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Monday, April 28, 2014
April 28, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:30 PM :: 3448 Views

Marriage and Religious Freedom: Heritage Foundation Events May 6-8 Oahu, Maui, Kona, Hilo

Duke Aiona, Elwin Ahu to Headline Maui Republican Rally May 3

Autism Coverage Mandate Gutted at last Minute

CB: ...legislation that would require health insurers to provide medical coverage for children with autism. If passed, Senate Bill 2054, also known as "Luke's Law," would make Hawaii the 35th state to put this kind of reform in place. Nine other states were also considering similar legislation this year.

Earlier in the week, I sat in on one of the many conference committee meetings on SB 2054. Supporters of the bill brought several autistic kids into the conference with them in order to literally show the human face of the developmental disorder.

SB 2054 actually passed in the final minutes of Friday's chaotic countdown to the 6 p.m. cutoff, and it will receive final votes from the House and Senate next week. But SB 2054 no longer calls for health coverage for autistic kids; it was amended to require merely an actuarial analysis from the state insurance commissioner.

A lawmaker with direct knowledge of SB 2054 told me privately that the bill's sudden demise was the result of one of Hawaii's largest health insurers testifying against the original bill.

read ... Why I Hate Conference Committee

Daily KOS: Don't Be Surprised When Abercrombie Wins

Hawaii - Neal Abercrombie - (D): Abercrombie was regarded as vulnerable and deeply unpopular all throughout the beginning of his term thanks to terrible poll numbers, but more than any state in the nation Hawaii polling is horrendous. Abercrombie had close poll numbers late in 2010 and won by a 17 percent blowout. Now-senator Mazie Hirono had competitive polling numbers early on in the 2012 cycle and won by a 25 point rout. For whatever reason, pollsters dramatically understate Democratic chances here and Hawaii is already one of if not the most Democratic states in the union. Abercrombie is facing a rematch against Lingle's lieutenant governor Duke Aiona while former Democratic Honolulu mayor and perennial loser Mufi Hannemann is running as a conservative independent, but don't be surprised when the governor wins by a comfortable margin this fall.

read ... Daily KOS

LA Times Liberal Columnist Names Abercrombie hero of Obamacare

LA Times: What's most telling about Issa's letters--and most typical--is that they haven't led to any useful "oversight" by his committee. Then again, they weren't really aimed at developing information that might point to and remedy a genuine problem of governmental administration. Instead, they were designed to make a big splash with conservative news outlets, which obligingly trumpeted Issa's accusations at high volume.

But when the responses indicated that the issues Issa identified didn't exist, he dropped the subject. At least, that's how it appears; both Hawaii and California say they never heard a peep from Issa's committee after returning their responses in the first week of April.

read ... Ready, Fire, Aim

OHA Still Looking for Ways to Slip Kakaako Development Thru

IM: When the conference committee failed to resolve the differences, the bill could either remain in the conference committee or the Senate President could discharge its conferees and that would dissolve the conference committee.

The Constitution requires that a bill have three votes on the House floor and three votes on the Senate floor.

To follow this constitutional mandate, any Floor Amendment would be restricted to language that was heard and voted on in House and Senate hearings.

Therefore the Senate could only pass the bill with the House amendments, which has a defective effective date.

The Senate could pass a Floor Amendment on Tuesday and then vote on the amended bill on Thursday.

However the House would not have time to post notice and vote on the amended bill. Thus the bill would die.

Alternatives Exist

OHA believes that something could emerge next week. The House and Senate often bend their rules.

Alternatively, the Legislature could call a Special Session this summer to override any bills vetoed by Governor Abercrombie. At that session the Legislature could modify and pass HB 3122.

read ... Nothing is ever Dead in Hawaii

Luke Retaliates Against Rock Climbers, State Liability Continues

CB: ...by April rock climbers were accusing House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke of having a conflict of interest on the bill because she is a personal injury lawyer whose firm could lose business if the state has stronger liability laws.

Luke finally allowed a hearing on SB 1007, but she amended the legislation it so that it would simply make permanent Act 82, which protects the state and counties from unlimited liability out of recreational activities on public lands.

Though the bill appeared dead during the two-week conference committee period that precedes the last week of legislative session, SB 1007 was surprisingly scheduled a meeting time — last Friday at midday. Joining me in Room 224 were another reporter and a couple of government employees following the bill.

But none of the conferees on SB 1007 bothered to show. By 6 p.m., the bill officially died, and unless lawmakers pull a rabbit out of a hat before Thursday's sine die, Act 82 will expire June 30 and the state and counties will be vulnerable to lawsuits.

I don't know why SB 1007 died. I did hear that Luke was furious that the rock climbers filed a complaint about her with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission.....

read ... State Liability Continues

Same-day voter registration measure to get final hearing

HNN: The Elections Office supports the measure, but at least one lawmakers remains skeptical.

"First of all I still have a gripe with the Elections Office and the elections process from two years ago," said Sen. Sam Slom (R-Hawaii Kai, Kahala), referring to ballot shortages in the general election. "You know, they screwed up badly. There were no sanctions or anything else from that. There's the possibility of fraud."

"There are existing provisions in the law to prevent voter fraud," said Ing. "It's a felony if you try to lie at the polls in registration or voting, and it's not really worth it just for an extra vote. It doesn't happen. It's really a non-issue."

Honolulu's City Clerk came out against the measure, saying it doesn't address the cost of what it would take to handle same-day registrations at polling places. Neighbor island counties said there would be the possibility for confusion and fraud.

In written testimony, the Hawaii County Clerk said, "Maximizing voter registration is one of the most important functions of our office. It is equally important that we maintain the integrity of the voter registration list."

"It's not getting people to register," said Slom. "It's getting people to vote. It goes far beyond the registration process."

The measure has a final reading Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the State Capitol. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn Thursday.

read ... Same-day voter registration measure to get final hearing

Bill Bans Smoking of "Any Plant Product" at Public Housing

SA: In the proposed rules, public-housing occupants could have their leases terminated after four violations, whereas Senate Bill 651 proposes booting out noncompliant residents upon their third violation. State statute, however, would trump the authority's administrative rules. Both proposals factor in violations committed by tenants' guests.

The bill would authorize but not mandate the authority to create smoking areas in locations that would ensure secondhand smoke does not enter any unit. It would mandate the authority to place and maintain "No smoking" signs at all housing proj­ect entrances and exits but would leave additional signage locations up to the agency.

Smoking would be defined as "inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying any lighted or heated tobacco product or plant product intended for inhalation in any manner or in any form."

Meanwhile: HB1503: Prohibit Landlords from Evicting Marijuana Smokers (unless they also evict tobacco smokers)

read ... Can't Say marijuana, eh?

Honolulu Officials' Salaries Lag Behind Bankrupt Detroit, California Cities

CB: ...Honolulu’s Salary Commission is recommending raises of 8 percent for many of the city’s top officials – a rate that’s almost five times the annual inflation rate.

That might seem like a steep increase, but for many of the positions — such as the police and fire chiefs and Honolulu City Council members — salaries would still lag far behind those of their counterparts in mainland cities of comparable size.

In San Francisco, where the cost of living is comparable to Honolulu, the chief of the Fire Department earns a base salary of $301,561. Honolulu’s fire chief currently makes about half of that.

Similarly, San Francisco’s top cop earns $305,594. Honolulu's police chief earns $151,632.

It isn't just a question of San Francisco being a wealthy city. Even in Detroit — a city of about 700,000 people that filed for bankruptcy in 2013 — the police chief earns nearly $100,000 more than his Honolulu counterpart....

read ... Honolulu not Bankrupt Yet, but we're working on it

Hawaii graduations among nation's most equitable

AP: High school graduation rates in Hawaii are among the nation's most equitable across race and class, a report on graduation rates nationwide found.

Department of Education data compiled in the report, "Building a Grad Nation," show that in 2012, U.S. graduation rates topped 80 percent for the first time. Hawaii's rate was slightly higher, at 82 percent.

More distinctively, Hawaii's graduation rates were steady across race, class or disability....

Faring less well in Hawaii were students with limited English proficiency. Only 56 percent of them graduated, and the 26 percentage point gap between them and Hawaii's overall graduation rate was the 13th-highest in the country.

Report: Building a Grad Nation

read ... Hawaii graduations among nation's most equitable

Kauai Anti-GMO Petition Demands Farmers 'Prove Its Safe' or Shut Down

SA: ...The proposed amendment is similar to Kauai's Ordinance 960 (formerly Bill 2491), which requires large agricultural companies to disclose the type of pesticides they use, growth of GMOs and establish buffer zones.

Shooltz said the key difference is that under the proposed charter amendment, agribusinesses would need to prove their operations are safe and will not harm human health and the environment.

"If they can prove (to us anti-GMO morons that) what they're doing is safe, they can continue doing it," he added. (Translation: This is a ban on farming)

The petition needs 2,037 signatures, or 5 percent of 40,738 — the number of county residents registered to vote in the 2012 election. Shooltz said slightly fewer than 2,000 signatures have been collected.

The petition needs to be submitted to the county by May 22.

Reality: USDA: Pesticides, Chemicals, and Synthetic Ingredients Used in 'Organic' Food

read ... Vote to Ban Agriculture

Will the GMO Debate Fuel Campaign Donations?

CB: ...On the anti-GMO side, the Center for Food Safety, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that has been battling industrial agricultural practices since the 1990s, just opened a new office in Honolulu.

The group has already registered a political action committee with the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission to help elect like-minded politicians to state and local office.

“We’re fighting because people have a right to know what’s in their food,” said Ashley Lukens, program director for the Center for Food Safety’s Honolulu office. “Unfortunately, to get the respect you deserve you have to have equal weapons.”

Lukens said the PAC has about $50,000 that will be used for “targeted voter education and outreach” and is not intended to support individual candidates.

Lukens described the PAC, which has yet to file any financial disclosures with the commission, as a prototype for the Center for Food Safety that could be replicated elsewhere if successful.

The plan, she said, is to evaluate candidates based on their positions related to food issues, such as GMO labeling and pesticide use, and develop a public report card that voters can use to help make up their minds.

Historically, the anti-GMO faction hasn't been a big spender on political campaigns. In 2012, Judith Kern and Kent Whealy contributed $12,000 to Molokai activist Walter Ritte's campaign for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Kern and Whealy head the Ceres Trust, a private foundation based in Northfield, Minnesota, that gives money to support organic agriculture and research.

But that appears about to change, especially as more candidates motivated by the recent debates on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island jump in the races....

Reality: Mainland Anti-GMO Activists Funnel Rockefeller Money to Hawaii

read ... Fuel Campaign Donations

New Solar Rules Require Electricians

SA: A state board has issued long-awaited licensing guidelines covering workers who install solar panels — a move that will result in a greater involvement of licensed electricians in the installation process....

Officials from the Hawaii Solar Energy Association said the guidelines will effectively increase the amount of work needed to be done by journeymen electricians with "C-13" licenses, and reduce what can be done by a solar energy systems contractor who carries a C-60 license.

"It will make installations more expensive because its costs more to hire a C-13 than a C-60. And it will certainly slow things down and make the licensed electricians less available for the whole construction industry, not just the solar industry," said Leslie Cole-Brooks, HSEA executive director.

IM: Do customers without rooftop solar subsidize those with rooftop solar?

read ... Solar Slowdown

A Reduction in Hawaii's Vast Elevator and Boiler Inspection Backlog

CB: Two years ago, Hawaii's elevators were on a downward trajectory. The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) was way behind on elevator and boiler inspections, and working with an “archaic” code that some experts said was a threat to public safety. More than 5,000 of the more than 7,000 elevators in the state required inspecting, meaning that no one knew for sure how many needed repairs.

But, since the Legislature passed Act 103 in 2012, DLIR has eliminated a large portion of the backlog. As of Dec. 31, 2013, it has inspected 4,139 of the state's 7,031 elevators. The remaining backlog for the year was 2,892.

read ... A Reduction in Hawaii's Vast Elevator and Boiler Inspection Backlog

Running for Senate, Hanabusa Writes DOA Bill Designed to Increase Military Presence in Hawaii

According to Hanabusa, the legislation would:

» Direct Congress to make "necessary upgrades" to Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island so that it is the "premier training range" in the Pacific. The infrastructure investments would include a runway capable of accommodating C-17 Globemaster cargo jets and moving an existing high-speed vessel to Hawaii to help lower transportation costs. The provision also encourages more use of Pohakuloa by regional partners and allies during exercises such as the Rim of the Pacific war games.

» Create special authority for the Department of Defense to make sure installations have enough room to carry out their missions. The Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai used similar authority in the past "to ensure incompatible uses would not take place around the range, resulting in the long-term conservation and viability of prime lands on Kauai."

» Study munitions shortfalls in the Navy and Air Force that "severely affect readiness throughout" the U.S. Pacific Command....

» Establish a Pentagon Unmanned Systems Office to oversee policy for drones and other remotely operated vehicles.

» Conduct an "anti-access" and "area denial" threats assessment. China is increasingly developing sophisticated missiles that could deter freedom of navigation by the United States and other nations in the South China Sea.

» Initiate an assessment to identify opportunities for increasing missile defense cooperation between the U.S., Japan and South Korea....

» Require studies on Department of Defense space and security programs, and maximize investment in related equipment. The measure would include an additional $10 million for the Space Situational Awareness Program, of which $3 million would go directly to the Maui Space Surveillance Complex atop Hale­akala.

read ... Election-year maneuver

Legislative Motion:

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