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Tuesday, May 29, 2012
May 29, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:48 PM :: 7547 Views :: Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

As Rail Project Begins Hawaii Loses Construction Jobs

ABC Hawaii Chapter Blasts Abercrombie’s PLA Directive

Djou: Honor Sacrifice Made in Afghanistan

Retaliation: As Buyers Consider HMC Purchase, Abercrombie Steals Federal Funds for Care of Poor from Private Hospitals

SA: The Abercrombie administration, in a major policy shift, will award most of the $10 million in federal money the state receives this year to help cover medical costs for the poor at the state's public hospitals (the cost of HGEA make-work jobs. This sends a warning shot across the bow of private hospital operators considering the purchase of the two shuttered HMC hospitals—one of which is sought by the decrepit HHSC in spite of the fact that)…the Hawaii Health Systems Corp., which oversees more than a dozen public hospitals, has a $10.5 million shortfall and is more than two months behind in paying bills. (So the Abercrombie admin is willing to undermine Hawaii’s underpaid private hospitals to keep this decaying hulk –and the 4000 HGEA/UPW jobs that go with it-- from total collapse.)

Under Gov. Linda Lingle the state had been awarding most of the federal money for charity care to private hospitals, and the Abercrombie administration kept the pattern last year. Private hospitals estimated that bad debt and charity care caused losses of $115 million in 2010, largely from patients who are uninsured….

Some advocates for private hospitals have said privately that the Abercrombie administration's policy shift might be punitive, which Mc­Mana­man denies.

State lawmakers passed a bill that would establish provider fees for private hospitals and large nursing homes that would enable the state to get millions in additional federal Medicaid money next fiscal year. Private hospitals would pay about $42 million in fees and get $77 million in return. The state would get a 7 percent cut — or $2.8 million — in the transaction.

McManaman had pushed hard for a larger state share, arguing, among other things, that it would allow the state to restore some of the benefit reductions for adults in QUEST scheduled in July to contain rising costs. But lawmakers agreed with private hospital advocates, who warned that support for the provider fee could erode if the state took more of the money.

The administration announced earlier this month that it would continue to cover durable medical equipment, such as oxygen tanks and wheelchairs, that had been planned for elimination as part of the QUEST benefit reduction. Mc­Mana­man has suggested that other benefit reductions might also be canceled.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie's advisers say he has not decided whether to sign the provider fee bill or allow it to become law without his signature.

What they won’t do: Legislative Report: Convert HHSC to non-profit, dump civil service (full text)

Read … Hawaii's public hospitals to receive bulk of federal funds

Hawaii Supreme Court Rushes to Issue Decisions Before Duffy’s June 4 Retirement

Neil Abercrombie has been Hawaii governor for just over 18 months, but in that short time he has already named one Hawaii Supreme Court associate justice, Sabrina McKenna….

Sometime in the next few weeks, Abercrombie is expected to name a second associate justice, this one to replace James Duffy Jr., who retires Thursday. State law requires court justices to retire before turning 70; Duffy turns 70 on June 4….

Recktenwald declined Civil Beat's request for an interview. As court spokesman Mark Santoki explained, the court is very busy working to complete cases while Duffy is still on the job….

Foley, who was appointed to the appeals court by Cayetano in 2000, may be too old for the job — 65 — though he may also be the most ideologically similar to Abercrombie.

Foley is the only judge on the ICA appointed by a Democrat. He is a former lawyer with the ACLU of Hawaii and is current chair of the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, whose purpose is to increase access to legal help in civil matters for low- and moderate-income residents.

Foley was also the attorney in Baehr v. Lewin, the 1993 Supreme Court case that launched the same-sex marriage battle. He has been on the Judicial Selection Commission's short list before, and his appointment has the broadest support.

Read … Flurry of Decisions

HSTA Exec to Consider Releasing Turnout Data from Vote on Non-Existent Contract

SA: HSTA will not disclose how many teachers participated in the recent round of voting. That's a concern for some teachers, given low turnouts in previous votes, including a recent HSTA leadership election.

On HSTA's Facebook page over the weekend, several teachers were urging the union to release the vote's turnout figures.

Nagasako said the board of directors will make the call on whether to release details on how many of the union's 12,500 members voted. Voting on the previously rejected deal was done online and over the phone from May 17 to 22.

Nagasako did say the turnout was "pretty close" to what was seen in January, when about 9,000 teachers voted, and he added that it is standard procedure to give the union's board a chance to review the raw vote tallies before they are released to members.

Shannon Kaaa, an HSTA board member, said she hadn't yet gotten the full results from last week's vote, either. It's unclear whether other members of the board also haven't seen the turnout figures.

Kaaa said she is hopeful the state will honor the previously rejected agreement, "and then we wouldn't have to take it out to vote again." She said while it would be unprecedented, there is nothing that precludes the state from accepting the deal.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, however, has asked HSTA to resume negotiations. He said in a statement last week that the voting results will be "seriously considered" if the union returns to talks.

Wil Okabe, HSTA president, has said the teachers union doesn't plan to submit a new offer to the state…. (Surprise, surprise)

Read … HSTA ponders next step after vote OKs non-existent deal

Higher TSA fees clear Senate committee

AP: U.S. airlines are pleading with Congress not to let the Transportation Security Administration double its plane ticket fees, but the proposal is so far sailing through Congress.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted Tuesday to recommend approval of an increase in the TSA fee from $5 to $10 per person per roundtrip, a move sought by TSA after its regular funding was cut in the interest of deficit reduction.

"It's a simple equation," said Nicholas Calio, CEO of Airlines for America, the former Air Transport Association. "When you add taxes, demand for air travel is dampening, resulting in lost jobs and lost air service."

Calio said Tuesday that 20 percent of the price of an average airline ticket consists of taxes and fees. That, he said, is "on pair with taxes for alcohol and tobacco, products taxed to discourage their use."

Read … More Taxes, Less Tourism

Hawaii Scores Low on State Budget Transparency

The state does publish an annual audit report conducted by an entity independent of the executive. It is called the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. However, the report's release has been delayed for the last two fiscal years. As of January 2012, the most recent CAFR available is the fiscal 2010 report: http://hawaii.gov/dags/accounting-division/Annual%20Financial%20Report

Read … Transparency

Manslaugter: Hawaii Democrats, Star-Adv Join Juggie in Death Wish

Juggie Heen served in the state House for a term and then represented the people living in Kahana Valley as the "konohiki" or agent.

Now at 82, Heen is involved in a new campaign.

"My Life. My Death. My Choice," reads the headline for an ad campaign featuring Heen, who has both pancreatic and liver cancer.

The campaign, sponsored by Compassion and Choices Hawaii, is dubbed "Join Juggie."

"There is a group of doctors who are willing to assist people in managing their ends of lives. Anyone who is suffering now needs the assistance to guide them through the end of life," says Heen….

Heen, who was honored at last weekend's state Democratic convention in Waikiki.….

The local group is basing its guidance on continuing to lie about a 1909 Hawaii law that they interpret to mean physicians have broad discretion when treating terminally ill patients.

"I would ask the Legislature to adopt no law to outlaw the choice available in the 1909 law. Outside of that, we are not looking for anything from the government," said Heen.

Attorney General David Louie issued an opinion last year disagreeing with Compassion and Choice's argument that palliative care could include help in dying. Louie said such action could result in a charge of manslaughter.

A story the Star-Adv never Reported:

· Colette Machado: I look at Kalaupapa--Native Hawaiians will fight against Assisted Suicide

· Colette Machado: Assisted Suicide Activists ‘Hoodwinking Our Culture’

Read … More Star-Adv Suicide Propaganda

Rail: Portland a Model for Honolulu?

DN: Honolulu is stuck in the ‘60s. Urban sprawl. Loss of farmland. Out-of-control development. Endless traffic jams. More houses and cars planned for a future that looks to be even more congested. An expensive train line that will never be expanded if it ever is built.

It didn’t (and doesn’t) have to be this way. Some other cities changed from this destructive course: Portland, for example, which could be a model for us.

Read … Portland, Progressive Mecca

What Does the Mayor Plan To Do About Kawamoto?

"The guy is a colossal pain in the neck who puts on a blight on the whole area. He's doing this because he's a very strange and odd person and he needs to be stopped. He needs to start following the law and stop being a blight to his neighbors. ... A prosecutor's answer, by the way."…

In the past seven years, the city has charged Kawamoto with 56 property violations, and he has paid $38,000 in penalties as a result. But that figure seems to be insignificant to Kawamoto, who is known to pay several times market price for his multimillion-dollar properties on Oahu. Carlisle says Kawamoto "needs to start following the law," but what about enforcement?

Many of Kawamoto's neighbors in Kahala have complained that existing laws lack teeth with the city Department of Planning and Permitting.

…the department has faced complaints about enforcement in the past. As Civil Beat reported last year, city officials estimated there could be thousands of illegal rental violations but barely two dozen citations for such violations in a one-year period. Yet the city's lawmakers have turned to the Legislature for guidance on how to proceed with Kawamoto's presence in Kahala.

Read … all talk, no action

Heavy construction work is under way on development of Kawailoa Wind site

SA: RMT Inc., a Wisconsin-based firm specializing in the design and construction of wind and solar energy generating facilities, is building the 69-megawatt Kawailoa Wind project for developer First Wind LLC.

RMT broke ground at Kawailoa late last year and recently started work on major features of the project, including the foundations that will anchor its 30 wind turbines, according to RMT officials.

RMT also is building roads and pads to accommodate the oversize cranes that will be used to hoist the 493-foot-tall wind turbines into place. The project, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year, also will include two electrical substations, a maintenance building and a 46-kilovolt transmission line that will feed the power into the Hawaiian Electric Co. grid.

When finished, Kawailoa Wind will be the state's largest wind energy project, surpassing the combined 51-megawatt generating capacity of First Wind's Kaheawa and Kaheawa Phase II projects on Maui.

Read … Heavy construction work is under way on development of Kawailoa Wind site

Supreme Court won't review Hawaii police Taser use case

Reuters: The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday let stand a ruling that police used excessive force when they shot a Taser stun gun on a seven-month pregnant woman and on a wife involved in a domestic dispute.

The justices declined to review a ruling by a the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California that found the constitutional rights of the women to be violated because they did not pose a threat to the safety of the officers.

The appeals court ruling was mixed, as it also held that the officers had immunity because the law on the use of stun guns was not clearly established at the time of the 2004 and 2006 incidents.

Read … Shocking News

US Spies on Ground in N Korea

TD: In the decades since the end of the Korean War, Pyongyang has constructed thousands of tunnels, Army Brig. Gen. Neil Tolley, commander of U.S. Special Operations Forces in South Korea, said at a conference in Florida last week. Tolley said the tunnels include 20 partially subterranean airfields, thousands of underground artillery positions and at least four tunnels underneath the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas. “We don’t know how many we don't know about,” Tolley said.

“The entire tunnel infrastructure is hidden from our satellites,” Tolley added. “So we send [Republic of Korea] soldiers and U.S. soldiers to the North to do special reconnaissance.” Tolley said the commandos parachute in with minimal supplies in order to watch the tunnels without being detected themselves.

Read … US Spies Drop in on Norks


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