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Monday, May 02, 2011
May 2, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:06 PM :: 10331 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, National News, Development, World News, Hawaii History

Special Forces exterminate Osama Bin-Laden: Hideout was mansion next to Pakistani Military Academy

Legislature to vote on $350M Increase in GE Tax

Whirlwind legislative session draws to a close May 5

Abercrombie signs Eight More Bills into Law

Local Reaction To Osama’s Death: Relief, Worry

Marines who were off-base in Kailua town were overjoyed. “We did our job,” one said.

“We have been looking for him in numerous caves and we finally got him. God bless America,” said Marine Sgt. LeVarjus Owens.

Lynette Selga was on base with her boyfriend when security levels were raised and she quickly found out why.

“We turned on the news and the president was on, and Osama was dead. Everyone was just happy,” said Selga.

She thought the news would be heartfelt for all those who have served on the frontlines, and who have lost friends and family along the way.

“It means a lot. They have been overseas and tragedy there hurts them a lot,” Selga said. She said marines who were watching the president’s in the barracks cheered when they heard the announcement.

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Threat Level Raised At All Hawaii Army Installations

The threat level, known formally as the Force Protection Condition (FPCON), has been raised to the second level, "Bravo", at all United States Army Garrison installations in Hawaii.

The level was raised at 10:11 a.m. Sunday….

According to an Army spokesman, the level was raised because of national military activity and is "not a cause for concern."

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How Much Hawaii Legislature’s Tax Hikes Will Cost You ($600M)

Hawaii taxpayers are on the hook for about $600 million in new tax revenue to help pay for the state’s new two-year budget. Lawmakers approved five key tax bills Friday night….

Under Senate Bill 754, nearly two dozen businesses will see their general excise tax exemptions suspended starting July 1 through June 2013. These businesses will be subject to the 4 percent tax for the two years.

The exemptions are mostly for specific industries, including general contractors, sugarcane producers, petroleum refiners, airlines and tugboat operators.

Businesses are likely to pass on the increased costs to their customers, as evidenced by some of the testimony opposing the bill. …

Bottom line: Expected to raise $173 million a year.

Under SB 570, higher income earners will lose the state income tax deduction and will be limited in the amount of itemized deductions they can claim…Bottom line: Expected to raise $51.8 million a year.

Under SB 1328, car owners will see a $20 increase in the state’s flat-rate vehicle registration fee, from $25 to $45. And SB 1329 would double the vehicle weight tax, which currently ranges from .75 cents ($0.0075) to 2.75 cents ($0.0275) per pound.  These two bills would add $55 to the average person's registration bill.  Bottom line: Registration fee expected to raise $20.6 million a year. Weight tax increase expected to raise $33 million a year.

Hotel-Room Tax for the Counties: Under SB 1186, the state would cap the amount of Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) revenue that is divvied up among the four counties at $85 million. Bottom line: Expected to raise $32 million in fiscal 2012, $38 million in 2013.

Rental Car Fees: Under HB 1039, those who rent cars from locations other than Hawaii airports will see a daily rental surcharge go up to $7.50 from $3. (Airport rentals already collect $7.50 in daily surcharges.)  Bottom line: Expected to raise $60.8 million in fiscal 2012.

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Hawaii Legislature Increases Taxes, Spending, but Some Controversial Tax Measures Die

Taxpayers, including retirees, and business owners, who are suffering during challenging economic times told lawmakers repeatedly that they could not afford to have the $1.billion budget shortfall balanced on their checkbooks.

But lawmakers also heard daily from public union members, state department heads, county mayors and social service agency providers who want money for their employees, clients and pet projects.

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Pay Raises for Hawaii Lawmakers Still on Table

Among the bills that failed to meet a Friday deadline was House Bill 575, which would continue a 5-percent pay cut for top legislative, executive and judicial positions.

Unless legislators give HB 575 a floor vote this week, the pay cuts will be restored this July 1.

In the case of a legislator, that amounts to a $2,500 salary increase this year alone.

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Law Lets Session Draw to a Close With Few Legislators Filing Disclosures

With less than a week until the end of the legislative session, fewer than half of Hawaii's 76 lawmakers have filed their 2011 financial disclosures.  The politicians aren't doing anything wrong though.

Hawaii law doesn't require the forms to be filed with the state until after the session ends.   What that means is that the public can't know about possible conflicts of interest at the Legislature for as long as two years after a lawmaker casts a vote or pushes a bill.

As of Friday, six days before the end of session, 30 legislators had filed, about 40 percent. Of those 30, 12 were filed by freshman lawmakers, who are required to report within 30 days of their election. Of the state's veteran politicians, 18 filed while the Legislature was still in session. …

A sweeping ethics reform bill would have addressed this loophole, but it was gutted and turned into an unsuccessful effort to make it easier for lawmakers to accept gifts.

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Legislative Session Schedule for This Week

There is still time to kill a bill, or to radically rewrite one — like that last grasp for a gambling casino that was squashed in the waning hours last week.

This time, however, the floor sessions will be televised, so the public and media will be following along.

Which isn't to say something won't happen.

One red flag is whenever the Senate or House Democratic caucuses calls a recess and then disappears for extended periods of time behind closed doors, only to emerge later with a proposed floor amendment.

This is when Republicans sit and stew and then complain about back-door dealing. Which it is

Here's the week's schedule:

  • Monday, May 2: There is an afternoon deadline to submit measures for inclusion on the consent calendar, meaning the list of bills to be voted on Tuesday. No floor session.
  • Tuesday, May 3: Floor session begins around 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. in both chambers. This is the last big day for most bills.  This session, the Senate has managed to wrap big floor sessions up by the lunch hour, while the House has finished around late afternoon or early evening. Both times are significantly earlier than in sessions past.
  • Wednesday, May 4: No floor session. A recess day.
  • Thursday, May 5: Floor session in both chambers begins around 11 a.m. or 11:30 a.m.

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Mortgage Foreclosure Bill Makes Cut

Among the measures squeaking by at the Legislature Friday night was Senate Bill 651, which implements task force recommendations to establish a temporary mortgage foreclosure dispute resolution program.

The bill also authorizes conversion from nonjudicial to judicial foreclosure and amends existing state law relating to mortgage servicers.

HB 641 was supported by the Roman Catholic Church, Faith Action for Community Equity and many individuals. Opponents included the Hawaii Credit Union League, Hawaii Bankers Association and Hawaii Financial Services Association.

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Obama's close friend to appear in Honolulu court on Prostitution Rap

Robert "Bobby" Titcomb's hearing is scheduled to be held in District Court in Honolulu on Monday morning.

Police arrested the 49-year-old and three other men during an undercover sting operation on April 4. He was released on $500 bail.

Titcomb attended Punahou School with Obama in the 1970s. They have often played golf and basketball and gone to the beach together when the president has returned home to Hawaii for vacation.

CB: Property of Obama's Childhood Home in Manoa Could Become Parking Lot

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Bill to protect victims of abuse nears OK

A bill aimed at giving greater protection to domestic abuse victims is poised to pass the Legislature, some three years after law enforcement officials and victims' rights supporters began lobbying for it.

House Bill 968 allows temporary restraining orders to remain in effect for up to 180 days or until a permanent protective order is issued by a judge. Key House lawmakers agreed to changes to the bill made by the Senate, clearing the way for a final vote in the House this week.

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Hawaii has nation’s Highest Teen Suicide Rate

In Hawaii we have the highest rate in the country of teenagers attempting suicide. That is why one of MHA Hawaii's program priorities is to protect against bullying, which is one of the major contributing factors to youth suicide.

RELATED: Highest suicide rate in US: Hawaii DoE highschoolers, The transsexual agenda for Hawaii schools 

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BoE Chair Horner continues to abuse Audit word

But he isn’t talking about the full financial audit that is needed.  Here are some of the conditions recent partial audits have discovered:

The whole human resources audit is not available online, but some of its findings are, and they include:

  1. The Office of Human Resources does not have standard operating procedures for its major functions.
  2. Position descriptions are vague and outdated.
  3. Organizational charts need to be updated.
  4. The employee handbook lacks critical information.
  5. The human resources office needs a formal policy or procedure for how it communicates with employees.
  6. The school code needs an overhaul and should be maintained electronically/online to ensure all copies are up to date.

Each of the findings comes with a series of recommendations for solving the problem — a solution — and these have resulted in a series of follow-up meetings with the Board of Education.

The annual financial audits are more limited in scope, but the two most recent ones have found that:

  1. The department lacks standardized procedures for making bank reconciliations and error corrections.
  2. The department does not comply with state procurement in one out of 15 procurements.
  3. The department is not recording compensated absences consistently, and is therefore overstating sick leave and vacation balances.

The BoE and Abercrombie will continue to resist doing a full financial audit because they want to protect the bureaucrats and contractors who benefit from these conditions.

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APEC conferees will see greener Nimitz Highway

The leaders of 21 Asia- Pacific economies will be greeted by more than a mile of palm trees and two acres of new grass along Nim­itz Highway when their motorcades drive from Hono­lulu Airport to November's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Waikiki, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz said yesterday.

With 80 percent of tourists taking the Nim­itz Highway route to Waikiki, Schatz said, "first impressions are everything. … It's very important to Kalihi, it's important to Hono­lulu, it's important to the state of Hawaii to have a Nim­itz Highway we can be proud of." (And after decades, we’re finally gonna DO something about this simple problem.)

The project will plant 116 coconut palms, 89 Fiji fan palms and two acres of St. Augustine grass along a 1.4-mile stretch between Sand Island Access Road and Ala­kawa Street, said Dan Meisenzahl, spokes­man for the state Department of Transportation.

A separate project will bury overhead utility lines along Nim­itz Highway from downtown to Waikiki.

RELATED:  Complacent Honolulu out of its league, not ready for APEC

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NYT: Standing Up for Guest Workers

Two lawsuits filed in Hawaii and Washington against other employers make similar charges about 200 men brought from Thailand.

The United States urgently needs to strengthen protections for guest workers who are lied to by recruiters and tied to employers with too much power to exploit them. Today’s shackles are the threats of deportation and financial ruin. They might as well be iron.

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Project could help Nanakuli

Opponents complained that the light industrial development would alter the rural and farm character of the community, but economic stagnation has troubled the area for decades.

Kamehameha Schools is going forward with ambitious plans for an education center at the west end of the coast in Makaha Valley, and Tropic Land's modest Nanakuli Community Baseyard could bring economic vitality to the coast's eastern valley.

Arick Yanagihara, Tropic Land's project manager, said the company was "shocked about the outcome."

While that is understandable, the company should not lose heart. It should continue to work with the community and the Navy to win support for what could be a valuable asset to the Waianae Coast's struggling economy.

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Honolulu Should Not Give Corporate Welfare Through Favoritism in Recycling Contracts

In this time of fiscal constraint, the City and County of Honolulu must look at cutting back and saving money wherever possible.  The Council should be commended for advancing Bill 47 to remove the unfair and unearned “discount” granted automobile recyclers for the disposal of potentially toxic Automobile Shredder Residue or ASR in Oahu’s landfill.

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Councilmember Tulsi Gabbard to drop use of Tamayo

City Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard says she is formally resuming use of her maiden name, dropping her married name of Tamayo.

Gabbard said she and her husband, Eddie Tamayo, divorced “a few years ago,” after she returned from an 18-month deployment to Iraq as a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard.

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Four Seasons Resort reopens, recovered from tsunami damage

The reopening was also good news for some former employees of the nearby Kona Village Resort. They lost their jobs when the resort closed because of extensive tsunami damage.

"We had a job fair exclusively for Kona Village employees, and about two dozen of them have joined our team, and we're happy to have them," Whitfield said.

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Kauai Co Auditor surprised by county’s skyrocketing electric bill in 2010

The County Auditor’s Office recently released a report auditing county energy management.

“We found that county paid about $1.3 million more for electricity in 2010 than in 2009,” County Auditor Ernesto Pasion said in a news release. “An increase this large is surprising, since county offices were closed for two days a month from July to December because of the furlough.

The audit will be made available soon on the auditor’s website at www.kauai.gov/auditor/reports

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