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Friday, March 17, 2017
March 17, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:58 PM :: 3041 Views

Hawaii v Trump: Decision based on Campaign Statements “Dangerous”

How to fix Hawaii’s pension problem

16 Tax Hike Bills—and Three Tax Cuts--on the Move in the Legislature

The Legislature Just Can't Help Itself When It Comes to the Maui Hospital

Chief Justice Appoints Three Oahu District Court Judges

Billy Kenoi Lava Tube

Survey: Plurality in Hawaii Support Trump’s Travel Ban

Hawaii is a Sanctuary State for Corruption—No Wiretaps Ordered Outside of Maui County

KHON: …A report to the state Legislature revealed Hawaii judges granted three wiretap orders in 2016. All were requested by Maui County Prosecuting Attorney John Kim.

We dug into decades worth of records and looked at the number of wiretaps granted by Hawaii judges. That number was mostly zero up until just recently.

From July 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2015, there were 13 pen register orders (an electronic device that records all numbers called from a particular telephone line).

Twelve of those orders were requested by Maui County’s Department of the Prosecuting Attorney. One was requested by the Hawaii County Police Department.  (Translation: Nobody is listening on Oahu.)

In the recent case, Maui authorities specifically ordered wiretapping for “Conspiracy to Commit Methamphetamine Trafficking.” The orders were granted, and investigators conducted the wiretapping from April 4 through May 4, 2016, and May 4 through June 1, 2016.

A secured location within Maui Police Department’s Kihei station was used as headquarters for intercepting communication. Investigators intercepted hundreds of phone calls and text messages of 33 people.

The wiretapping resulted in 77 calls and 323 text messages of incriminating evidence into crystal methamphetamine trafficking. Maui police arrested 67 people on drug charges….

“It takes a lot to get a wiretap warrant, because police also have to show, ‘Look, judge, we did everything we could to find evidence all kinds of ways. This is the only way we can get these individuals who are conspiring to buy illegal drugs in Hawaii,'” he said.

Wiretapping comes at a price. The Senate was briefed on how much two months of wire-tapping cost in 2016: approximately $150,000 in personnel costs and approximately $11,000 in resource costs, including installation fees, supplies, and equipment….

read … Examining the rare, costly use of wiretaps in Hawaii

$15M Change Orders: Redesign Rail Columns so they Don’t Collapse Under Weight of Stations

SA: Under earlier plans rail was supposed to have started running from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium in September 2016, but that interim opening has now been pushed to July 2020….

More than $6 million will go to Kiewit Infrastructure West, as the firm building the system’s first 10 miles continues to make revisions to its columns and elevated guideway so it will support the load of the rail stations…..

The city awarded Kiewit contracts to design and build the guideway in 2009 and 2011 — before the contracts to design the stations went out.

Those station and guideway contracts should have been awarded together, former HART Executive Director Dan Grabauskas said in 2014 when the rail agency approved an earlier $6 million additional payment to Kiewit to address the issue. (Grabauskas joined HART in 2012 and resigned in August.)….

Kiewit’s latest $6 million will also go toward reinforcing underground sections of the West Oahu guideway near a channel that’s more susceptible to erosion than originally thought, HART officials said.

The remaining $8.7 million awarded Thursday will cover delay impacts to Ansaldo Honolulu JV, the firm contracted to design and build the train cars as well as the communications and controls system. Delays in building stations have kept the firm from running the proper tests, and delaying those tests then pushes back rail’s opening, Deputy Director for Core Systems Justin Garrod said in his board presentation Thursday.

The $9 million is a preliminary figure that’s expected to grow, rail officials said.

The project’s contingency fund, with a reported balance of more than $450 million, will cover all of the costs, officials say. HART has already approved more than $284 million in change orders to Kiewit to build the first 10 guideway miles and an operations and maintenance center, according to the agency’s most recent reports. The agency has approved nearly $27 million for Ansaldo in change order increases, the report further stated…..

A former rail consultant who left the project last year amid disagreements with HART has said that Kiewit expects to lose about $100 million on its contracts to build the first 10 miles of guideway….

The consultant, Bart Desai, questioned how those overseeing the project handled the early contracts.

“One could ask a question: Could HART have designed stations without much or no impact to the guideway elements? Or should HART have waited to delay issuance of Notice to Proceed (NTP) of the guideway project and give time to complete 75-90 percent design of station structure elements?” Desai, who dealt with claims on the project through subcontractor PGH Wong Engineering Inc., wrote in his letter. “Such option(s) would have saved the taxpayers multi-million dollars.”….

Hanabusa, then a rail board member, said, “Maybe we didn’t have a clear enough idea what we were doing”….

For the next stretch of rail construction, from Aloha Stadium to Middle Street, the stations and guideway are being designed and built as part of the same $875 million contract. The joint venture Shimmick/Traylor/Granite is expected to start that work later this year….

read … Change orders totaling $15 million approved for rail

SB334/HB1401: 100% Vote by Mail in 2020

HNN: …A bill that is now making its way through the Senate after passing in the House would create all mail-in voting -- also known as "vote by mail" -- statewide by 2020. Lawmakers say it would not only help with voter turnout, but it would save the state approximately $800,000 to $1 million per year.

"We would mail ballots to every voter and they would have a chance to mail it back or drop it off at a service center," explained Rep. Scott Nishimoto (D - Kapahulu, McCully, Moiliili).

Ballots would be mailed out well ahead of Election Day allowing voters an "election period," not just a single day, to vote. It's essentially absentee voting for everyone. It would not prevent in-person voting. Many states that have mail-in voting still allow voters to cast ballots at a precinct, if they prefer.

At least 22 states have statutes that allow certain elections to be conducted by mail. As of January 2017, three of those states -- Oregon, Washington and Colorado -- hold all elections entirely by mail.

There have been many attempts over the years to increase Hawaii's voter participation, including online voter registration, which began in 2015. Nearly three years ago, lawmakers passed a bill to allow for same-day voting registration, but that won't start until the 2018 elections.

Reality: Vote by Mail Fraud: Romy Cachola Barged In, Wanted Ballots

read … Vote by Mail

State Fines City for Caldwell Sewage Spills

SA: …Much of the backflow spilled out of manholes at Atkinson Drive and Ala Moana Boulevard, and then entered storm drains leading into the ocean, city officials said. One witness reported a small geyser shooting out of Ala Moana Boulevard near Fisherman’s Wharf resulting in “a sea of gray water” spilled that smelled like a toilet and left behind undissolved hygiene items.

According to the order, an estimated 462,050 gallons were spilled into the Ala Moana-Kakaako area, 125,000 gallons at the Kailua Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant and 4,950 gallons at the Kaneohe Treatment Facility. Oahu rainfall totaled more than 3 inches during a 24-hour period, setting a record for that date.

City officials insisted that Waikiki beaches were closed “out of an abundance of caution” the day of the spill as the result of a brown water advisory issued by the Health Department. Ala Moana was closed off for several days due to contaminants found in water samples.

Under the voluntary agreement, the city is required to revise its sewage spill volume estimate procedures, (ie Stop Lying) revise its standard procedures to improve response time to spill prevention alarms, upgrade its sewage system supervisory control and date acquisition system, and develop a high-density urban area storm-water inflow detection, identification and quantification study. An estimate on how much that will cost was not immediately available from city officials.

The $100,000 penalty is to be paid to the state within 90 days….

read … State fines city $100k for 2015 sewage spills

HPD might test body cameras this year

SA: The Honolulu Police Department hopes to have patrol officers in at least one of its districts equipped with body cameras by the end of the year under a pilot project, HPD officials told the City Council Budget Committee on Thursday.

Acting Chief Cary Oki-moto said his preference would be to test the use of body cams in a district on Oahu that typically has a high rate of complaints against officers.

“The short answer is we want to get it going before this year is over,” he said. “We think it’s a valuable tool. For the purposes of keeping complaints down, we feel that that’s the way to go.” ….

Overall, Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s budget called for HPD to get a 2018 operating budget of $281.4 million, about $6 million, or 2.1 percent, more than the year that ends June 30. Much of the increase is due to pay raises tied to collective bargaining contracts. The budget must be approved by the Council.

Vacancies continue to be a concern for the department. As of Feb. 1 there were 179 vacancies out of 2,143 uniformed authorized positions, a rate of about 8.4 percent. There are 110 recruits currently in training, leaving an actual net of 69 vacancies.

Meanwhile, 333 sworn officers are eligible for retirement….

read … HPD might test body cameras this year

New law would require Hawaii church-based pregnancy centers to post abortion referral sign

HNN: …"This is an attack on Christianity, This is an attack on our religious beliefs and this needs to stop," said Derald Skinner, Pastor of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor.

Pro-life and pro-choice groups clashed at the state capitol on Thursday over a bill that would force anti-abortion clinics to tell women where they can get an abortion. Both sides say they are just trying to protect women.

"This is a trying time for any woman and to know that any provider that you see is required to give you information about all your options is really important for all women here in Hawaii," said Hawaii Legislative Director for Planned Parenthood Laurie Field.

Senate Bill 501 would require church-based counseling centers to post a sign clearly in the lobby explaining where women can get an abortion and free family planning services.

Those who oppose the bill said it violates their rights to freedom of speech and religion.

"It appears it's a one way street and all streets will lead these women to Planned Parenthood,” one testifier in opposition to the bill said….

There is a $500 fine for the first violation and $1,000 for every one after that.

A committee vote is set for Tuesday.

read … New law would require Hawaii church-based pregnancy centers to post abortion referral sign

SB1266: Low-Income Tenants Ask State To Keep Their Housing Affordable

CB: Almost 280 people live in the Front Street Apartments, an affordable housing complex in Lahaina on Maui’s western shore. In two and a half years, their rents will convert to market rates if state lawmakers don’t take action to keep the 142 units affordable.

The House Committee on Housing advanced Senate Bill 1266 to do just that Thursday after discussing what Chairman Rep. Tom Brower called a “very delicate issue.”

Front Street Affordable Housing Partners developed the apartment complex in 2001, relying on state and federal low-income housing tax credits for financing.

All 142 units were “expected” to remain affordable for 50 years, the bill says.

But the developer later opted for a qualified contract, an option that allows it to raise rents in 2020 rather than after 50 years.

In 2009, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation, the state agency in charge of administering state and federal low-income housing tax credits, closed that loophole.….

read … Low-Income Tenants Ask State To Keep Their Housing Affordable

E-Cig Tax Will Force Retailers to Register

HNN: …The state, however, doesn't keep track of every merchant who sells the devices, so it's impossible to check up on them. The University of Hawaii's Office of Public Health Studies is still trying to compile a list.

"Part of the E-cigarette tax bill that's in play right now at the legislature is to require anybody that's selling e-cigarettes to pull a tobacco permit and license," said Jessica Yamauchi, of the Hawaii Public Health Institute.

Those concerned about keeping vaping products out of teenagers' hands also think the state should close a loophole -- one that allows minors to lie about their age when buying vaping products online….

HB1495: Text, Status (dead for session)

read … E-Cig Tax

Bumbling Legislators Could Cost State $55M in Federal Funds

SA: Hundreds of people with developmental disabilities thronged the Capitol on Thursday to celebrate 30 years of progress toward self-determination and to push for adequate funding.

Medicaid Waiver services allow people with such disabilities to live and be integrated into the community rather than be confined to institutions as in the past. But rates to provide those services have not budged in 10 years while costs have escalated.

Unless the rates are updated, federal funding could be jeopardized, according to Mary Brogan, Developmental Disabilities Division chief for the state Health Department.

“If Hawaii does not pay the rates that are based on actual costs of delivering services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid could terminate the waiver,” Brogan said. “This would mean the loss of more than $55 million in federal funds to the state every year,” she said, and force the state to foot the whole bill.

read … Disabled warn state to fund services or risk federal aid loss

Trump’s Cuts to Taxpayer-Funded Liberalism Could be Deeeevaaastaaaatiiiing in Hawaii

KHON: The White House has unveiled President Donald Trump’s proposed $1.15 trillion budget blueprint.

The proposal submitted to Congress Thursday would boost defense spending by $54 billion….

$2.4 billion would be slashed from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Will that affect Honolulu’s rail project?

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation said in a statement: “The good news is the President’s budget would fund all projects such as HART’s which currently have an executed  Full Funding Grant Agreement. The message here is we should work to comply with the terms of the FFGA. We have not requested federal funding for extensions of the rail system. The Honolulu City Council has provided initial funding to begin the planning of the studying of the extensions to the rail system.” ….

Hawaii Public Radio also told KHON2 it’s too early to tell, however it’s not too concerned since only six percent of its budget is federally funded.  (Rich liberals can pick up the 6%)….

According to the document, the budget “eliminates direct appropriations to small organizations that receive funding from other sources and can continue to operate without direct Federal funds, such as the East-West Center.”

Reports say the center will suffer a funding loss of $16 million…..

read … Budget Cuts

Hawaii Gas to build infrastructure for LNG expansion project

PBN: Hawaii Gas, which became the first utility in the state to begin shipping liquefied natural gas to the state, is building up infrastructure to expand its LNG shipments to the Islands, the Honolulu-based company confirmed to Pacific Business News this week.

This week, the state’s largest gas utility filed a $2.5 million building permit with the City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting for a new LNG transfer system….

The transfer system, or staging platform, is being built to install processing equipment for LNG containers at Hawaii Gas’ synthetic natural gas plant in Kapolei in West Oahu.

Currently, Hawaii Gas, a subsidiary of New York’s Macquarie Infrastructure Co.(NYSE: MIC), is using the LNG as a backup fuel for its synthetic natural gas operations.

The utility is in the process of converting up to 30 percent of the SNG production at the plant to LNG.

“The 30 percent conversion project is estimated to be operational by the end of this year,” Tom Young, senior vice president of strategic initiatives and supply for Hawaii Gas, told PBN.

He noted that it is looking at bringing in two LNG-filled containers a day for this $12.8 million project. It currently is importing about one of these containers per month….

read … LNG Infrastructure

Tillerson: Pre-emptive force an option with N.Korea

AP: The United States signaled a tougher strategy toward North Korea today that leaves open the possibility of pre-emptive military action and rejects talks with the communist nation until it gives up its weapons of mass destruction.

“Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended,” said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “We are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures. All options are on the table.”

Tillerson was speaking after visiting the heavily militarized border between the rival Koreas. His comments are likely to displease Beijing, where he travels this weekend. China has been advocating diplomacy to avoid a conflict on the divided peninsula.

Also today, President Donald Trump tweeted: “North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!”

Past U.S. administrations have considered military options against North Korea and have publicly said that an attack on the U.S. or its allies would prompt a devastating response.

Tillerson’s comments were unusual, however, as he appeared to be implying, in public, that the U.S. would consider military force as a way of preventing an attack by Pyongyang, and not just as a means of retaliation. It also comes amid a greater sense of urgency about the threat because of North Korea’s rapid progress toward developing the means to strike the U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile…..

read … Force

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