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Monday, April 7, 2014
April 7, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:30 PM :: 3887 Views

Hawaii to be First State to Dump Obamacare Health Exchange?

HSTA Candidate Questionnaire Challenges Teacher Evaluations

All Those Obamacare Stories You Told Us Were Untrue

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted April 7, 2014

Teachers Paid $410 to Learn How to Make Teens Gay-Friendly

CB: The Southern Poverty Law Center recently conducted a voluntary two-day training session in Hawaii for teachers interested in piloting the “Perspectives” program. The workshop was meant to precede a research portion in which participating teachers incorporate the materials into their classrooms and then provide the center with feedback. Twenty-eight teachers participated in the workshop and volunteered to teach the lessons to their students, according to DOE spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz.

Hawaii is one of just six school districts to pilot the program. Roughly 200 teachers are formally taking part nationwide, according to Costello, while another 500 or so are informally experimenting with the materials and providing feedback.

The teachers received $160 in compensation from the DOE for participating in the Saturday workshop, as is standard under department policy. They got an additional $250 stipend from the Southern Poverty Law Center for attending the session and helping the center with its research.

McDermott describes that second stipend as "a bribe."

“I am unaware of any circumstance under which a private, nongovernmental entity can make such large, direct payments to teachers without running afoul of ethical standards,” McDermott wrote in his memo to the DOE. “It would be equally troubling if the tea party of the conservative Focus on the Family were allowed to similarly influence public teachers and educators in their decision-making regarding curricula.”

Les Kondo, executive director of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, declined to comment, saying the commission has received an inquiry from McDermott about the issue and is looking into it. He said he doesn’t know of another instance in which the commission has been asked to examine this issue, though it has received relatively similar inquiries in the past about things like state employees receiving money to speak at events.

Kondo: Ethics Commission Considers Attack on More School Charity Fundraisers

read ... Brainwashing Bribe

WAM Committee supports measure that would up county’s TAT take

MN: The state Senate Ways and Means Committee has recommended passage of a bill to give the counties a larger piece of pie from the state's hotel room tax revenue. But the measure was passed last week with a defective effective date of July 1, 2050, meaning that lawmakers want to cook up a final version in conference committee.

The counties want the current $93 million cap removed and a return to the 44.8 percent of transient accommodations tax revenue they had received before the cap was imposed in 2011, supposedly temporarily, while the state struggled with the economic downturn brought on by the nationwide recession.

The House earlier approved House Bill 1671, which would eliminate the cap and revert the counties' percentage to what it was. Then, when the measure went before state senators, it came in light of a downgraded financial forecast from the state Council on Revenues, which was projecting zero growth this year....

Maui council members estimate that if the counties' cap on the room tax revenue were removed and returned to 44.8 percent, then the counties would proportionally share approximately $165 million in annual transient accommodations tax revenue - about $72 million more of the current $93 million.

Maui's estimated share of the revenue would increase 77.3 percent, from $21.2 million to $37.6 million.

read ... Committee supports measure that would up county’s TAT take

HB1934: Homeless Omnibus Bill Hits Conference Tomorrow

CB: While ideas such as homeless campsites or paying for the homeless to return to the mainland haven't been popular at the Legislature over the years, the state's Homeless Assistance Working Group continues to work on identifying unique housing options that can be implemented to address homelessness within individual communities, Chun Oakland said.

Part of House Bill 1934, the Homelessness Omnibus Bill, would appropriate unspecified funds to purchase and construct housing solutions related to the working group's recommendations.

"The whole philosophy behind that (group) is you have people living in each community that really feel passionate to help people that are homeless," said Chun Oakland (D, Downtown-Nuu­anu-Li­liha).

"It's really neat to see developers, architects, all these various nonprofits, churches, homeless and formerly homeless individuals, social services providers … all working together more on a grass-roots level."

HB 1934, if passed, could also include funding for substance abuse treatment and mental health support services for homeless residents, clean-and-sober housing support, homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing, and the state's Housing First efforts.

The original draft of the bill included $750,000 for the Housing First Special Fund and $750,000 for the Department of Human Services to continue to administer Housing First programs, which are part of a growing national trend.

"You want to house people that are chronically homeless first and then get the wraparound services to support them," Chun Oakland said. "Because when you have homelessness and you don't have them stabilized in a home, then it's very hard to do all the other services, and so the cost per person … is so much higher to service people on the streets."

Chun Oakland said she also hopes the Legislature can funnel additional funds to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority to help decrease its nearly $500,000 repair and maintenance backlog.

Under Director Hakim Ouan­safi, occupancy is at 97 percent, and the turnover time for a unit has decreased to nine days from 300 days in 2011. But the current waiting list still has 13,013 families, with an average of three people per family, according to the HPHA.

In the current draft of the state budget, HPHA is set to receive $35 million in the upcoming fiscal year for capital improvements. That funding, however, like any of the housing and homeless measures, could change when the House and Senate meet in conference committee.

read ... Homeless Omnibus

Should Hawaii Pay Turtle Bay Resort to Not Develop Some North Shore Land?

CB: In January, Abercrombie proposed spending $40 million in general obligation bonds to pay Turtle Bay to establish a conservation easement, a legal agreement that would permanently prevent development on 69 acres of the resort's land at Kawela Bay and 541 acres at Kahuku Point. The hotel would still be able to add two new hotels but would refrain from building another 750 planned homes.

Abercrombie told lawmakers that he wanted the issue resolved this year in order to help end the controversy and protect the area from development and urbanization.

“This has to be settled now,” Abercrombie told state lawmakers on Jan. 8. “This has to be done. Everybody’s got to move.”

Since then, the state has been working on negotiating the exact price with the resort. But with the legislative session nearing its end, there’s been no word about a final settlement. The deal must be reached by the end of this month in order for lawmakers to set aside money for the easement in the state budget.

read ... $40M

AG Seeks Funding for DNA Swabbing

CB: In his testimony last month to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Sen. David Ige, Louie highlighted a few of the successes the state’s DNA program has had:

In June 2010, a DNA sample was obtained from Gerald Austin that matched the DNA sample from a 1989 cold case involving the rape and murder of Edith Skinner. Mr. Austin was subsequently found guilty and convicted of murder. In April 2009, Darnell Griffin, a convicted killer on parole, was convicted of the 1999 strangulation murder of a 20-year-old woman on Oahu after a DNA sample that he provided matched DNA evidence found on the victim's body. In 2008, Richard Morris, Jr., was charged with a 1987 California murder. His arrest was credited to a DNA match following a 2005 DUI arrest in Hawaii. In 2009, Mark Heath was convicted of a 2007 rape in Waikiki, after providing a DNA sample in connection with a prior conviction for the sexual assault of a University of Hawaii student.

More than 21,600 convicted felons remain unswabbed and their whereabouts are not readily available in any database, Louie said, adding that fully staffing the DNA unit is only necessary until the backlog is cleared.

read ... DNA

Waipahu Business Saves 20% on Insurance

KHON: Stephen Nii is the fourth generation operator of Nii Superette in Waipahu. Despite criticism of the Hawaii Health Connector, Nii says for him, it could mean a savings of 20%. (Compared to rates that have been jacked up 50% or more thanks to Obamacare)

“Any small business needs to do its best to save money. And with Hawaii Health Connector, being a small business made many of our employees help us to qualify for a large tax credit.” Nii Superette owner Stephen Nii said.

read ... Nii Superette

Star-Adv: Put COFA Migrants on Medicaid

SA: A split ruling by an appeals panel that allows the state of Hawaii to reduce health benefits for migrants from Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands is not the last word on this subject. In the interest of public health, and despite its preliminary legal victory, the state government should continue to extend full coverage as the case proceeds. Gov. Neil Abercrombie's administration must simultaneously engage Hawaii's congressional delegation to solve this problem at the federal level, where the financial responsibility rests....

Rather than denying full benefits, the state should focus on pushing the federal government to meet its obligations. The best long-term remedy is to specify COFA migrants in federal statute as among those eligible for Medicaid. In the short term, the U.S. government must provide more impact aid for states the migrants now call home. People from Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands do hold a unique status in Hawaii, but it shouldn't be second class.

Background: Full Text: Court Rules Hawaii not responsible for COFA Shortfalls

read ... Welfare is a Treaty Right

Kauai Cross Angers Secularists, Gets Blown Up

KGI: ... when the 10-foot tall wooden cross went, it went out with a bang — smashed to pieces by someone or something.

“They found that someone had already ‘leveled’ the structure and only remnant pieces lay on the ground,” said Deborah Ward, Department of Lands and Natural Resource spokeswoman.

State crews trekked to the spot on Nounou Forest Reserve’s Kuamoo-Nounou Trail where someone had erected a giant cross before its sudden demise.

Neighbors first reported the structure two weeks ago on Sleeping Giant. It was about eight feet wide, fortified with metal screws, and overlooked neighborhoods around Ahakea Street in the Wailua Homesteads. But it shouldn’t be on state land, some neighbors said.

“It’s just inappropriate,” said Debra Kekaualua, who noticed the cross one morning as she drank coffee having not seen it the evening before....

“It’s just wrong,” said neighbor Brook Redfern. “I think it’s rude to impose your personal beliefs on everyone.”....

read ... Boom

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