State of the State Budget 2020
Is Leasehold Housing Built on Government Land a Solution to Unaffordable Housing in Honolulu?
Hawaii County has Least Expensive Housing in Hawaii
Hawaii--2nd Highest State Tax Burden in USA
Governor Announces 2020 Census Committee
Stressed States? Hawaii Ranks 42nd
Community meeting to be held for O‘ahu’s first Pedestrian Plan
Tax Hikes: How The Senate Aims To Take More of Your Cash
CB: … REIT Tax: Senate Bill 301
Resort Fee TAT: Senate Bill 380
Double TAT on Timeshares: Senate Bill 382
Sales to Determine how much Business Tax is paid by out-of-state businesses: Senate Bill 394
Conveyance Tax On Commercial Leases and Multi-Year Residential Leases: Senate Bill 395 -- For leases the tax is applied to the present value of rent payable under the lease, capitalized at 6%.
We Got Online Sellers, Now Let’s Go for Their Marketplaces: Senate Bill 396
Corporate Income Tax for on-line businesses: Senate Bill 495
When a nonresident sells real estate in Hawaii, our laws require withholding of 7.25% of the gross price. Senate Bill 712 subjects entities to this withholding scheme whether they registered with DCCA or not.
The ‘Airbnb Bill’ Returns Yet Again: Senate Bill 1292
Senate Bill 1360 Mandatory withholding for out-of-state partnerships, estates, and trusts.
Senate Bill 1361 hikes the maximum estate tax rate to 20%, which would be tied for the highest state estate tax rate in the country. The rate would kick in for taxable estates over $10 million. This bill already has been sent to the governor’s desk.
220% Increase in Conveyance Taxes: Senate Bill 1362
Senate Bill 1474 proposes a 0.5 percentage point increase in the GET. This bill is probably dead.
read … How The Senate Aims To Raise More Cash
Federal Prosecutor: Former HPD Officer Admits being Homosexual Child Molester
SA: …Federal prosecutors say a retired Honolulu police officer arrested last month in an internet child sex sting operation has a history of prior sexual contact with minor children.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson told U.S. Magistrate Kevin S.C. Chang last week that James-Dean Kalani Goeas, 63, made the admission to FBI agents when they arrested him.
Sorenson disclosed the admission in asking Chang to impose a cash requirement in any release bond for Goeas. The court’s pretrial services had recommended Goeas’ release on an unsecured signature bond pending further prosecution. Sorenson said the pretrial services officer who made the recommendation did not know about Goeas’ admission….
Goeas remains in custody at the Federal Detention Center pending the availability of GPS location monitoring devices and an inspection of his home.
The Honolulu Police Department says Goeas retired in 2015 after 28 years of service….
The government says one of the other three, Ryan Cowley, admitted in his online communication with an undercover law enforcement officer that he too had prior sexual contact with minors. Prosecutors submitted a portion of the communication in which Cowley says he has had sex with an 11-year-old “little cousin” and sexual contact with even younger children.
An Oahu grand jury returned indictments Thursday against four other men arrested in the same sting operation, including a military service member….
read … Alleged Homosexual Child Molesters Busted
Police Commission Disputes Honolulu police chief on handgun carry permits
SA: … The Honolulu Police Commission was mostly effusive in its praise of Police Chief Susan Ballard in the first-year review that was released recently, but key members are clearly troubled by the answers she’s given them on the Police Department’s policy regarding handgun carry permits.
They worry that Ballard and the department may be rejecting gun permit requests either without a legally defensible policy or any policy, and therefore may be violating the Second Amendment guaranteeing citizens the right to bear arms.
The concerns are detailed in a four-page memo written by Commissioner Steven Levinson and co-signed by Commission Chairwoman Loretta Sheehan….
In July a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Hawaii’s legal requirement for getting a license to carry a firearm in public violates the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment right to bear arms. That case is on hold pending a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on a similar case.
On Friday the Hawaii Rifle Association filed a federal lawsuit against Ballard and state Attorney General Clare Connors challenging what it called “Hawaii’s de facto ban on all manner of (gun) carry by ordinary citizens.” State and city laws and policies violate the Second Amendment because they only grant permits to carry guns — concealed or openly — in urgent or exceptional cases and “do not consider the general need for self-defense to be urgent or exceptional,” the lawsuit said….
Related: Complaint Filed in NRA-supported Challenge to Hawaii Concealed Carry Law
read … Honolulu police chief is pressed on handgun carry permits
Sumida: I helped Kealoha Beat the rap once—he can do it again if the media helps
SA: … Many reviewing the media reports concerning former Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine Kealoha, have already concluded that they must be guilty. Why bother to waste time with an actual trial?
No doubt, many felt the same way in 2015 when Katherine Kealoha, accused of stealing from her uncle and grandmother, went to trial in the civil case they filed against her. Reviewing the breathless media reports leading up to, and during, the trial, there seemed to be no doubt that she would lose, and lose big.
Maybe they were surprised by the trial’s outcome. After weeks of carefully examining the evidence, a jury of 12 thoroughly rejected the claims of both the uncle and the grandmother and found that Katherine Kealoha did nothing wrong. And the jury did even more: by “clear and convincing evidence,” they found that the claims made against Katherine Kealoha were based upon false statements, and awarded her $659,000, including $210,000 in punitive damages against the uncle. The court also awarded her an additional $18,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs against the grandmother. Little of this received media attention….
read … Kealohas entitled to impartial judgment, free of media bias
After Maui Jail Riot UPW Takes Aim at PSD Leadership
MN: …As repair work goes on, the United Public Workers union, which represents the adult corrections officers at Maui Community Correctional Center, filed a class-action grievance against the state March 18. It seeks remedies, including temporary hazard pay, overtime and safe working conditions.
“Due to the riot, hazardous working conditions for members were exacerbated and continues,” the union said.
The grievance said there was a shortage of safety equipment, such as riot and fire protective gear, pepper spray and ammunition.
“Additionally, the severe staff shortage combined with overpopulation of the facility, staff-to-inmate ratios and the deterioration and breakdown of the facility and equipment critical to the safety and health of inmates, employees and the public caused extreme hazardous working conditions to increase,”the grievance said.
The authors of the letter concur, saying that the jail is “inhumane, uninhabitable (with a) life-threatening environment” as state Public Safety Department and supervisors carry on with “business as usual.”
Since the March 11 incident, there have been “constant inmate uprisings and rebellions, so much so, that the presence of lethal force has been necessary to maintain control and order,” said the letter.
“Inmates are being forced to live in these conditions, and we’re being forced to work in these conditions with no protective gear,” the letter said. “No abatement process have been carried out, and the air in the modules contain life-threatening particles due to the burning of hazardous material and toxic chemicals.”…
SA: Maui jail staff reported problems before riot
PDF: Letter from MCCC Staff
read … Letter describes chaos during March 11 riot
Questions raised over DPS officer's less-lethal weapons
KITV: …The only less-lethal weapons available to deputy sheriffs are pepper spray and batons, even though the officers have been trained with tasers….
PSD has requested other less-lethal weapons since 2017, and added a request for tasers and body cameras for deputy sheriffs in its 2019-2021 budget to the state legislature. And put out this statement: "Even before the recent incidents at the Capitol, PSD tried for several years to get funding for a variety of less-lethal capabilities."
(But they had plenty of money to buy long guns that don’t get used. See next article.)
KITV: After deadly shootings involving DPS, some calling for 'less lethal' weapons for officers
read … Questions raised over DPS officer's less-lethal weapons
DPS Doesn’t Buy Non-Lethal Weapons—But Spends Thousands on Rifles and Shotguns that are not given to Officers
HNN: … Since 2016, Public Safety has spent more than $77,000 worth to buy 96 Sig Sauer rifles.
Receipts show $18,000 was spent on one bulk purchase, $19,000 for two other buys, and then a $20,000 order.
But a state policy that’s been around since 1995 says only Colt A-R 15 rifles are allowed to be used by deputy sheriffs.
As long as the policy is around, no one can use those brand new Sig Sauer rifles.
HNN’s investigation also showed that the department spent more than $65,000 to buy 120 Remington 870 shotguns since 2016.
These shotguns are allowed under the policy, but in a bizarre twist, the department has not issued them. That’s meant the cache remains in the armory….
read … Rifles bought for deputy sheriffs never distributed because they violate state’s own policy
Charges dropped against Maui’s top civil lawyer
MN: … The state attorney general’s office said Monday that it will not prosecute Maui County Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong over domestic violence allegations.
Wong, the county’s top civil lawyer, was arrested at 12:15 a.m. March 9 at a residence in Wailuku and charged with abuse of a household member, a misdemeanor, according to county officials. He was placed on paid administrative leave later that day by Mayor Michael Victorino; Deputy Corporation Counsel Edward Kushi has been running the department since.
The case was turned over to the state attorney general to avoid a conflict of interest….
Jayaram said “the decision to decline prosecution of Patrick Wong was made after a careful review of all available evidence related to the incident.” This included police reports, body camera footage, photos, recorded statements and the 911 call.
“This review failed to demonstrate that Wong was engaged in an act of domestic violence pursuant to the laws of the state of Hawaii,” Jayaram said. “The complainant in this case has been apprised and supports the department’s decision.”
Victorino confirmed that the complainant was Wong’s girlfriend and that she was working in the Department of the Corporation Counsel when Victorino came into office. Victorino said he decided to transfer her to the Office of Management to “eliminate or lessen any nepotism that may have been pre-existing.”
On Monday night, county spokesman Brian Perry said that the administration had not been given official notice of the decision. Wong remains on paid administrative leave, he said.
Wong has been free after posting $1,000 bail, police said….
read … Charges dropped against top civil lawyer
Answer to High Cost of Living: Give Even More Money to Silicon Valley Billionaires and Hollywood Movie Moguls
CB: … Ige has made energy innovation a centerpiece of his public policies, centered on a push to adopt renewable energy resources.
Some economists, meanwhile, say the industry presents one of the brightest new business opportunities for Hawaii and a chance to create alternatives to the tourism-related jobs that dominate local employment.
Economists at the University of Hawaii’s Economic Research Organization believe identifying these small but growing sectors could inform solutions to the state’s age-old dilemma: how to diversify the islands’ economy so it includes more higher-paying jobs that allow people to afford living in one of America’s priciest states….
(IQ Test; Do you remember hearing this before? Bonus: How many times?)
One idea is to identify export industries that already have a budding presence in Hawaii despite the challenges.
To spot such industries, UHERO in 2017 conducted a study on something known as “traded industry clusters.” Popularized by the Harvard economist Michael Porter, export industry clusters are concentrations of related businesses that give particular regions a competitive advantage over other regions when it comes to attracting new businesses.
Clusters consist of concentrations of skilled workers and managers, professionals like accountants and attorneys accustomed to working in the field, banks and investors with industry knowledge willing to fund ventures. All those factors can help create a snowball effect when it comes to growing a region’s economy by attracting firms that want to tap those resources.
Classic clusters are Hollywood’s movie business and Silicon Valley’s technology industry.
(IQ Test: Do you smell a subsidized rat eating tax credits?)
“When these advantages exist because the cluster is strong, the cluster acts as a magnet,” Bonham said.
UHERO identified Hawaii’s clusters in a 2017 report titled “A New Perspective on Hawaii’s Economy: understanding the role of clusters.”…
(Diversity means giving money to Northern California AND Southern California.)
CB: The newsroom will spend the next 12 months reporting on critical questions about the future of the local economy, thanks to a grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation.
read … A Con Job
Histrionics, Chemophobia Begin to pay off in Court
CB: … When a federal jury in California slapped Monsanto Co. with an $80 million verdict last week after finding the company’s weed killer Roundup caused a California man’s cancer, the verdict was meant by U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria to be an informal bellwether: guidance for both sides on whether to settle hundreds of similar cases pending in his court.
But Brian Mackintosh, a Honolulu attorney representing plaintiffs in similar cases, doesn’t see much hope that Monsanto will settle other cases anytime soon. And with good reason.
Representatives of Monsanto’s new owner, the German chemical giant Bayer, made it clear the company would keep fighting claims that Roundup causes cancer….
Among Mackintosh’s clients are Christine and Kenneth Sheppard, former South Kona coffee farmers who claim the company is responsible for Christine developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. They regularly applied the chemical to their coffee plants from 1995 until 2004.
Mackintosh’s complaint is replete with references to findings that a main ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is dangerous to human health. Monsanto and Bayer insist the chemical is safe.
In addition to the Sheppards’ case, Mackintosh represents another plaintiff, Aaron Johnson, in federal court. He also claims he got cancer from using Roundup.
And Mackintosh has filed a state suit on behalf of Bruce Pied, a New Jersey resident who operated a coffee and macadamia nut farm on the Big Island from 1982 to 2016. The suit alleges Pied developed cancer as a result of spraying Roundup on his farm.
Mackintosh said he is not surprised Monsanto is taking a hard line despite the verdict in the California case. He said the company’s lawyers have strongly opposed proposals to settle matters through mediation….
read … Money from Monsanto
Biofuel Schemers Fret as Subsidies Decline
MN: …Hawaiian Electric Co. and its subsidiaries support Pacific Biodiesel fuel in power plants, the City and County of Honolulu has used its fuel in fleet vehicles for more than a decade…
… King said the lack of federal support for biofuel producers in 2018 has created uncertainty in the industry. He added that current county incentives are waning as well.
“It’s disheartening, and I actually feel it in my crew, too, because they are so enthusiastic about what we’re doing and that we’re doing it right,” he said Wednesday….
2009: Abercrombie defends $3.5M earmark after being nailed by CBS
read … Subsidies
Electric Car Owners Scoop up $3.5M in Free Airport Parking
KHON: … "Electric vehicles have now reached about 8,000 on [Hawaii] roadways and now there's about a million cars on Oahu, so not quite 1% are electric yet,” said David Rolf, executive director of Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association.
Many new electric vehicle owners made the switch because of the perks.
Current benefits for EV owners include a $7,500 tax credit when you purchase the vehicle, free parking at airports and most parking structures, and riding in the HOV lane without a passenger.
But once a manufacturer sells 200,000 cars, the tax credit drops in half.
In 2012, Governor David Ige signed Act 168 which allowed cars to park for free at certain structures.
But now, some legislators say owners are taking advantage of the rules and introduced a bill this year that would only allow four hours of free parking to electric vehicles at the airport.
Testimony from the department of accounting and general services noted the current law allows electric vehicles to move from stall to stall to avoid parking fees.
They wrote in testimony:
“This is abuse of parking privilege that electric vehicle owners are taking advantage of in all areas. This abuse takes away valuable public parking stall from legitimate users who need to do business in the area when personal EV’s are parked in the area for the whole day.”
The Department of Transportation, who provides the parking at airports, supported the bill writing charging stations at its airports…”are often occupied by EVs for extended periods past adequate charging. “
The DOT estimates a loss of $3.5 million in revenue at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport alone.
Gov. Ige’s Act regarding free parking will expire in June 2020.
Senator Lorraine Inouye said she was disappointed the bill to limit the parking at airport did not pass, but says they'll continue to push the issue.
read … Perks
Mainland Drug Addict Demands Money for Homelessness at Legislature
HNN: … Funding for critical homeless programs like Housing First, homeless outreach and more aren’t yet in the state Legislature’s budget.
And that’s alarming homeless advocates ― and their clients.
Clients like Ricky Crowell, who moved to Hawaii for a second chance but ended up spiraling into drug abuse and homelessness.
“Cost of living was high. Everything here was so expensive. I did what I always did, turn to my escape: Cocaine and methamphetamine,” he said.
Crowell ended up homeless, falling deeper into his addiction ― until a failed attempt to take his life wound up saving him.
“It was time to grow up,” said Crowell. “I went to IHS to ask for help. And they put me on the right path.”
On Monday, Crowell joined a rally at the state Capitol of homeless service providers from across the islands….
In the middle of a decade-long crisis, providers are also puzzled why funding for homeless programs isn’t yet included in the state’s base budget so it’s guaranteed and projects aren’t put in jeopardy.
The ask is $17.2 million.
“We’re not asking for more than we did last year. This is the same amount of money to maintain these core services,” said Brandee Menino, CEO of Hope Services Hawaii.
Providers also pushed for investments in affordable housing and for the improvement of Hawaii’s mental health laws. Lawmakers have until Tuesday to schedule four key bills for a hearing….
HPR: Hawaiʻi Homelessness Advocates Rally For Measures To Maintain Services
read … Amid homeless crisis, funding for critical homeless programs not yet in budget
City Contractor Works Hard to Keep Homeless Tent City Near Children's Center
CB: … Since Dec. 20, Fong-Shoji has parked her mobile shower van seven times next to the Children’s Discovery Center in Kakaako, with as many as 50 homeless campers showing up for food and showers.
This is bad news for Loretta Yajima, the Discovery Center’s CEO who has struggled for the last decade to convince parents to keep bringing their children there despite ever-shifting populations of homeless people — some of them mentally ill or on drugs or both — hanging around the building.
“It is difficult for children to understand when they see a woman at the front of the center screaming, ‘I am going to kill myself’ or see a homeless person banging her head on the glass windows,” Yajima said. “How do you explain that to a young child?”
In written testimony to the Senate Ways and Means committee Monday, Yajima said: “While the number of tents fronting the Center may be somewhat reduced, it fluctuates daily, and there are more aggressive and even some violent individuals coming onto our property now. As a result, we are finally grappling with the possibility of securing our property with fencing, hiring 24-hour security and replacing damaged security cameras around the perimeter of our building as deterrents.”
Her testimony was presented at a hearing on a proposed legislative resolution to urge the governor’s coordinator on homelessness to convene a state task force to seek ways to protect the Children’s Discovery Center from the unsanitary conditions caused by the homeless encampments and criminal activities at Kakaako Gateway Park.
Fong-Shoji said she has been frustrated by her failure to get a permit from the city to operate in Kakaako.
She says she has tried to be sensitive by parking the mobile shower van next to the Children’s Discovery Center from 5 to 7:30 p.m., after it closes….
SA: Man, 19, seriously injured after apparently running across H-1 freeway
read … Feeding The Homeless When The City Says Not To