …An $18 billion high-speed rail system, built by a Japanese company, could transform transportation in the Lone Star State….

The Texas Central Railway, a 250-mile high-speed route between Dallas and Houston, also made the list. Unlike the Gateway Program, however, Texas Central doesn’t seek federal funding to build its 200 mph service.

The route and the trains will be built with private funds, and the trains will be similar to the ones in operation between Tokyo and Osaka, Japan, for more than 50 years.

Still, Texas Central needs permits to begin construction, and that’s where Trump may be able to accelerate the process. He campaigned on a promise to reduce the regulatory hurdles that delay the development of infrastructure.

“The Texas project is pleased to be considered among the nation’s infrastructure priorities,” Texas Central Railway said. “We look forward to working with the new administration, moving ahead with the project’s free-market approach.”

The list of rail-related projects could grow as the Trump administration solicits ideas from governors eager for federal assistance with state infrastructure priorities….

Related:

read … Privately Funded

Shipyard Freeze Gives Schatz, Hirono Chance to Pretend that They Matter 

SA: Trump’s Jan. 23 federal hiring freeze allowed heads of executive departments or agencies to exempt jobs deemed necessary for national security, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work on Feb. 1 provided an exemption for shipyard jobs that “perform direct management of inventory and direct maintenance of equipment.” …

Hawaii’s congressional delegation Friday (insert bleating sound here) ….

read … Frozen Out

Should U.S. be preparing for a North Korean nuclear strike on the West Coast?

MC: After listening to experts describe the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear arsenal, U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, paused amid a Capitol Hill hearing earlier this week and made a suggestion.

“We ought to have civil defense in this country,” said Sherman during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Some of us are old enough to remember when we had civil defense and we were under our desks.”

The congressman wasn’t calling for an immediate return to the “duck and cover” days of the Cold War. But his statement reflects heightened alarm among members of Congress – especially those from the West Coast – over North Korea’s continuing nuclear tests and advances in missile technology….

He and other analysts have criticized the Obama administration, saying it was inconsistent in the region. While Obama once counseled a policy of “strategic patience” with Pyongyang, he left office reportedly advising Trump that nuclear North Korea should be the new president’s top foreign priority.

read … Thanks, Obama

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