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Friday, March 03, 2017
March 3, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:35 PM :: 1717 Views

Use CRA to Repeal Dept. of Interior Rule that Tries to Create Fake Indian Tribe in Hawaii

Salvage the Rail: Street Level Plan Can be Completed with Existing Funds

Ethics: DLNR Harbor Agent Grabs for Payoff Beyond $200 Allowed Under Law

What you can do to help contain taxes

Hawaii's Unsustainable Cost of Public Employment

ILWU Work Action Idles Pasha Containership in Honolulu Harbor

HIDOT to Solicit Feasibility Study for Ferry System

Emergency Work Ordered--Giant Sewer May Collapse Under Ala Moana Blvd

Pesticides, VOG, Mercury? DoH Seminar to Train MDs on Hysteria

Eight Nominated for UH Board of Regents

NCAA Reduces Punishment for UH men’s basketball

Security: Hawaii Legislators are Sitting Ducks

UHERO Fears Trumpmonster: “Many things could go wrong in Washington”

Caldwell: My Garbage Tax and Bus Fare Hikes are a Political Gambit

HNN: It may soon get even more expensive to live in Honolulu. 

In a press conference on Thursday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell presented his proposal the city's new $2.45 billion budget, an amount $118 million higher than it was last year.

"I can promise you, as mayor, I would not be proposing these revenue enhancements if we had fat in our budget," said Caldwell. (He then began laughing uncontrollably until a worried looking aide gave him an injection which seemed to calm him down.)

…Caldwell says he wants to start charging homeowners for some of them, including $10 per month for trash pick-up. The mayor says the fee would be added onto homeowners' water and sewer bills. …

Under the proposal, bus fares would also go up 25 cents per year for the next four years, topping out at $3.50. Seniors would pay $5 more for a yearly buss pass under the new budget.

The owners of hotels and resort properties, along with investors who own homes worth more than a million dollars, may soon see an increase on their property tax. The mayor also wants to charge a permit fee for developers working on projects that require city inspectors, to certify they are meeting federal regulations during construction….

By showing how hard it is to balance the city budget, Caldwell says he hopes state lawmakers will be willing to support a permanent rail tax surcharge….

read … Just a Political Game

Caldwell Budget Adds 191 Positions, Funds 522 Vacant Positions

SA: The budget represents a 5.1 percent increase, or about $118 million more than the current 2017 operating budget. The mayor’s proposed $956 million capital improvements budget represents a 2 percent increase, or about $16 million more than this year….

All of Caldwell’s proposed “revenue enhancers” will be introduced as bills and need City Council approval.

Budget Director Nelson Koyanagi said Wednesday that there have been significant increases in nondiscretionary spending, such as the city’s contributions to the Employees’ Retirement System, which are estimated at $20 million more for next fiscal year, and collective bargaining contracts, which all end this year.

Additionally, Koyanagi said the city is adding more “front of the house” positions, including 20 parks groundskeepers and seven lifeguards. He said 522 positions will remain deactivated (522 Funded Vacant Positions!) while the city has added 191 positions. City officials also plan to purchase a few personal watercraft, which along with the new lifeguard positions will ensure that the entire island will have personal watercraft coverage, Koyanagi said. The city also plans to fill about 20 positions for a new Department of Land Management, which was created by voters via a Charter amendment.

“We did look at what we could do to minimize expenses, and I think we did a pretty good job,” Koyanagi said without even cracking a grin….

But Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who had not yet seen Caldwell’s budget, said the proposed increases will overburden residents, pointing out that Caldwell’s administration is also seeking hikes to the city’s vehicle weight and fuel taxes, which are estimated to generate revenue for the Highway Fund. Bills on those proposals are pending before the Council. She said even though the city needs to staff a new Land Management department, it could decrease the number of positions….

read … Vacant Positions

TMT hearing concludes: Decision on contested case could still be months away

HTH: Witness testimony in the Thirty Meter Telescope contested case came to a close Thursday, four months after it began.

The extensive hearing received input from 71 witnesses, including Native Hawaiian cultural and religious practitioners, astronomers and government officials, regarding whether to reissue a construction permit to build the giant telescope atop Mauna Kea.

Witness testimony started in October and occurred over 44 days of hearings.

A decision by hearings officer Riki May Amano could still be months away, leaving the $1.4 billion project in limbo a year from a self-imposed construction deadline.

Next, court reporters face an enormous task of completing the written transcript. That could take five to six weeks, said Amano, a retired judge.

Afterward, the parties, which at the start totaled nearly two dozen, will have 30 days to submit their proposed decision, including findings of fact and conclusions of law. Amano said she will finish her decision following a two-week period in which objections to proposed orders can be made.

Scott Ishikawa, a spokesman for TMT International Observatory, said the organization behind the next-generation telescope remains hopeful construction can resume in a year. He couldn’t comment on whether the April 2018 deadline might be extended before relocating to a backup site in the Canary Islands.

The contested case hearing is a replay of an earlier contested case held in 2011, which lasted a brief seven days in comparison, for the project’s Conservation District Use Permit. The state Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the permit, but the state Supreme Court overturned that decision in late 2015 because a vote to approve the permit occurred before the hearing started….

read … Doomed

Not all multi-home owners are investors

SA: …Senate Bill 683, calling for a constitutional amendment, has been trimmed at a joint Ways and Means and Judiciary and Labor Committee hearing. In essence, the $1 million property value threshold was changed to $2 million.

According to the Star-Advertiser story, Tokuda said that “the increased tax threshold is intended to ensure local families with more than one home aren’t burdened by the proposed tax.”

Furthermore, “oftentimes children will inherit their family homes when their parents die, downsize or move into senior living facilities.”

I have some breaking news for our legislators: Not everyone with more than one home is a speculator.

Are you listening, Honolulu City Council members?

read …Not all multi-home owners are investors

With No Cardiologists, Sister Isle Hospitals Pay $70K for Life Flight

SA: States are prohibited from regulating medevac rates under the federal Airline Deregulation Act, passed in 1978, so air carriers are free to charge whatever they want.

Hawaii Life Flight is one of two Hawaii air ambulance companies that operate between the islands.

AMR Air Hawaii is the other carrier, and it charges thousands of dollars less than Hawaii Life Flight for similar flights, according to Honolulu Star-Advertiser research.

Kaiser has a contract with AMR to cover air ambulance services.

Some rural hospitals, including Kona Community Hospital on the Big Island, almost exclusively call Hawaii Life Flight to transport emergency patients, placing them them at substantial financial risk, Baker said.

A Hawaii Life Flight bill for emergency transportation from Hilo to Oahu in December 2013 totaled $70,580, with a base rate of $16,441 and a charge of $219 per mile, or $54,139 in mileage costs. AMR said it charges a base rate of $14,000 per flight and $25 per mile, which would make the same flight about $20,000.

The measures lawmakers are considering — Senate Bill 1076 and its companion, House Bill 915 — are “for all the constituents who have been ripped off by practices over there (on the Big Island),” Baker said. “They should not have to pay those bills if they have insurance on another carrier. I’m sure Kona’s got some kind of sweetheart deal with them (Hawaii Life Flight). It’s not saving them (the hospital) money. It’s not improving patient outcomes. All it does is leave a tremendous burden on the patient who is forced to pay these enormous fees. Medical charges are exorbitant enough without having to layer on (these costs).”

Representatives of Hawaii Life Flight didn’t return calls for comment.

Kona Community Hospital CEO Jay Kreuzer said his facility regularly uses Hawaii Life Flight because it has helicopter service, while AMR transports patients using fixed-wing aircraft. Hawaii Life Flight can get patients to other hospitals quicker than AMR, said Kreuzer, who submitted testimony opposing Baker’s bill. The Kona hospital is a 30- to 40-minute drive away from the airport, and it can take four to six hours to put a patient onto a fixed-wing aircraft and transport him or her to a hospital on another island — as opposed to a helicopter that can get to the hospital’s landing site in eight minutes and to Honolulu in just over an hour, he said.

read … $70K

Firefighters could receive 100% Disability pay, Expended Medical Benefits

HNN: …Hawaii lawmakers are pushing to provide firefighters -- diagnosed with cancer on the job -- with expanded medical coverage, disability benefits, and compensation equal to 100-percent of average weekly wages…. 

(Translation: Lets cure cancer by throwing bags of money at firefighters.)

Right now, the state and counties don't automatically cover cancer treatment for firefighters. In order to get workers' compensation, they need to prove their job caused their cancer -- and many say it's such a lengthy and challenging process.

(Better idea: Mandatory annual cancer screenings for all firefighters to diagnose cancer when it is stage 1 instead of stage 4.)

There are currently more than 30 states in the country that provide their firefighters with presumptive coverage, which means their cancer is presumed to be job-related, so employers cover most medical expenses and disability benefits…..

But the proposal still has drawn major concerns. The Department of Labor estimates it would cost the state close to half a million dollars to start up this program and officials say the current plan lacks details. The City is concerned there's no protection from lawsuits from firefighters who get sick on the job. And Hawaii's largest insurer HMSA says giving them special coverage would weigh on the entire health care system. 

read … 100% Disability

Urban Honolulu ranks 16th among U.S. metro areas in median pay

PBN: Urban Honolulu ranks in the top 20 among United States metropolitan areas in terms of median wages, according to a new report by the Brookings Institute.

The median wage in the urban Honolulu area was $35,525 in 2015, the 16th-highest figure among the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. The median income in Hawaii’s largest urban center increased by 7.9 percent between 2010 and 2015, which is the most recent five-year period covered in the report. In 2010, the median pay stood at $32,960.

(NOTE: This does not adjust for Cost of Living.)

The median wage in the top-ranked U.S. metro area was more than $14,000 higher than in Hawaii’s state capital. Residents of Northern California’s Silicon Valley, the country’s technological epicenter, took home a median pay of $49,971 in 2015.

read …Urban Honolulu ranks 16th among U.S. metro areas in median pay, report shows

Bills To Raise Hawaii’s Minimum Wage Dead

CB: A measure to establish a $15 per hour wage by 2021 did not get a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee….

“We appreciate the acknowledgement by our legislators that now is not the time to increase minimum wage in our state, particularly with the increase that was passed during the last legislative session and when other costs, such as health care and other mandates, are on the rise,” said Chamber of Commerce Hawaii President and CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara.

She added, “Having the opportunity to evaluate the impact of last session’s increase on businesses and jobs before further increases are made is a prudent path, as well.”

read … Dead

SB689 Search and Seizure: County Inspectors May Raid Buildings Without Warrant—Looking for ‘Illegal Yoga Studios’, ‘Granite Countertops’

MN: A state Senate bill that would give fire and county building permitting inspectors the power to enter private property, with notice, to investigate possible violations of agriculture building codes “could be very helpful to us,” said the Maui County deputy planning director.

The bill, SB 689, which cleared the Senate Ways and Means Committee last week, is aimed at those who are abusing exemptions for nonresidential farm structures under 1,000 square feet from building permit requirements. The exempt structures are meant for agricultural uses only.

But when inspectors see granite countertops in these structures, “we know that there is abuse,” Michele Chouteau McLean, deputy planning director, said Monday.

“We have seen a lot of abuse,” she said.

There could be yoga studios or additional dwellings, which are not permitted farm structures, she said.

Inspectors currently only go onto properties to investigate a complaint with the permission of the property owner or tenant, McLean said. It is “rare” that the county goes to court to gain access to properties with alleged violations, she said.

The bill would give county fire department and building permitting agency officials “the implicit right to enter the property, upon reasonable notice to the owner or occupier, to investigate exempted agricultural buildings for violations.” ….

If there is violation, the initial fine is $1,000 with possible additional fines of $1,000 a day until the violation is resolved, she said….

Best Comment: “The 4th Amendment is very inconvenient for government, all that stuff about requiring warrants before invading homes.”

SB689: Text, Status

read … Illegal Search and Seizure

Hawaii gun bill aims to prevent mass shootings by seizing firearms from ‘at-risk’ owners

GC: A proposal moving through the Hawaii Senate would allow law enforcement to seize firearms from owners considered “at-risk” of committing a violent crime.

The state Senate Committee on Public Safety approved Senate Bill 898 Thursday, clearing the proposal’s last hurdle before a final vote on the chamber floor.

Specifically, the legislation stipulates police can seize guns from an owner with a court order issued through an ex-parte warrant application. A hearing to determine the owner’s permanent prohibition would occur within 30 days….

SB898: Text, Status

read … Illegal Search and Seizure

Soft on Crime: Lifelong Criminal Will be back out in a Year

HTH: Liu will have to serve a minimum of one year, with credit for time served, before he can be considered for parole.

Deputy Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen told the judge that Liu has “an extensive criminal history dating back” to the mid-1980s and Liu’s probation officer hadn’t seen him “in years.”

“As the court’s aware, defendant failed to appear for proceedings back on Dec. 5, 2016,” Waltjen said, “The day prior … the defendant became the subject of a missing persons investigation which resulted in deployment of a search team, which included 17 fire units, both county helicopters and a Coast Guard helicopter and cutter. The defendant was … arrested about two weeks later.”

The search was mounted after Liu’s unoccupied 12-foot Zodiac-type inflatable boat was found in the ocean about a mile offshore from Kohala Estates. Liu’s truck and trailer were found at the Kawaihae boat ramp.

Police issued a wanted bulletin for Liu two days prior to the start of the search, and Waltjen called the mission costly “for the community and taxpayers.”

(Fortunately he didn’t open up an illegal yoga studio with granite countertops.)

read … Back out in a Year

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