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Wednesday, April 9, 2014
April 9, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:50 PM :: 3971 Views

House passes over 150 measures on second crossover

Why Is ObamaCare a Rube Goldberg Contraption?

AG: Hawaii Will Continue to Provide COFA Benefits

JSC Seeks Nominations for Two Judicial Vacancies

Will IRS Targeting Send Someone to Jail?

Pro Bowl to Arizona in 2015, slated to make Hawaii return in '16

Report: Hawaii Government Transparency Improves

Star-Adv: Rail funding details needed before Massive GE Tax Hike Approved

SA: Honolulu taxpayers were told the surcharge tacked onto the general excise tax on Oahu would finance the construction, now underway, of the $5.26 billion rail project. The implication at the outset was clear: When the work ends, so would the tax.

Now it seems the administration of Mayor Kirk Caldwell, as well as the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, see the tax as the best means of subsidizing operations and maintenance as well.

Ultimately, a broad-based tax like the GET may, indeed, offer the fairest way to provide the support, beyond the fare box collection, that a rail system will need.

But even if that's so, officials still will need to do more detailed financial planning to come up with the appropriate tax scheme, instead of simply making the current surcharge permanent with the stroke of a pen.

That was the intent of a bill, seemingly stalled at the state Capitol, that would have canceled the 2022 expiration of Oahu's 0.5 percent surcharge atop the 4 percent statewide GET. And the measure should not pass until authorities deliver a plan for achieving the greatest efficiencies possible.

LINKS: HB1606, SB2115

read ... Rail funding details needed

Obamacare Reimbursement Cuts Cost HHSC $4.6M

WHT: Senate Bill 2866, which is expected to be taken up in conference committee sometime next week, requests a total of $18.2 million in emergency appropriations from the state Legislature for facilities across Hawaii.

In a Tuesday phone interview, Hawaii Health Systems Corp. Acting President and Chief Executive Officer Alice M. Hall explained that a large part of the HHSC regions’ shortfalls will be as a result of the most recent collective bargaining decision approving raises for hospital workers.

“Unfunded raises totaled $11.2 million this year,” she said.

Meanwhile, declining Medicare reimbursements and the federal sequestration cuts that went into effect this fiscal year have also taken their toll.

“Physicians and hospitals are being paid less money as a result of Obamacare, so we’ve had reimbursement reductions and the federal sequestration to deal with, totaling $4.6 million for (fiscal year) 2014,” Hall said.

EBONY: Newly "insured" by Obamacare: "doctorless" after 96 "soul crushing rejections."

read ... About the Difference Between Coverage and Care 

House Rejects McDermott Amendment to Dump Pono Choices

AP: Proceedings in the House were smooth until Rep. Bob McDermott, R-Ewa Beach, introduced an amendment about sex education curriculum to an unrelated education bill (SB 2288). He and Rep. Richard Lee Fale, R-Waialua, criticized the “Pono Choices” curriculum for kids ages 11 to 13 as providing “medically inaccurate” information - namely, that the anus is a sex organ. Rep. Gene Ward, R-Hawaii Kai, said the amendment would be a way to quell worries from the “mother bears” of Hawaii who worry about their kids’ education.

McDermott, one of several lawmakers who voted against Hawaii’s gay marriage bill last year, has repeatedly criticized the sex education curriculum.

The amendment touched off a flurry of critiques, and Rep. Jessica Wooley, D-Kaneohe, upbraided Ward for claiming to speak for mothers.

Rep. Della Au Belatti, D-Makiki, then criticized McDermott’s amendment as focusing on specific sex acts, leading McDermott to contradict her on the floor, saying, “I’m not perverse.” In the end, the seven House Republicans were the only votes in favor of the amendment, and it failed, although the bill they tried to attach it to passed.

VIDEO: Reps. Fale and Ward Address SB 2288 Amendment – Education

CB: Rep. McDermott’s Pono Choices Amendment Sparks Debate On Hawaii House Floor

read ...  Not Pono

House approves OHA's high-rises

SA:A bill allowing such development on three parcels between Kewalo Basin and Hono­lulu Harbor makai of Ala Moana Boulevard cleared a floor vote in the House on Tuesday, positioning the bill for consideration by a conference committee of House and Senate leaders.

However, one influential lawmaker, House Majority Leader Scott Saiki (D, Downtown-Kakaako-McCully), predicted that there would be irreconcilable differences in conference committee and that Senate Bill 3122 won't become law.

During a break from the floor session, Saiki met with members of the Save Our Kaka­‘ako Coalition assembled at the state Capitol to rally against the bill, and told them that House leaders have heard their concerns over allowing residential development in the Kaka­ako makai area.

(Rep. Scott Saiki votes for the bill but says it is unlikely to survive and become a law )  "You shouldn't feel too worried about (the bill)," he told the group before posing for a photo with coalition members.

Ron Iwami, president of Friends of Kewa­los, said his community group fought hard to prevent Kaka­ako makai from turning into a residential community bordering Kaka­ako Waterfront Park, and remains concerned that allowing OHA to develop homes in the area could open the door to adjacent landowners such as Kame­ha­meha Schools asking for equal treatment.

"If Kamehameha Schools says, ‘We want to build because OHA gets to build,' it's hard to stop it," he said.

read  ... House approves OHA's high-rises

10 Gut n Replace Bills This Session

KITV: A series of bills that lawmakers passed in the Hawaii Senate were drafted without allowing the public a chance to weigh in....

In one maneuver, senators tacked two Senate bills -- one of which died in the House -- onto a barely-related House agriculture bill.  The additions suggest spending state money to develop programs on property owned by Dole Food Company, according to property records.

The League of Women Voters counts about 10 gut-and-replace bills and says the technique was widely used this year.

read ... Gut n Replace

Crossover: Slom Votes 'No' 33 Times out of 176

HSI: Quiet day in the Senate for Second Crossover. The Majority Party only called one recess, did not caucus and session ended in just over an hour. Here are some interesting numbers from today's session:

  • -A total of 176 bills were passed out of the Senate today
  • -Senator Sam Slom voted 'No' on 33 bills
  • -Democratic senators voted 'No' only 7 times
  • -Only 4 different Democratic senators voted 'No'
  • -Only 9 total members voted 'Yes, with reservations'

read ... Hawaii Senate Informer

Question: How Many Anti-GMO Signatures are Bogus?

MN: The (mis-named) Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the Aina (SHAKA) Movement submitted more than 9,500 signatures Monday in support of a temporary ban on growing or testing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Maui County, (ie a vote to shut down farming) becoming the first citizen's initiative in the county to garner enough signatures to be considered for the ballot.

All of the signatures submitted must be verified by the county clerk's office, a process that will span the next 45 days. If the county clerk finds that less than the needed 8,500 signatures are valid, the group will have an additional 20 days to collect supplemental signatures....

The Maui County Charter requires citizens' initiatives to garner at least 20 percent of the number of voters in the last mayoral election. In the 2010 election, 42,322 Maui county residents voted, according to county records, though 85,223 were registered.

If the initiative is successful in garnering at least 8,500 valid signatures, the measure will be heard by the Maui County Council, which may either sign it into law or decide to take no action. If the council takes no action, the item will be voted upon by the public in the Nov. 4 general election.

"Why not let the people address this issue?" said luxury realtor Mark Sheehan, one of five residents who crafted and filed the moratorium ordinance. He claimed there is a "conflict of interest" but oddly he was not talking about his own interest in boosting real estate values by pitching them as sustainable and holistic to dim-witted rich people from the Mainland. 

read ... Tourists and Idiots

Candidates in Ethical Grey Area in Unite Here Local 5 Ads

SA: Two Honolulu City Council members running for Congress have put their faces on TV spots to bolster the position of the union battling over pension benefits with Kaiser Permanente Hawaii.

Unite Here Local 5, representing 1,900 Kaiser health care workers, said it spent between $30,000 and $40,000 to run several weeks of ads featuring Stanley Chang and Joey Mana­han, both in the running for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hana­busa.

"I'm not surprised (the ads have) raised some eyebrows, but they are legal. It's allowed under campaign law," said John Hart, chairman and professor of the Department of Communication at Hawaii Pacific University. "It's not considered an advertisement for the campaign, but obviously these two people are running for office, so it gives them media exposure. It's functionally an ad the campaign doesn't have to buy."

This type of deal is a win-win for the candidates and union, since Local 5 gets spokes­men and the elected officials allegiance from the union and free media coverage during election season, he said.

Ethically, "it's a gray area, similar to differentiating an incumbent running for office and an incumbent carrying out the duties of their office," Hart said....

But Eric Gill, Local 5's financial secretary and treasurer, and a candidate for Dem Party Chair,  says there are no ethical problems in his mind for political candidates taking a stance on issues affecting the community.  "I can't imagine what any ethical issue might be," he said.

FB: Tranny Teams up with UNITE Here Local 5 in OHA Quest

read ... Ethically Grey Area

Hawaii Senators grill state hospital administrator

AP: State senators on Wednesday pushed William Elliott to explain hiring practices at the psychiatric hospital. They also questioned his qualifications for overseeing the hospital and probed possible nepotism in hiring.

Hospital workers have come forward in recent months with accounts of frequent violent attacks by patients. They've said that low staffing contributes to danger for workers at the hospital.

Elliott says there are about 60 full-time jobs that remain open at the hospital. He said most of those positions are covered by temporary hires through a staffing agency.

read ... Hawaii Senators grill state hospital administrator

State House passes minimum wage bill

KHON: SB2609, SD1, HD2 updates the state’s minimum wage requirements by increasing the minimum wage each year from 2015 to 2018 to $7.75, $8.50, 9.25, and $10.00 respectively.

The bill also adjusts the tip credit to fifty cents per hour in 2015 and seventy-five cents per hour in 2016 provided that the combined amount the employee earns in salary and in tips is at least $7.00 more than the applicable minimum wage.

read ... Minimum Wages

Cops fired in overtime abuse scandal getting jobs back

HNN: Sergeants Zoller and Bernal pleaded 'no contest' to tampering with government records.  They were granted deferrals so their records could be expunged.  And both were fired.  But Hawaii News Now has learned, the two officers struck a last-chance deal with the department to get their jobs back.  Both sides avoid arbitration by coming to terms.

Under the deal, both will be demoted to the rank of Corporal, they cannot try to promote again for three years, and they will not receive back pay.  Both were fired about a year ago.

The scandal rocked HPD's traffic division and the prosecutors office said they had to dismiss DUI cases because of it.

read ... Cops fired in overtime abuse scandal getting jobs back

Prime state ag lot sits vacant for 6 years; could be home to little fire ants

HNN: In Waimanalo, there are more than five dozen agricultural plots owned by the state and rented by farmers.

But then there's an overgrown 5-acre parcel on Waikupanaha Street that hasn't been used by farmers since the last lease expired in February of 2008.

"It hurts to drive through the back of Waimanalo and see fallow state properties that could be leased out, especially when there's such a demand," said State Sen. Laura Thielen (D – Kailua, Lanikai, Waimanalo), whose family owns a farm in Waimanalo.  Thielen used to sit on the state Ag board as head of the Land and Natural Resources Department, during the administration of former Gov. Linda Lingle.

Thielen is also concerned because the state is testing the parcel for a potential infestation of Little Fire Ants.  The insects can cause painful bites to people and blindness in dogs, cats and farm animals.

The state Agriculture Department said 26 farmers applied to rent the land in late 2009 and the high bidder offered to pay $32,500 rent a year.

But more than two years went by and the winning bidder did not complete pre-lease requirements, including a soil and water conservation plan, so the process was canceled.  (The story of state leased land everywhere.)

During that time, trees, bushes and plants overtook the property, engulfing buildings such as a garage and greenhouses which are barely visible through the brush.

read  ...  State-run Agriculture 

Hawaii Kids Dental Health Scores Poorly

SA: Hawaii no longer participates in the National Oral Health Surveillance System, so it isn't clear precisely how the state is faring on the dental front since it doesn't appear in the state-to-state comparisons. But before the dental hygiene branch was disbanded, it reported that Hawaii's children had one of the highest rates of tooth decay in the country.

New data from dental benefits provider Hawaii Dental Service also are sobering.

An analysis of 2012 dental claims submitted to the Delta Dental Plans Association, operating in all 50 states, found Hawaii's kids at greatest risk of tooth decay, HDS President and CEO Faye Kurren told legislators at a recent briefing. The percentage of children ages 6 to 18 with "higher caries risk," meaning they had one or more cavities in the past three years, ranged from 15 percent to 48 percent among the plans, with Hawaii clocking the highest figure.

And those were children who had dental coverage through commercial plans and actually visited the dentist.

The Pew Center on the States gave Hawaii an F grade in its most recent report on how well the state is protecting children's teeth from decay, the same grade the Aloha State got the previous two years.

"When I talk to people on the mainland, other dentists in public health, and I tell them the situation, they are all in disbelief," said David Breese, who directed Kokua Kalihi Valley's dental program from 1987 to 2004 and continues to work with it. "They can't believe that Hawaii would have poor oral health, because Hawaii is perceived as ‘the Healthy State.'"

read ... The Healthy State?

Hawaii State Salaries 2013: University Spends More on Fewer Employees

CB: The top 10 University of Hawaii employees make on average almost 13 times more than the bottom 100 workers earn, salary data for 2013 shows.

The highest paid position last year was again the football coach. Norm Chow's base salary was $550,000.

read ... University Spends More on Fewer Employees

Water Fees to Jump?

MN: The cost to install a water meter doubled at the beginning of the current fiscal year in July from $6,030 to $12,060 for 5/8th-inch meters. Mayor Alan Arakawa has proposed increasing the water service development fee to $14,060 in the upcoming fiscal year and by another $2,000 subsequently until it reaches $20,000.

Council members are considering a bill that would exempt certain users, such as Molokai and some Maui residents, from having to pay the fee.

Monthly water service rates also are slated to increase by an average 6.5 percent in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

For example, a family of four in a single-family home with a 5/8th-inch water meter and water consumption of 16,000 gallons per month (which is assumed to be about average for a family that size), would see its water bill go up from $62.45 per month to $68.40 per month, according to the Department of Water Supply.

The total includes a service charge increase from $15 to $17.50. The charge for water consumption would go from $47.45 to $50.90.

read ... Deferral on water service fee increase considered

Legislative Motion:

  • Hearings April 9, 2014
  • Reps. Ward, Thieien and Souki Addresses Aerial Systems
  • Rep. Ward Addresses SB 2121 – Public Land Exchange
  • Rep Ward Addresses SB 2920 – Little Fire Ants
  • Rep. Thielen Addresses SB 2436 – Community Planning
  • Rep. Johanson Addresses SB 2196 Barrel Tax
  • Rep. Ward Addresses SB2583 Space Center
  • Art at the Capitol 2014 Concludes
  • Ha: Cheaper electricity is Hawaii's greatest need
  • CB: Hawaii Lawmakers Advance Minimum Wage Bill, Curbs on HCDA
  • Ho‘omanawanui makes House bid
  • Sen. Dela Cruz Holds Fundraiser During Session

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