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Saturday, March 02, 2019
March 2, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:12 PM :: 1428 Views

HB210: House Republicans Unanimously Oppose Ranked-Choice Voting 

Leis Banned in South Dakota

WAM BAM $250M GE Tax Hike Passes Senate Committee

HNN: … The Senate Ways and Means Committee advanced the proposal, which raise the general excise tax to 4 1/2 percent.

Officials say (claim) the tax hike would generate about $200 million for public schools and $50 million for the University of Hawaii (or whatever they want to blow it on).

But opponents say (point out) the tax will boost the state’s already high cost of living.

The measure now heads to the full Senate floor for a vote.….

House leaders, meanwhile, say before they’ll consider tax increases they want the Education Department to show them how its using state funding properly….

Background: GE Tax: Audit Shows Tourists pay only 14.1% of Rail Surcharge

read … Proposal to raise taxes to better fund education passes key hurdle at state Senate

Kim proposes budget hike, 35 new police positions

HTH: Thirty-five new police personnel, including 10 officers each for Ka‘u and Puna, nine new sergeants and six dispatchers, along with body cameras and computer upgrades, play center stage in a $573.5 million budget proposed Friday by Mayor Harry Kim.

The budget, which is $55.5 million, or 10.7 percent, higher than this year, won’t raise property taxes, but relies on increased property values and an assortment of other taxes and fees.

Among the sources of new revenue are the one-quarter percent surcharge on the general excise tax, expected to raise $25 million, a 5 percent increase in property values that will bring in an additional $15.7 million, previously approved increases in fuel taxes for $6.1 million, new grant money for $3.1 million, increases in sewer and landfill fees for $2.8 million and registration and fines for the new short-term vacation rental program for $846,000.

The budget includes $26.1 million in additional salaries, wages and benefits, most due to state-level collective bargaining agreements and mandated contributions to retirement funds. In addition to police with an additional $5.8 million, other priorities are speeding up road repaving, with an additional $2.7 million appropriated, and enhancing the mass transit system, with an addition $5 million.

There is no additional funding for homelessness programs….

This year’s budget process is going to be much different than in previous years, Chung said. Based on the direction of Kohala Councilman Tim Richards and Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz, the council plans to take a more active role in drilling down into the details of the administration’s spending, he said.

The council is especially looking at Maui County’s approach to budgeting, hoping to emulate some of that county’s successes…..

News Release: Mayor Kim’s office submits the county budget for FY2019-2020

read … Kim proposes budget hike, 35 new police positions

Special interests driving up housing costs

KGI: … It seems that we hear about “affordable housing and rentals” in the news daily.

Of course, the usual targets of the political hacks and their cadre of supporters are the wealthy, TVRs and other handy bogeymen. Convenient scapegoats that direct your attention away from the real problem … government that obstructs rezoning and in general interferes with the ability of individuals and businesses to build housing by rules and regulations and a dreadful permitting process. All of these mechanisms reduce the supply of housing and in the face of growing demand force up the prices.

One of the state’s mandates for people wishing to build is that of solar water heating. This, of course, adds to the cost of building and to the immediate unaffordability of housing….

A lawsuit brought against the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism by the Hawaii Solar Energy Association and the Sierra Club is awaiting a final order from Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Crabtree.

If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs you will no longer have the option of utilizing an on-demand gas water heater. Instead, you will be forced to spend at least three times as much for a solar system. (On demand system =$2,000-$2,500; solar system =$8,000-$12,000 depending on size required)

This lawsuit is a blatant attempt by the association that represents companies in the solar business to garner a windfall for its members (the term “economic fascism” comes to mind). They have conveniently, cynically perhaps, associated themselves with the Sierra Club to give unthinking people the idea that this is all about the environment….

this gives us a window into how many of the rules forced on homebuilders and property owners are at their essence instigated by narrow special interests that garner government force and coercion in their favor. This costs Hawaii’s people millions of dollars and contributes substantially to the high cost of housing and rentals.

I’ve often thought that all the rancor over TVRs has its roots in the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association’s lobbying with county and state politicians….

read … Special interests driving up housing costs

Dairy: Food Sustainability takes a Hit

SA: … there are complaints from residents and visitors who don’t like the sounds — and smells — of nearby farm operations.

The Ige administration has a stated goal of improving food production in the state, but there has been little strategizing for how to overcome impediments such as these.

Surely there could be solutions in the offing. But if a billionaire can’t make a go of it, that’s pretty dispiriting….

read … Food sustainability takes a hit

Six Steps to Universal Heath Care in Hawaii

SA: … How did we come so far? First, with the Prepaid Healthcare Act of 1974, Hawaii set the first minimum standards for health care offered by employers. If an employee works 20 hours per week for four consecutive weeks, health insurance must be offered.

Second, in 1994 the fed­eral-state Medicaid program was modified to become Med-Quest, which leveraged budgets to support quality care, universal access, efficient utilization, stable costs and a transformation health care delivery.

Third, Hawaii benefited from the Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010. The late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye inserted a provision that exempts Hawaii from act provisions that might lead to lesser care for its citizens.

Fourth, Hawaii has benefited from the long economic expansion since the Great Recession of 2008 and now boasts unemployment hovering at 2.6 percent, just above its historic low of 2 percent. This translates into lots of jobs with employer-sponsored health care.

Fifth, as the state Legislature watched efforts to repeal the ACA during the past two years, it committed to a backstop such that if the ACA was lost, isle residents would not lose coverage.

Yet there is more to be done….A phased-in Medicaid buy-in option built on the structural foundation of the ACA is the way to go at the state level…..

read … Universal health care in isles

OCCC inmate attempting to escape is fatally shot

SA: … The Oahu Community Correctional Center prisoner who was shot and killed by a guard Friday night escaped by dashing through a door and then through a closing vehicular gate, state Department of Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda said today.

Speaking at a press conference, Espinda said corrections officers in pursuit repeatedly ordered the 47-year-old inmate to stop as they chased him into the surrounding Kalihi neighborhood before a guard hit him with a single gunshot to the upper torso….

The guard who shot Arrisgado has been employed by DPS since August of 2013…

Espinda said preliminary reports indicate the inmate bolted from the “intake and release unit” at the front of the facility, with officers in pursuit on foot and in vehicles. He ran through the closing gate and across Kamehameha Highway and then up Bannister Street before ending up near the church.

Espinda said Arrisgado earlier had returned to OCCC following a court appearance and was in an area of the jail where inmates are processed for entering and leaving the facility.

“An escape is a major mistake,” he said. “Those things just don’t happen.”….

SA: The inmate was identified as Maurice Arrisgado Jr., who was arrested Tuesday near UH on suspicion of first-degree attempted murder of a law enforcement officer

read … Escape of slain Oahu Community Correctional Center inmate a ‘major mistake,’ DPS director says

3rd Try at Medical Excuse for Katherine Kealoha 

HNN: … “I have no idea if she has it or not, but at this point it’s like the boy who cried wolf,” he said.

In October, a magistrate judge approved delaying another trial for Kealoha ― for alleged financial crimes ― because of a still undisclosed medical condition.

At that time, prosecutors accused her of lying.

Kealoha also delayed being questioned in a lawsuit against her in 2013, where a doctor who is also a family friend diagnosed her with transient global amnesia ― a condition that causes sudden and temporary memory loss.

Lawson, an (former) attorney and convicted felon himself, said he also used medical conditions to delay court proceedings….

KGI: Morikawa, Tokioka oppose legalization of recreational marijuana

read … Judge seeks more information on Kealoha’s cancer claim, trial delay request

Ethics complaint targets Puna councilwoman over Bottling Plant

HTH: … Opponents of a water bottling facility proposed for Hilo have filed an ethics complaint against Hawaii County Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz.

The petition to the county Ethics Commission, signed by 39 people, says it is inquiring as to whether Kierkiewicz should have disclosed her past media relations work for Suisan, which is indirectly tied to the project through its owners, and whether she should continue to take action on a bill affecting the project’s future….

The complaint follows Kierkiewicz introducing a bill that provides a five-year construction timeline extension in order for developers to utilize the site’s light industrial zoning.

The bill passed the council’s Planning Committee, which she chairs, on Feb. 19. It requires two votes by the full council to be adopted, and it was previously given a positive recommendation by the Windward Planning Commission….

developers Piilani Partners need the construction window — initially set for an unrelated project — extended in order to build on the property located near Wailoa State Recreation Area, said petitioner Koohan Paik-Mander. The project also faces regulatory hurdles before the Windward Planning Commission.

“We think this is a consequential vote, because what is hinging on it is the future of the virgin artesian well that is the Maunakea aquifer,” she said….

Kierkiewicz is listed as the media contact on Suisan press releases as recently as 2017….

read … Ethics complaint targets Puna councilwoman

Hawaii Decides Again Not to Legalize Marijuana

AP: …On the political spectrum, Hawaii is among the bluest of states. Democrats control all the levers of power at the state and federal levels, and voters back Democratic presidential candidates over Republicans by some of the widest margins in the U.S….

On Friday, a legalization bill that made it farther in the legislative process than previous efforts died when lawmakers failed to consider it in time for a deadline.

Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English has introduced marijuana legalization bills for the past 15 years — but Hawaii has a track record of moving slowly on social issues. For example, other states moved far more quickly to sanction gay marriage and medically assisted suicide.

Half the Democrats in the state Senate co-sponsored English's measure, helping spur speculation this would be the year legalization became a reality.

But the effort fizzled as other leaders worried about contradicting federal law, which continues to classify marijuana as an illegal drug, and jeopardizing Hawaii's existing medical marijuana program.

To move forward, the bill had to pass the Senate Health Committee and Senate Ways and Means Committee by a Friday deadline so it could be considered by the full Senate. But the Health Committee did not schedule a meeting on Friday to consider any bills, effectively killing the marijuana legalization measure….

Rep. Della Au Belatti, the House majority leader, said before the bill died that she believes Hawaii will legalize adult use marijuana at some point. But she said lawmakers will vet the issue carefully.

"I also think that we have enough folks who are sitting around the table who are saying 'Let's do it right. Let's not just rush into things and let's do it right,' " she said.

Belatti said lawmakers must closely study the experiences of states that have legalized marijuana. She also wants to have abuse prevention, treatment and education programs set up before legalization. Hawaii also will have to make sure legalized marijuana doesn't lead to more impaired driving, she said.

For now, Belatti said she's just inclined toward decriminalizing marijuana, or reducing fines and criminal penalties for possession.

read … Hawaii Decides Again Not to Legalize Marijuana

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