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Wednesday, January 23, 2019
January 23, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:07 PM :: 867 Views

Full Text: Ige's State of the State Address

Bipartisan Women's Legislative Caucus Elects Leadership for 2019

Pre-K: Ige’s HSTA Make Work Program Will Cost Millions

HNN: … About half of elementary schools in Hawaii still have sixth grade classrooms.

The governor is proposing to change that as part of a bid to significantly bolster preschool offerings in the islands.

In his State of the State address on Tuesday, Gov. David Ige said he wants to convert existing kindergarten through sixth grade schools to pre-kindergarten through fifth grade campuses.

Sixth grade classes at affected campuses would move to their feeder middle schools….

(Clue: That will require lots of new classrooms at middle schools.)

The initial plan calls for converting 22 classrooms into pre-kindergarten and about a handful of schools are ready for the change now.

As part of his budget, Ige is also proposing $14.3 million for renovations to schools and more than $2 million for additional teachers and support….

the governor might find resistance in the Legislature.

“We in the Legislature, particularly in the House are very concerned because we know the repair and maintenance backlog is over $860 million so the Governor has spent quite a bit of money,” said House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti.

Currently, free preschool is only offered at a handful of Hawaii public school campuses.

In 2017, less than 400 Hawaii 4-year-olds attended a state-funded preschool, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research. That’s about 2 percent of the 17,500 4-year-olds in the state.

With few publicly-funded options, Hawaii parents must largely turn to private programs, seek child care subsidies or put their children with relatives during the day. Less than half of Hawaii’s 3- and 4-year-old children attend preschool.

The price for full-time preschool in the islands averages about $800 a month, according to the University of Hawaii Center on the Family….

Media Goes All-Out to Sell Pre-K Scheme:

read … Ige’s preschool plan includes moving all sixth graders to middle schools

TAT Formula: ‘Opportunity to Levy Taxes’

MN: …The counties used to receive nearly half of the overall TAT funds (44.8 percent), but in the face of budget shortfalls, the state in 2011 imposed a $93-million annual cap on the revenues given back to the counties. The cap was later increased to $103 million, but county officials have complained for years that the division of funds hasn’t been fair.

If the state goes back to the old format, “the counties’ share would rise and fall based on the amount of money collected — without any cap on the high side,” Ige said.

“I think it makes sense, and it’s something that the counties and the Neighbor Island legislators have been fighting for for a while,” said Central Maui Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran, the vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the money committee in the Senate. “The devil’s going to be, of course, in the details of how it’s implemented.” …

“So we’re waiting to see what the governor’s actual bill says,” Keith-Agaran said. “The other thing we’re going to be looking for is, where is the additional money going to come from then? From HTA’s (the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s) portion? Or if it’s coming from the general fund, how does the governor plan to make up for that money?” …

King said she hoped the governor’s proposed share of the pie for each county would be “more in line with what the original intent of the TAT was so that we’re actually getting more, not less.”

When asked whether she thought there might be impacts to state-funded projects or services, King commented that the state “has many more opportunities to levy taxes than the county does.”… 

MN: Ige’s proposal would give 23.1% of TAT to counties

AP: Saiki expressed concern over how much revenue the state would lose from this proposal. He said the bottom line is "how do the numbers work out?"

read … Governor calls for return to old TAT formula

Hawaii Energy Office May Face The Budget Ax

CB: … When the House Finance Committee takes the first stab at crafting a budget for the next two years on Wednesday, the Hawaii State Energy Office’s funding is expected to be eliminated– at least temporarily.

And it’s not alone. Funding for several programs or offices will be eliminated, said Rep. Sylvia Luke, the Finance Committee chair. The idea is to start afresh, to effectively press the reset button on several state entities, Luke said. It’s the first step of a sweeping reform Luke plans to start implementing during this session. ….

read … Good Riddance  

Local businessman admits he bribed state officials as part of a plea deal

KHON: … Frank James Lyon agreed to cooperate with federal investigators as part of a plea deal.

In addition to giving cash, Lyon also admitted to buying cars, paying for a trip to Vegas. Even paying for tuition at UH for a relative of someone he wanted to bribe….

He told a federal judge that he paid Hawaii state officials about $240,000 and received $2.5 million in contract payments.

Lyon also admitted paying officials in Micronesia about $200,000 and got nearly $8 million in contract payments. It all happened between 2006 and 2016. And legal experts say this could just be the tip of the iceberg if Lyon has agreed to cooperate with investigators.

"There's a ton of stuff he could have been indicted on which means he's getting a deal to cooperate," said Ken Lawson…

HNN: Lyon has agreed to cooperate with the federal officials, who did not say who received the bribes.

read … Local businessman admits he bribed state officials as part of a plea deal

Kealoha Wants Police Commission to Pay Lawyer Sumida

CB: … Kealoha recently made his request to the Honolulu Police Commission, which oversees the process for approving subsidized legal counsel for cops accused of wrongdoing in both civil and criminal cases.

The practice of paying for an officer’s legal defense is allowed under state law so long as the officer can prove that what they’re being accused of occurred during the course of their work as a cop.

But Kealoha is already represented by Rustam Barbee, who was appointed as his public defender after he said he no longer could afford his own attorney.

And Kealoha’s former lawyer, Kevin Sumida, is the one who filed the request with the police commission on the former chief’s behalf.

“I frankly don’t know what’s going on,” Commissioner Steve Levinson said. “And I’ve been scratching my head over it because it doesn’t seem terribly likely to me that Louis would be able to retain his free lawyer at the federal level if he’s got a lawyer at city and county expense.”

Sumida has said the Kealohas owe him hundreds of thousands of dollars for past legal representation, and had even taken out a $700,000 lien on their Hawaii Kai home, which is now subject to criminal forfeiture under federal law.

Sumida used to represent the Kealohas in the criminal case along with Honolulu defense lawyers Myles Breiner and Gary Modafferi. But the three asked to be removed from the case after saying the Kealohas could no longer pay for their services.

Federal prosecutors also wanted a judge to disqualify Sumida and Breiner based on a series of conflicts of interest, including the fact that Sumida could potentially become a witness in the criminal trial….

read …  Former Police Chief Wants Taxpayers To Cover His Criminal Defense

After Buying off all the Activists, Mahi Pono says land ‘partnerships’ on other islands a possibility

MT: … Tsutsui turned down my interview request. Paton and pals had already left for O‘ahu, he said.

“Why, are they going to buy land over there, too?” I teased.

Tsutsui chuckled briefly, but apparently, it’s no joke.

“Well, we’re going to look for other opportunities if it’s in ag,” he explained. “That was a directive from the governor for us to consider other farming opportunities and partnerships. It may not be necessarily acquisitions or purchasing of land; it could result in partnerships with existing farmers who need investment capital.”

Pretty impressive – a directive from the governor. Except Governor David Ige denied that he issued any kind of “directive,” when I called his office last week. In fact, his scheduler was unable to find an appointment with Mahi Pono on his calendar at all.

That clarified, the governor said he isn’t opposed to working with the company.

“We are looking for businesses and farmers who are interested in helping us achieve our goal of doubling local food production” Ige said. “We do know that the market is largely on O‘ahu, so clearly, we’re looking for businesses that would be interested. If Mahi Pono is interested in investing in activities on O‘ahu to expand food production, we definitely would welcome that,” Ige said.

When Tsutsui made his now-disputed Mahi Pono gubernatorial directive and partnership comments, he also mentioned the plight of O’ahu’s Nalo Farms, which closed down in Waimanalo last month after a series of 2018 weather events destroyed the farm. In April, severe flooding washed away fencing, irrigation structure, and a dozen acres of the family farm’s coveted Nalo Greens, a staple on restaurant menus throughout O’ahu. Subsequent storms in the months that followed made it impossible for Nalo to recover, owner Dean Okimoto told me last week. Okimoto, a respected agricultural leader in Hawai‘i, estimates that the devastation cost him $1 million. All he has left now are 2.5 acres, which are up for sale.

Okimoto said he’d read about Mahi Pono and thinks what the company has announced (that it plans to grow crops to feed Hawai‘i) sounded “really good for ag.”  He said he hadn’t heard from anyone at the company yet, but had been told by Maui friends that Shan Tsutsui “would be calling me. I don’t have enough land to sell, but they might be interested in the [Nalo Greens] name, which is respected,” he said.  …

read … Does Mahi Pono Want More? Company official says land ‘partnerships’ on other islands a possibility

County nixes purchase of parcels from former Supreme Court Justice

HTH: … The County Council authorized purchase of the two parcels, totaling 322 acres, in 2013. The deal would have included the Kapoho tide pools and a large adjacent lot, both of which were covered by lava from the 2018 Kilauea eruption….

The county negotiated a purchase price of $2.7 million. The contract made the purchase contingent on the state contributing $1.3 million, county officials have said.

Last year, Mayor Harry Kim said the county should back out of the deal, but it was up to the state to make that call.

Ventura confirmed last week that the state rescinded the funds, though he said the county would have backed out of the deal either way….

The county’s share would have came from the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation fund.

The then-coastal proprieties are owned by the Vacation Land Trust (37.7 acres) and Kahi Inc. (284 acres).

The state’s business registration records lists Glenn Hara, a retired Hilo Circuit Court judge, and Gregory Abe, a former state Supreme Court associate justice, as officers of Kahi Inc….

read … County nixes purchase of parcels inundated by lava during 2018 eruption

UH System Benefits from Land Holdings

WSJ: … Thanks to a 2017 gift from real-estate investor Jay Shidler, the University of Hawaii’s business school now owns partial or complete ground rights underneath 10 commercial buildings across the mainland U.S. Total revenue from the leases currently ranges from $550,000 to $1.5 million a year, then will ramp up to around $25.5 million beginning in the 25th year. The business school gets about that much in annual tuition now.

The university’s foundation will own most of the buildings outright after the 99-year leases expire, with officials estimating the property will be worth $5.4 billion.

The school is using funds to expand scholarships and support faculty research, among other projects, and Mr. Shidler has said he’d like to see the school eventually eliminate tuition outright….

read … Land Holdings, Even Far From Campus, Lucrative for Some Colleges

What is a Living Wage in Hawaii?

HNN: … MIT’s living wage calculator puts the living wage for Hawaii at $15.39 for a single adult (or an annual salary of about $32,000).

An adult with one child needs to earn $27.18 an hour to make ends meet, while two adults with two children need to each bring in at least $16.42 an hour to cover basic expenses.

On Oahu, the living wage is higher: $16.03 for a single adult, and $16.87 for two adults (each working) with two children.

In Maui County, meanwhile, the living wage for single person is $14.60. And it’s $12.92 on the Big Island.

According to MIT, there are a number of professions in Hawaii where the typical salary is well below the living wage.

Those include jobs in personal care and service (typical annual salary: $26,621), food preparation and service ($25,512), and retail or sales ($28,526)….

MN: 15-time Convicted Felon Sentenced for Welfare Fraud

SA: Food stamp program’s funding is in doubt

read …  You’ve heard a lot about a ‘living wage.’ Here’s what that actually means in Hawaii

Hawaii State Senate: Climate Change Bills to Drive up Cost of Living Even More

IM: … State Senator English is the lead author of two major bills addressing sustainability:  SB 690 is a 10,000-word bill on climate change that is co-authored by 16 other Senators, the second bill co-authored by all but one Senators is SB 698, that would make the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) state policy….

Last year, SB 2661 SD2 HD1 (2018) died in Conference Committee. As a backup, the Hawai`i State Senate passed Senate Resolution 11 (SR 11) in 2018 with the understanding that agencies may enact policies found in one-body resolutions but must enact policies detailed in concurrent (two-body) resolutions….

read … Hawai`i State Senate: Climate & Sustainability Bills

PIT Counts Homeless Criminals in Chinatown

HNN: … “We’re doing our first night of ‘point-in-time’ — which is one night every year that we in Hawaii count folks who are houseless or homeless and it’s required by our funding from HUD," said Heather Lusk, Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center Executive Director.

The annual ‘point-in-time’ count and survey is required by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Results of the survey determine how much money the state will get to combat the homeless crisis.

Keith Koga has been homeless in Chinatown for nearly two years and is currently trying to get into housing. He said being counted is a chance for him to get help.

“Been in prison all my life," Koga said. “They’re making a difference in the community right now, major difference.”…

read … PIT Count

Bills Would Let Hundreds of Criminals Roam Streets

CB: … One bill, HB294, would require the release of any defendant charged with a minor crime who does not pose a flight risk or a danger to the community. The bill would require courts to hold a hearing for release within 40 hours of an arrest.  (Quick second chance to do it right and not get caught.)

And it would also require courts to consider alternatives to bail if a defendant can’t be released.

Another bill, HB175, would allow a defendant to be released on an unsecured bail bond if they can prove that posting the full bail upfront would pose a financial hardship and that remaining incarcerated could cost them their job. If a defendant failed to appear before the court, they would be required to pay the bond amount.

Neither of the bills have been scheduled for hearings yet, but Sen. Karl Rhoads, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said they may have enough support to move forward.

“I don’t think it’s dead in the water,” he said of efforts to reform Hawaii’s bail  system….

(Know them by what they deny.)

Meanwhile: Man flies from Hawaii to forgive crackheads who killed his mother with scissors during home invasion robbery

read … Dead in the Water

HB703: Harsher Penalties for Drunk Drivers

KHON: … Representative Chris Lee is proposing harsher punishments for people convicted with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or who have had their licenses revoked by the Administrative Driver's License Revocation Office for drunk driving.

The new proposal would make it illegal for those convicted to buy or drink alcohol for three years.

"I talked with a bunch of folks who have had DUIs who have driven drunk in the past. Often just taking away a license or paying a fine isn't enough of a deterrent," said Rep. Chris Lee, who represents Kailua and Waimanalo.

"So what we're looking at doing, is for any drunk driving conviction, prohibiting people from going out in public and publicly purchasing alcohol or drinking, to prevent them from actually being in a position where they would be able to drive home drunk again," said Lee….

HB703 Text, Status

read … Drunk

Keep the People Doped up so They Don’t Notice: Numerous bills tackle marijuana-related issues

HTH: … State lawmakers are preparing to introduce a slew of marijuana-related bills this year.

More than a dozen proposed laws relating to marijuana or cannabis products were or will be introduced in the state House and Senate, ranging from a proposed expansion of the conditions legally treatable by medical cannabis to a total decriminalization of cannabis for personal recreational use….

Of the 11 cannabis-related bills in the House, only two have been formally introduced so far. House Bill 37 would allow medical cannabis to be used to treat opioid addiction, and House Bill 131 would bring the state’s policy on hemp production in line with federal law, which legalized hemp products last year.

State Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, D-Puna, who introduced or co-introduced nearly all of the House’s marijuana-related bills, said she thinks legalizing hemp in Hawaii will be an “easy sell.”

As for the other bill, she thinks there is a growing understanding that it is preferable for people to use marijuana rather than opioids.

“It’s not a dangerous drug; it’s not like heroin or cocaine or ice,” said San Buenaventura.

(Clue: Marijuana is a political drug like Soma.) 

read … Numerous bills tackle marijuana-related issues

City Council debates fate of Oahu's short term rentals (again)

KHON: … The Honolulu City Planning Committee heard seven bills that would drastically change the fees, fines and enforcement of thousands of Oahu's short rental housing units ….  

SA: Planning Committee holds up vacation rental bills

WHT: Hawaii Co Vacation rental rules to be unveiled soon

read … City Council debates fate of Oahu's short term rentals

Animal Liberation Nuts, Legislators Harass Diver Who Touched Shark

HNN: …Almost a week after an incredible video of divers swimming with a massive great white shark surfaced online, the well-known shark researcher seen in the clip is now receiving death threats.

Critics are accusing Ocean Ramsey of harassing the shark. The video shows her gently placing her hand on the animal as it swam by peacefully.

She says she’s now being harassed online and getting threatening phone calls, and they keep calling repeatedly.

'They were like a crazy lunatic saying ‘I’m gonna kill you for touching sharks,’" she told Hawaii News Now.  (Yes, animal liberation nuts are crazy lunatics.) “I’ve continually put disclaimers out there working with sharks for over 15 years (that) we generally avoid touching wild animals and give them the space and respect they deserve and teach people how to avoid adverse interactions.” ….

State lawmakers are considering a bill to make it a misdemeanor to own, capture or abuse sharks or rays, dead or alive…. Violators would face up to $10,000 in fines….

(Idea: Stay away from sharks – they might eat you.)

read … Why we need to reopen the insane asylums

Gen Z: We’re too busy to Register—so do it for us

SA: …I’m registered to vote because I got lucky. My school did all the heavy lifting (Heavy lifting?) for me, handing out forms during an assembly, collecting said forms, and delivering them to the city clerk’s office. Without this help, it’s hard to say when I would have got around to registering. With the busy life that my classmates and I lead, we can barely find time to sleep, much less register to vote.  (They must be spending too much time in school assemblies.)

But then I heard about Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) — a process that should be enacted in Hawaii.

AVR is a system in which through certain government transactions, eligible citizens are automatically registered to vote. This makes registering automatic — unless you choose to opt out. Instead of filling out your information on a separate form, the Elections Office gets the information it needs from other agencies who already have it, like the city Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

To a Gen Z-er like me, this is genius….  (Wow.  Just wow.)

Typical Comment: “It's a really sad commentary on our youth that yet another thing is being handed to them on a silver platter. Filling out a form that takes maybe 3 minutes, then putting it in an envelope and sending it in. What a sacrifice of their time! What a monumental effort! These are our future leaders. Hopefully, I will not be around when they start legislating free services for everyone for everything.”…

KGI: Hooser Pushing AVR

read … Generation Z voters want AVR

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