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Tuesday, April 11, 2017
April 11, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:52 PM :: 2049 Views

SB501: AG Slaps Senators for Censoring Testimony opposing Anti-Free-Speech Bill

Caldwell Signs Tax Hikes, Spending Bills

Desperate Caldwell Threatens to Raise Property Taxes

SA: (Caldwell thinks he’s found an excuse to break his campaign promise not to hike property taxes and is now selling the story that) Oahu property taxes would need to jump 8 to 14 percent for the city to pay the remaining tab on an East Kapolei-to-Ala Moana rail line if state lawmakers don’t agree to a 10-year extension on the general excise tax surcharge, city officials told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The House version of Senate Bill 1183, which moved out of the Finance Committee last week and is up for a final House vote today, calls for the half-cent surcharge to be extended only two more years, until Dec. 31, 2029, a move that would provide an additional $1.2 billion for the project.

Caldwell said bond underwriters have told city officials that raising property taxes for construction could jeopardize the city’s bond rating.

“No other system that they know of is using general fund money to pay for construction of a rail project,” he said.  (Translation: I am uniquely stupid.  Than;s for reelecting me.)

Luke, the House Finance chairwoman, predicted that the Council would reject any proposal for a large property tax increase to fund rail.

“We’re not saying property taxes should be the only thing,” Luke said. “What we’re asking them to do is look at all viable options, including public-private partnerships and including other means. … For them to just say, ‘If we don’t get this, we’re going to do a property tax increase’ … I don’t know if the City Council is even going to allow that.”….

Councilman Ernie Martin said it’s wrong to use the threat of property tax increases to leverage the Legislature into passing a surcharge extension. “The reality is that we will have to raise property taxes at some point to continue paying for core government services that are heavily subsidized,” he said.

HNN: Honolulu mayor proposes use of property tax funds to help pay for rail construction

read … Mayor eyes property tax for rail’s funding source

Abercrombie: People not Introspective Enough to Understand Tulsi Gabbard

SA: …Gabbard has a history of taking stances contrary to the majority in her party, but she usually comes out on top, her popularity all the stronger. This time, however, some are questioning whether she will emerge unscathed.

“I don’t think it is going to hurt her locally. I do think it is going to slow or stop her rise to national prominence or a national-level position,” said Colin Moore, director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Moore said that it would be difficult for anyone locally to beat Gabbard, who has enjoyed remarkably high popularity rates, but that she faces a more difficult political landscape nationally.

“Her rise was so quick that I think she was sort of embraced by a lot of people uncritically to some degree,” said Moore. “It is interesting because she was thought of as a progressive by progressives because of her support of Sen. Sanders, but also as a Democrat that Republicans could work with because of her position on some issues in foreign policy. It is a difficult world to inhabit for a long time. I mean, you offer a fresh voice initially, but I think there are always people waiting in the wings with knives in Washington.”

…“There is only one thing worse in politics than being wrong, and that is being right,” said former Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who strongly defended Gabbard’s stances on Syria. “People will forgive you for being wrong, but they very seldom forgive you for being right.”

Abercrombie, who spent two decades in Congress, suggested that would require too much introspection….

Usual Suspects Spout Off:

read … Abercrombie

Pandering to Dem Base, but Hawaii is one of just seven states that fully complied with federal requests to hold illegals

CB: Hawaii … law enforcement authorities have complied 100 percent with detainers — a feat matched only by Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Montana, Vermont and Wyoming….

According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, law enforcement authorities in 43 states refused to honor nearly 44 percent of the 95,000 detainers issued nationwide in fiscal year 2015.

But, in Hawaii, ICE fared much better: The clearinghouse’s database shows that all of the 1,144 detainers issued from October 2003 and November 2015 were honored….

P: Full bench of 4th Circuit to hear Trump travel ban case in May

read … Hawaii is one of just seven states that fully complied with federal requests to hold illegals

Prosecutor: Corruption rampant at HDOT boating division

HNN: The agency charged with running Hawaii's small boat harbors blatantly mistreats and retaliates against residents who use the facilities, according to Hawaii County's prosecuting attorney.

Since he began looking into the issue nearly two years ago, Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth says he's received a deluge of fresh complaints about how boating officials are mistreating vessel owners – sometimes on a daily basis.

Some of those who claim to have been negatively impacted have called for the head of the boating division to resign….

Roth tells Hawaii News Now he got involved in the issue after hearing from a single boater in 2015. The complaint, he says, was just the tip of the iceberg.

"I checked into it, and sure enough, I was being told by DOCARE and DLNR officials that there was no retaliation in that agency, but just about everybody in the boating community had a complaint about retaliation, inconsistency, corruption, you name it," Roth said.

The case in question came to his attention after Keauhou resident Bill Murtagh claimed the boating division staff had altered his son's application for a mooring, in order to make his boat appear smaller.

"The size of the vessel that my son had listed, it was crossed out and there was a different length in there," said Murtagh.

Roth discovered it was too late to investigate the case as a crime, because of the statute of limitations, but also said Murtagh was subjected to a retaliatory audit by boating officials.

"There's corruption at the Division of Boating in many different ways," Murtagh told Hawaii News Now. "The ways I'm aware is preferential treatment to select individuals. There's retaliation for being vocal for standing up against the division."

Roth claims that he, too, was the target of a retaliation attempt when Underwood filed an ethics complaint against him after Roth testified during a hearing about Murtagh's case….

"Mr. Underwood, in true to form, retaliated against me in the only way that he could," Roth said. "He filed an ethics complaint. The ethics board found that I didn't do anything wrong."

Underwood and other DLNR authorities declined to be interviewed for this story, but agency spokesman Dan Dennison provided the following statement:

“The ethics commission finding triggered an internal personnel investigation into this matter. Apart from this specific matter, DLNR has also requested an independent investigation by the Department of the Attorney General regarding all complaints or concerns involving the Hawaii Island DOBOR district. DLNR took immediate action once it became aware of a potential ethics violation and Chair Case and DLNR leadership remain committed to ensuring all staff abide by State ethics guidelines.”

read … Hawaii County prosecutor: Corruption rampant at state's boating division

HDOT Scapegoats Contractor over airport hangar job

SA: A company that was declared in default and removed more than a year ago from a state project to build a new hangar at Hono­lulu Airport now says it was wrongfully terminated from the job by the state Department of Transportation.

The general contractor, DCK Pacific LLC, issued a statement to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser saying the company has not been paid for some of the work it performed in 2015, adding that “the state’s decision to terminate dck when only a few months remained to complete the work is quite astonishing.”

The company said it worked with the state during a two-year delay in the start of construction and “numerous other issues” that were not the fault of the company.

“The state’s unjustified termination begs the question if dck is now being used as a ‘Scapegoat’ to deflect other Airport expansion issues unbeknownst to dck,” the company statement said.

Department of Transportation Director Ford Fuchigami said last week DCK has been banned from bidding on state DOT projects for two years because the company allegedly defaulted on a $73.43 million contract to construct the new maintenance hangar for Hawaiian Airlines….

Last week transportation officials asked state lawmakers for authority to pay out more than $10 million in state special funds to settle claims by subcontractors who allege they were never paid for work they did on the hangar projects. 

Big Q: Are you OK with security at Hawaii’s airports being handled largely by a private firm’s armed guards (as occurs now)?

read … Firm blasts state over airport hangar job

Health bills legislators will be talking about after second decking

SR: After the second decking on April 7, here’s which health bills are still alive this legislative session.

Health Insurance:

  • SB502 extends commercial insurance benefits to cover in vitro fertilization for surrogates. Viewed as a civil rights/equality issue, coverage would be a first in the nation.
  • SB387 requires insurers to demonstrate network adequacy to the Insurance Commissioner.
  • HB552 addresses aspects of the ACA threatened by repeal, including the individual mandate and affordable coverage, and creates a legislative workgroup to develop state responses if Congress acts. Insurers are concerned that the bill imposes benefit requirements that would exceed the scope of the ACA.
  • HB407 allows high deductible/health savings account plans to exist in the regulatory world of the Prepaid Health Care Act.
  • HB917 establishes minimum net worth standards for insurers based on gross premium revenues and expenditures.

Workforce, access to care, behavioral health, and oral health:

  • School psychologists will be licensed if SB224 passes. Hawaii is the last state to do this, which has limited the ability of schools to either ensure the quality of care or seek reimbursement for services.
  • HB1272 requires Med-QUEST to reimburse for a tele-psychiatry model in which psychiatrists could stretch their capacity by consulting with primary care clinicians on behavioral health therapies.
  • HB912 gives psychiatry-specialized APRNs equal authority to physicians in serving participants of assisted community treatment programs.
  • SB505 establishes consent requirements for opioid prescriptions in certain circumstances.
  • HB563 allows hygienists to provide certain services under general rather than direct dental supervision.
  • SB513 and SB514 expand the scope of pharmacists’ practice, with the first allowing pharmacists to dispense contraceptives and the second allowing pharmacists to provide immunizations.
  • HB916 appropriates funds to the John A. Burns School of Medicine for a health professions loan repayment program. JABSOM would need to get matching funds, typically available from the federal government or private entities. Program beneficiaries serve designated underserved areas or populations.

Lots of bills were introduced to address the critical issue of homelessness and housing.  Still alive are bills to fund mobile clinics (HB527) and a low-income tax credit (HB488) but the budget bill will be the primary tool to fund homeless services….

read … Health bills legislators will be talking about after second decking

Police camera bills die in legislative session

WHT: There won’t be a law this year requiring Hawaii’s police departments to purchase and use vehicle and body-worn video cameras.

Senate Bill 421, the last remaining measure among several introduced during this session of the state Legislature, passed its first reading after crossing over to the House last month. The House Judiciary and Finance committees, however, failed to schedule required hearings on the measure prior to Friday’s deadline.

The bill would have established the requirements for body-worn and vehicle cameras for county police departments, appropriated matching funds for counties to purchase body-worn and vehicle cameras, and required departments to report costs of implementing and maintaining the body-worn cameras and vehicle camera program to the Legislature.

The measure, introduced by Maui Sen. Gilbert Keith-Agaran, with co-sponsors including Big Island Sen. Kai Kahele, mandated body-worn camera footage to be retained for no less than three years if the footage captures images involving any use of force, events surrounding the commission of or arrest for a felony offense, or encounters where a complaint is lodged by the subject of the footage.

Video footage of incidents involving deadly force by a law-enforcement officer, or otherwise related to an administrative or criminal investigation of an officer, could not have been deleted or destroyed without a court order.

“I think it’s eventually going to happen,” Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth said Monday. “There are things the police are looking at, such as (video file) retention policies. I know it will be expensive, but I look forward to a day where we have body cams.”….

Hawaii Co PD Chief Ferreira supported SB 331, a less-comprehensive bill that died earlier in the legislative session….

CB: Honolulu Police Should Work With The Press, Not Hide From It

read  … Police camera bills die in legislative session

SB1240: Anti-Aquarium Hysteria Still Alive in Legislature

CB:  If the bill passes in its current form, no new permits for aquarium fishing will be issued and the state will set rules for sustainable collection practices.

The fight over the bill is about money. Snorkel and dive shops depend on healthy reef ecosystems eco-hysteria to show herd customers while aquarium fish collectors say their livelihoods are at stake if the practice is banned or limited….

In its present form, the bill grandfathers in several dozen people with state permits to collect fish in Hawaiian waters for the commercial aquarium trade. It directs the Department of Land and Natural Resources to not issue any new permits and prohibits current permit holders from transferring them to other people.

Earlier versions of the bill, which has been amended three times since its introduction in January, called for a moratorium on new permits until the department defined “sustainable” and developed a policy for sustainable collection practices.

The current draft requires the department to submit proposed legislation by January 2019 for “sustainable collection practices of nearshore aquatic life and limits on aquatic life collection.”

PBN: Hawaii aquarium bill pits tour companies against fish collectors

MN: Another Anti-Aquarium Rant From Head Hypester

read … SB1240: Lawmakers May Put Brakes On Hawaii’s Aquarium Fish Industry

Caldwell, Council Refuse Community Volunteers Offer to Repairs Waianae Rec Center Shut for Three Years

HNN: …The doors to a first-floor stairwell at the the Waianae District Park's gymnasium are still locked. 

For nearly three years, city officials have restricted access to the second story of the complex while they work out repair plans for a pair of large multi-purpose rooms….

Community members with construction expertise have volunteered to help.

"We actually had the materials donated to fix most of what we needed, and we were denied," Koike said, citing procurement rules and liability that would have needed City Council approval….

SA: Delays to repairs at gym in Waianae cut youth activities

Meanwhile: Closure of three of Oahu’s largest pools has residents worried for summer

read … More Caldwell

More Homeless Caught on Diamond Head, New Garbage Dumps Found

CB: …on the heels of the state’s three-day homeless sweep on Diamond Head that began March 22.  So far, eight returning campers have been cited.

“The beauty of having the drone’s pictures is we can quickly send staff to the exact areas where homeless have come back rather than having state workers continuously hiking up Diamond Head trails to where they think the homeless might be illegally camped,” Cottrell says.

To follow up on the recent sweep, Cottrell and drone operator Sean Newsome trekked four miles across the crater’s ridges above the Diamond Head lighthouse on March 31 to GPS map all the homeless residents’ secret homemade trails, their former encampments and their garbage dump sites. Their purpose was to provide more precise GPS coordinates for future drone flights.

They came upon garbage dumps that  had gone undetected during the sweep, as well as four homeless campers who had returned. The four were given criminal citations ordering them to appear in court.

The citations were for being in a closed area, which is a petty misdemeanor carrying a $100 fine for a first offense….

The governor’s homeless coordinator, Scott Morishige, considers the drone flights a useful way to keep pressure on homeless people to prevent them from becoming too comfortable when illegally camped.

At one point, more than 80 campers had created settlements on Diamond Head, and some had been there more than 20 years…..

read … Drone

Hawaii High Tech Tax Credit Money invested in Cattle Ranch, Slaughterhouse

KGI: A local cattle company that operates with 1,500 mama cows on the island recently received a six-figure investment from a Hawaii-based venture capital fund.

EEx Fund One LLC, an independent investment corporation managing $3M in assets designed to support Energy Excelerator programs, invested $300,000 to Kunoa Cattle Company in order to promote more local beef production and reduce the state’s reliance on imported meats….

In mid-November, the cattle company — for an undisclosed price — purchased Oahu’s only slaughterhouse in the hopes of expanding the market for locally-produced beef in the state.

The state-owned facility on Oahu has the potential to process about 10,000 animals per year, said Jack Beuttell, a partner with Kunoa Cattle Company.

read … High Tech Cattle

More Asian-American Drug Addicts in Hawaii than on Entire Mainland

AN: …Most AAPI sought treatment for substance use disorders involving alcohol (38.6 percent), marijuana (25.3 percent) or methamphetamine (20.4 percent) — the majority of methamphetamine problem substance treatment admissions originated in Hawaii, Sahker said.

There was also a notable spike in AAPI admissions for prescription opioids. Those who were admitted to treatment and reported the use of prescription opioids increased 415 percent during the analysis period. The largest change in admissions came from AAPI who began using their drug of choice at age 55 and older. Admissions to addiction treatment for this group increased 425 percent over the analysis period.

OV: Obama Luxuriates in Tahiti

read … We’re Number 1

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