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Thursday, November 27, 2014
November 27, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:27 PM :: 4584 Views

The hidden story of the third Thanksgiving: 1623--giving thanks for freedom

Judge Kurren Strikes Down Hawaii County Anti-GMO Ordinance

Jealousy? Envy? -- Carbone Statement Fact Checked by I Mua Manoa

Bridge Aina Lea: Supreme Court Smacks Down LUC

October Visitors Up 3%, Expenditures up 3.3%

Leahi Hospital to Close? Vendors Threaten Cut-off over Unpaid Bills

PBN: The Oahu region's current $4.9 million deficit for the 2015 fiscal year is projected to rise to about $9.5 million in FY 2016, and then to $13 million in FY 2017. State agency labor costs, and federal coding mandates are prominent drivers of the projected deficit, HHSC CFO Edward Chu said.

The Oahu hospitals' focus on long-term care sets it apart from HHSC hospitals on Neighbor Islands, and approximately 80 percent of HHSC Oahu hospital expenses are comprised of salary and benefit payments.

At the briefing, concerns were raised about processing issues through the Hawaii Quest system, a health coverage enrollment system administered by the Department of Human Services, Med-QUEST Division. Late insurance payments have inhibited HHSC operations, the state committee was told.

This information was particularly worrisome, says Representative Au Bellati, due to conflicting information the committee received in the past. Typically, Medicaid enrollment should be a quick two-day process online.

"There's some kind of bureaucratic mix-up that's not being addressed that needs to be because the facilities are being delayed payments or they've been given wrong information,"Au Bellati told PBN. "Billing gets messed up and it adds to the fiscal sludge that's moving around in the system."

Au Bellati says that the legislature will examine insurance processing to determine if there are any opportunities for payment reform. It's a critical issue for the Oahu region HHSC hospitals, which serve a significantly larger Medicaid population than the national median. More than 80 percent of patients at both Leahi and Maluhia are on Medicaid, compared to a national median of 50 percent.

Patients with private insurance or self-pay account for about 10 percent of patients at the Oahu HHSC hospitals, compared to a national median of about 35 percent.

"Clearly the Medicaid population's long term needs that are being fulfilled by Leahi and Maluhia are critical to our safety net on Oahu," Au Bellati said.

As the Oahu region's operating cash flow deficit grows, many vendors at Leahi Hospital are threatening to cease services, Chu said, including a food vendor this week. With no remaining funds after payroll, payments to vendors can take up to four months at Leahi.

There are about 150 patients living at each of the Oahu hospitals, with an additional 150 patients attending Adult Day Health care programs.

More than 100 patients could be displaced by the end of FY 2015 if funding is not secured. An additional 160 patients could be displaced by FY 2016, which would trigger a hospital closure.

The state public hospital system as a whole expects a $31 million budget shortfall in 2015, and is facing a near $200 million projected budget deficit after state appropriations in fiscal 2016 and 2017.

SA: Lack of state funds could shut long-term care facility

read ... $4.9M Deficit

11 fired as 4 Abercrombie appointees hired in IT

HNN:  When 11 employees in the state information technology office were fired in the same month that four political appointees of outgoing Gov. Neil Abercrombie were hired there, state senators questioned whether the actions had more to do with politics rather than good policy.

Abercrombie, who lost the primary election in August, leaves office on Monday and many of his political appointees will lose their job unless incoming Gov. David Ige retains them.

The state Office of Information Management and Technology has about 40 employees, many of whom work in the Keoni Ana building on Alakea Street downtown.

In the middle of October, the state's Chief Information Officer Keone Kali met with 11 of his employees -- representing a quarter of the staff -- and fired them, giving them a couple of hours to clean out their belongings and leave.

"Bringing them into a room, telling them it's going to be a meeting, and then firing them without any notice. You don't do things like that," said State Senate President Donna Kim, who has heard complaints from state employees about the firings and hirings in the IT office. Employees have also complained to State Sen. Suzanne Chun-Oakland....

Sources said a handful of Abercrombie's other political employees were in discussions about applying for openings at the IT office this fall, but when state senators began asking questions about the political timing of the firings and hirings, they decided to pursue jobs elsewhere.

Appointees who got IT jobs: Gov's Receptionist, Deputy Communications Director, Deputy Human Resources Director, Exec Asst to Deputy Comtroller

read ... 11 Fired

Felony Theft suspect Hired as Office Manager by Rep Ken Ito

KHON: A state worker charged with felony theft while at the governor’s office still has spending powers at the legislative office she now holds.

As Always Investigating first reported Tuesday, Roxanne Kamalu remains on the job, now working for a state representative.

But we still wanted to know if she was still allowed to spend taxpayer money. Today, we got the answer.

Kamalu was recently arrested and charged with second-degree felony theft for allegedly spending hundreds of dollars of taxpayer money on personal expenses while employed as an administrative services officer for the governor.

What she purchased has not been disclosed, but the indictment says a computer was used to do it in September 2013.

About one month after the alleged theft, Kamalu left the fourth-floor executive branch office to work for Rep. Ken Ito (D-Kaneohe, Maunawili, Olomana) as his office manager, a role Ito’s office confirms she still holds today.

Ito’s office says Kamalu’s role has not changed since the arrest.

read ... Another Day in the Nei

Thanksgiving: Three More Prisoners Escape, Earlier Escapee Recaptured

UH's two manned subs may be left on dry land for lack of funds

HNN: The Hawaii Undersea Research Lab's two manned submersibles are among just eight deep-diving human occupied vehicles in the world, and among just three in the U.S. But their operations could come to a halt soon if new funding doesn't surface.

Terry Kerby is the Director Facilities and Submersible Operations for HURL. He's part of the five-member crew that maintains and operates the subs, known as Pisces IV and Pisces V. Kerby said the lack of funding comes when the two vessels are needed more than ever to conduct underwater research in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, as well as the newly-created Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to the south of Hawaii.

"There's a lot of work right now for 2015, if we can just keep the subs operating," he said.

The subs have had a long history of undersea exploration in the Pacific for the last three decades, including expeditions to explore Lo'ihi, the undersea volcano southeast of Hawaii island. They had been funded at the federal level by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

"That funding stopped in 2012," said Kerby. "So our own institute here in Hawaii has been trying to maintain these assets."

But now, the University of Hawaii at Manoa doesn't have the $3 million needed each year to maintain the undersea program, which would be hard to start from scratch.

"These subs cost about four million dollars each to build in the early 1970's," said Kerby. "Replacement value on these subs today would be 60 million."

read ... Too Busy Hiring Administrators

Anti-GMO Groups 'Just Milking it'

KE: Kauai County is pursuing an appeal, joined by Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice, Surfrider and Pesticide Action Network. Hawaii County hasn't decided if it will appeal, but Civil Beat reports that Sen. Russell Ruderman, who represents the Big Island and heads the Senate Agriculture Committee, said he may introduce a bill that gives counties authority to regulate.

Given the opposing views of his counterpart in the House, it's unlikely such a bill will go anywhere.

Meanwhile, CFS dismissed the second ruling as no biggie and vowed to fight on — or so long as the donations keep coming in.

Which reminds me of the latest fundraising appeal from Food Democracy Now! It was looking for dough to assemble “an emergency recount response team” to watch Oregon officials in each county recount ballots after the state's GMO labeling law lost by 812 votes.

In other words, fully milking it. That's how so many of these groups make money.

read ... Milking It

Hawaii Council seeks to reform Jones Act

MV: With Matson Inc. as the Jones Act carrier serving Guam, rates for goods are subject to Matson’s service charge. On Tuesday, Matson announced an increase in shipping rates which would impact the price of imported goods on Guam moderately.

Hansen said it’s important for Guam and other noncontiguous jurisdictions like Alaska and Puerto Rico support the Hawaiian Shippers Council reform proposal to obtain broader support in Congress....

By changing the build requirements of shipping vessels required in the Jones Act, Hansen said the economics of the trades would change substantially.

A large oceangoing self-propelled ship constructed in the U.S. is five times the cost of a ship similarly constructed in South Korea and Japan and the high cost of domestic ship construction in America creates a shortage of ships for the noncontiguous trades, Hansen said.

The high cost of building a ship in the U.S. has also led to old inefficient ships employed in the noncontiguous trades because Jones Act operators cannot afford to replace their ships as it can be done everywhere else in the world.

Hansen said if the build requirements for a ship would change the trade would become more contestable and the trades would be subject to more competition....

MV: Consumer prices to rise along with increased shipping rates 

read ... Hawaii council seeks to reform Jones Act

Honolulu Planning Commission to Consider Hoopili Development

CB: The Hawaii Supreme Court recently ruled against one of two lawsuits challenging the project, but opponents haven't given up hope.

The Honolulu Planning Commission is scheduled to consider a zone change application next week for D.R. Horton’s 11,750-home development in West Oahu known as Hoopili.

The hearing will take place at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Hale Ponoi Building at 91-5420 Kapolei Parkway in Kapolei. It is likely to feature opposition from environmentalists and other activists who are worried about how the long-debated project will affect traffic and the availability of farmland in Hawaii.

read ... Hoopili

Prescription for Disaster: Painkiller use in Hawaii increases

HNN: in Hawaii, painkiller abuse has shot up over the past decade, with 773 deaths from 2009 to 2013....

Prescription drug abuse surpassed auto accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths nationwide. Overdose deaths in Hawaii climbed 68 percent from 1999 to 2010.

Filmmaker Edgy Lee explores the epidemic in a one hour film that will air on KGMB and KHNL in December called "Unprescribed: Prescription for Addiction." It documents a Hawaii 17 year old's tragic overdose from her dad's drugs, with an in depth look at the problem.

read ... Painkiller use in Hawaii increases

State Park Shutdown Clobbers Non-Profit

HNN: Craig Chapman said the state's sudden closing of the Kahuku campgrounds at Malaekahana State Recreation Area is costing him thousands of dollars and inconveniencing hundreds of people.

"It's literally bankrupted our non-profit," he said.

Two trees fell within the last two months. In October, two women were seriously injured. On Friday, the Department of Land and Natural Resources closed the Kahuku side of the park, saying it was unsafe. The state has marked several large trees for trimming or removal....

Chapman said he's had to cancel more than 350 reservations booked through the end of the year. He said the refunds add up to about $25,000. He has managed the Kahuku section of Malaekahana for 20 years on a month-to-month lease. He is out at the end of the year.

read ... $25,000 Loss

Judge sides with Hawaii County against former councilman

WHT: Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara ruled Monday Stacy Higa and wife Janice owe the county and former Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida more than $10,000 in legal fees to defend themselves from the lawsuit.

The suit, brought in 2008, claimed the county failed to represent Higa properly in a 2007 sexual harassment lawsuit brought against him by a former aide. Ashida was sued in his then-professional capacity.

The county settled with the aide, Melissa Chang, in 2010. Chang claimed she was sexually harassed by Higa and then threatened with retaliation by former Councilman James Arakaki if she tried to do anything about it.

Then-North Kona Councilman Kelly Greenwell told Stephens Media Hawaii in 2010 he thought the amount was “in the neighborhood of $22,000.”

Two other sources, including another council member, said at the time the settlement was at least $200,000.

2011: Battling back from Sex Harassment charges, Stacy Higa gets a nod from leading Feminists

read ... $10,000

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