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Sunday, April 6, 2014
April 6, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:04 PM :: 4780 Views

Occupy, Union Activists Organizing Homeless Tent Cities in Honolulu?

Tax Return Extensions – Not an Occasion to Punt on Working the Numbers

Djou's Biggest Obstacle Gone

MN: In an unsurprising move, Charles Djou announced Thursday he will try to win back the 1st Congressional District U.S. House of Representatives seat he once held on an interim basis.

Republican Djou won the seat in a special election after Neil Abercrombie resigned from Congress to run for governor of Hawaii in 2010. Colleen Hanabusa defeated Djou in the general election that fall. She was re-elected two years later, again defeating Djou.

Hanabusa, of course, is running against incumbent Brian Schatz for the Democratic nomination for United States Senate this year. That will eliminate Djou's biggest obstacle to regaining the seat he once held - several lesser-known Democrats are vying for their party's nomination.

At this point, Djou is uncontested for the Republican nomination.

read ... The Maui News

Abercrombie: "We don't break the laws, we make the laws."

Borreca: A lesson learned about Hawaii politics was taught one night back in the 1980s, while I was waiting outside a closed-door legislative meeting.

The meeting was supposed to be open, but it wasn't, and as the lawmakers darted out the door I said to one, "Aren't you guys breaking the law?"

He replied, "We don't break the laws, we make the laws."...

So now in 2014, the state Legislature is confronted with changing a state law that vastly upgrades some real estate holdings.

This is one of those moments when the hypocritical intersection of government and politics becomes obvious.

The state Office of Hawaiian Affairs was given 31 acres of state-owned Kakaako Makai land by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in a 2012 settlement of OHA claims for ceded land revenue.

If OHA is to see the land become worth the $200 million Abercrombie said it was worth when he gave it up, the Legislature has to change the law.

Today it is against the law for OHA to put high-rise residential condos on its land because in 2006, residential development was banned by the Legislature in reaction to overwhelming citizen protests of development plans.

If the Abercrombie-OHA offer had been candid, the law formalizing the land transfer in 2012 would have also dropped the residential development restriction, but both OHA and the administration insisted that the deal had to be passed unamended, and hypocrisy ruled the day....

At the same time that the Legislature is moving along to "let OHA develop Kakaako Makai," there is another bill pushed by critics of the HCDA that would restrict or limit the HCDA's power and perhaps change the composition of the board.

Because OHA would still be bound by HCDA rulings, it might be that actually seeing condos on OHA land could be more complicated....

And the fellow who pointed out that his buddies in the Legislature don't break laws, they make them? That was former state Sen. Neil Abercrombie.

SA: OHA's Kakaako plan won't right historical wrongs

read ... OHA land deal shows why politicians must be watched

Commercial Solar Tax Credits Export Money to Mainland--Will Take Another $150M out of Budget

SA: Forecasts haven’t factored in how developers’ big energy projects may dent finances, a budget official says....With roughly 300 megawatts of utility-scale solar energy expected to hit Hawaii's electrical grids over the next several years, the state faces a potentially significant loss of revenue from tax credits available to the developers.

Under state law, developers of commercial photovoltaic projects are eligible to claim a credit against their Hawaii tax liability of up to $500,000 for each 1 megawatt of installed capacity. Those who owe little or no Hawaii taxes (ie Mainland companies) can opt for a cash payment at a 30 percent reduction, or up to $350,000 per megawatt.

The potential loss in tax revenue ranges from $105 million to $150 million if credits are claimed for the full 300 megawatts. The possibility of a reduction in tax revenue comes at a critical time in the state budget-making process with lawmakers looking at ways to scale back spending to balance the books for fiscal year 2015.

read ... State faces revenue decline over solar tax credits

Rail Finances Fuzzy, Caldwell Pushes Massive GE Tax Hike

SA: Construction on Oahu's public rail transit project is moving ahead full speed — but a clear, detailed plan to cover the added costs once the rail line is up and running hasn't yet been made public.

What is clear is that discussions on how to cover those costs are underway now, and often behind closed doors. But the lack of specifics has the Honolulu City Council's budget chairwoman concerned.

In recent months, some of rail's top leadership, including Mayor Kirk Caldwell, have started to publicly float the idea of extending Oahu's 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge as the best way to help pay for rail and other local public transit.

"I would like that," Caldwell said in January of keeping the surcharge. "If it goes in perpetuity … "

read ... In Perpetuity

Law Student Gets Copy of Pono Choices, Disturbed by Multiple Partners

SA: As a mother of two young children, I decided to learn more about Pono Choices, the pilot sex education program for 11- to 13-year-olds in some Hawaii public schools. A quick Google search produced a link to a conservative group's stinging critique and what appeared to be an unauthorized copy of the Pono Choices materials.

Some of the things I read in the materials available online were so bizarre that I honestly thought it could be a spoof of the real thing, like an article from The Onion. I decided to see if this was indeed the actual material. This proved to be a very difficult task....

I saw that the University of Hawaii had been awarded a federal grant to develop Pono Choices and contacted many people on campus to see how I could obtain a legitimate copy. I was eventually able to reach someone at the chancellor's office who agreed to give me a copy for $7.50. I came in the next day and got my copy, which was, indeed, the same material available online. There were many concerning aspects of the Pono Choices material, but I will mention only two.

The material displays sexual experience and even multiple sexual partners as normal for the 11- to 13-year-olds. It is nearly criminal that the curriculum asserts that it will "empower" the children to make "pono choices about their sexual health" and yet nowhere do the materials mention rape, sexual assault or sexual predators. The instructor is directed to tell the students that the Pono Choices material "meets several standards and benchmarks" set by the state and so "the state of Hawaii has decided that it's important for you to learn about this." But in Hawaii, it is a first-degree assault to have sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of 14 — and yet the curriculum is designed specifically for children ages 11-13.

Nozoe: Public input is welcomed in reviewing the DOE’s sex-education policies and curricula for students

read ... Restricted-access Pono Choices material reveals a curriculum that parents might find disturbing

Medicaid red tape crippling good health care

SA: Access to health insurance does not equal access to care. In Hawaii, access and care coordination are not big problems for those insured through their employers under our Prepaid Health Care Act. However, for those with Medicaid, our managed care system relies heavily on policies that restrict and obstruct care, affecting roughly half the patient visits in the Medicaid clinic where I work. This is wasted administrative cost that contributes nothing to effective delivery of care.

These problems have led to a marked decline in doctors accepting new Medicaid patients. This is worst for psychiatry, and more than half the formerly participating psychiatrists have dropped out in the past five years, associated with a 30 percent rise in mental health emergency-room and hospital costs.

Almost all the care coordination problems seen in practice are due to problems with our Medicaid managed care system — a system left untouched by the Hawaii Healthcare Innovation Plan....

A good start would be to consolidate Medicaid into a single program without managed care plans, but with support for primary care, community care networks, and physician-led quality improvement.

Then combine funding from Medicaid, employer-based health care, and Medicare (via Medicare Advantage plans), and pay physicians the same regardless of the source of funding for a given patient.

This would markedly improve physician participation and access to out- patient care for Medicaid and Medicare patients.

This system has also saved a bundle in acute care Medicaid costs for Mesa County, Colo.

read ... Medicaid red tape crippling good health care

Prison changes a hard sell with guards playing hooky

Shapiro: Abercrombie said of the recruits, "They're going to be part of an initiative towards the complete revamping and reorientation of the corrections program."

Let's hope the reality on future weekends won't be a bunch of the new guards sitting home on sick leave watching football while the others score overtime covering for them.

Sick leave abuse is the cancerous underside of Hawaii's prison system, going on year after year, administration after adminis­tration.

This should be the first prison reform, but there's no sign it's even in the plan.

During 21⁄2 months since January, 20 of 24 weekend visitation days at OCCC were canceled, mostly because too many guards called in sick.

On Super Bowl Sunday, 68 OCCC guards were out sick, one-third of those scheduled to work. Annual overtime costs at OCCC alone are nearly $3 million.

Public Safety Director Ted Sakai says "it's difficult for us to do anything about it" because state rules don't require guards to document their illness unless they're out five consecutive days.

It costs about $130 per bed per day to incarcerate prisoners in Hawaii, compared with about $80 in Arizona — largely because of higher labor costs.

That's OK if higher labor costs are to pay fair wages and benefits for a difficult job, but not OK if a good part pays for sick leave abuse and excessive overtime.

The main reason given for returning prisoners from Arizona is the rehabilitation benefits of keeping them close to family, but what's the point of incurring the cost if they seldom see loved ones anyway because too many guards are out sick?

read ... Hooky 

City food truck law spurs protests

SA: City Transportation Services Director Michael Formby said his department will begin looking for potential areas where "superstalls" dedicated to food trucks may be located next week. His agency will also work with the Department of Enterprise Services on the language of concession contracts.

He said he hopes the city will be able to find "a minimum of five locations" and possibly more "if there is more interest."

Also yet to be determined is the period of time the permit would cover, he said. Formby previously had suggested one possibility would be to require a minimum bid of $400 for a monthly permit.

A community hearing on the pilot project should be held in the next two or three weeks, he said.

It's possible more than one permitted site could be located in the same area, he said.

That's a key point for current downtown food truck vendors, as many as a half-dozen of whom cluster on Mililani Street between King and Queen streets, where they draw crowds from nearby government buildings and downtown business towers.

Vicky Siu, manager of Nicky Lunchwagon, said she initially opposed the bill but has started to view it neutrally. After paying for other government permits and taxes, profit margins are already tough without the need to bid for a costly permit, she said.

But she and her father, truck owner Darrell Siu, have come to the conclusion that requiring the permit could thin out the competition, especially those who are not operating with all the necessary permits, she said.

Siu said she hopes the minimum bid amount will be less than $400.

read ... City food truck law spurs protests

Legislative Motion:

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