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Sunday, December 28, 2014
December 28, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:34 PM :: 3585 Views

Eight Tax Hikes Proposed for Hawaii

Rowena Akana: Now That I'm in Charge, Everything is Fine at OHA

152 Candidates File for Neighborhood Board Elections

Obamacare: Hawaii State Funds to Cover 46% Cut in Physician Pay

Hawaii Ranks 17th: 10.3% Smoke Marijuana

Hawaii GET: Another Perspective

Smart Business Hawaii:  "Voice of Hawaii small businesses" closes

HNN: ...After advocating for Hawaii's entrepreneurs for nearly 40 years, a small business organization quietly closes up.

Smart Business Hawaii, formerly known as Small Business Hawaii, used to advocate for 3,500 business members statewide in the 1990's.

Since then, that number has plunged to less than 1,000 members statewide.

After longtime leader Senator Sam Slom retired, the board of directors decided to shut down the organization this month.

“The networking and educational roles SBH played have been taken up by many other organizations that did not exist when SBH was founded. The new director and Board could not identify any major competitive advantages for SBH that would have allowed it to successfully serve its members,” said board member Panos Prevedouros....

Tire salesman Lex Brodie founded the organization which is now known as Smart Business Hawaii back in 1975. In 1983, Senator Slom took it over. Slom retired as president and CEO a couple of months ago but still served on the board. He was the only one of 11 board members who voted against the shut down two weeks ago.

"I guess I'm an old war horse. I thought there was still some life, still some things that we could do," said Slom.

Slom says they have more competition now and there aren't as much small businesses as there used to be.

"It's tough, it's tough running a small business and the children of small business owners don't want to get involved because they see how hard their mom and dad work," Slom said.

Schoneman knows how hard it is firsthand.

"Most business owners that I know of run 60 to 80 hours a week in terms of just normal operations," said Schoneman.

He says Smart Business Hawaii's closure didn't come as a surprise.

"When I look at the number of small businesses that have quit, shut down, gone bankrupt or whatever, I knew it would be difficult for them to make a go of it," Schoneman said.

Slom says 95-percent of businesses in Hawaii are considered a small businesses. And despite the shakeup, he says he'll continue to be a voice for them.

“It's not gonna change the small business landscape. It's not going to change me. I'm still going to be the champion for small businesses and the number one advocate," he said....

Nov, 2014: Sen Sam Slom to Retire as President of Smart Business Hawaii

read ... "Voice of Hawaii small businesses" closes

Star-Adv: Legalizing Illegal Vacation Rentals Could be Cash Cow for State

SA: The widespread proliferation of mostly illegal vacation rentals on Oahu is ... likely leaving millions of tax dollars uncollected.

While this black-market economy has sprung up across Oahu, Honolulu Star-Advertiser research shows that the North Shore and Kailua are the strongholds for illegal vacation rental activity. As many as 80 percent of these vacation rental owners may be operating outside of city restrictions, the research indicates....

Matt Curtis, director of government relations for online vacation rental giant HomeAway.com, said the more challenging a destination's regulatory environment, the less likely that landlords will comply. He said New York City banned short-term rentals in 2010, and now there are four times the number of listings.

"New York is missing out on $450 million in taxes," he said. "Successful communities have fair regulatory environments that are easy to comply with."...

Barry Wallace, executive vice president of hospitality services for Outrigger Enterprises Group, said vacation rentals must be made to operate legally.

Anyone conducting business under the table unfairly competes with resort condos, eliminating well-paying hotel jobs, he said.

"Because they don't pay taxes or have as many employees, they can undercut us," he said....

read ... Tax Hike #1

E-Cigs to Be Targeted for Tax Hike

SA: Health advocates tried and failed last legislative session to persuade lawmakers to impose higher taxes on the devices and associated supplies; require licenses for retailers; and restrict vaping at workplaces and other public places....

State Sen. Josh Green, a Hawaii island Democrat who chairs the Senate Health Committee, agreed, and, like Au Bellati, vowed to press again this upcoming legislative session for the type of bills that died late in last year's session.

Green, who described the issue "as a priority for me personally, as a physician and a lawmaker," said he would focus on raising the age to acquire e-cigarettes to 21 statewide, following the model of Hawaii County; move to include electronic smoking devices in Hawaii Revised Statutes 328-J, the clean air law, which bans smoking at all public and private worksites; and strive to tax the sale of electronic smoking devices and supplies at the same rate as combustible tobacco products....

read ... Tax Hike #2

HHSC in 'A Weaker Limbo'

MN: Gov. David Ige's proposed state budget for the next fiscal year includes $86 million for support of the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. - well less than half of the $203 million requested.

According to a story in Wednesday's Maui News, the Maui Region of HHSC will receive $28.3 million. The region is projected to have a $39.6 million deficit next fiscal year, with it growing to $46.4 million in FY 2017.

Ige's budget proposal is down from $102 million this fiscal year.

Maui Region Chief Executive Officer Wesley Lo told the newspaper the situation is only going to get worse. Lo cited increased costs due to collective bargaining, depreciation and federal regulations.

Lo expressed hope that Ige will realize this and support new models for Hawaii's rural hospitals. Lo has said in the past that he supports a partnership with a private nonprofit to shore up the hospitals. Both Kaiser Permanente and Hawaii Pacific Health have expressed interest in partnering with Maui Memorial Medical Center....

At a meeting of the state House Health Committee held last month at Maui Waena Intermediate School, Dr. Peter Galpin asked the state to either "marry us or divorce us." Galpin wanted the government to either fully fund the HHSC or pass legislation to allow its member hospitals to find private partners to shore them up. He succinctly expressed the opinion of the majority gathered to testify.

Ige's budget proposal neither marries nor divorces the HHSC hospitals. Instead, it puts them in an even weaker limbo. As more services are cut because of reduced funding, the hospitals will become less attractive to potential partners.

It appears it is up to the Legislature to step up and provide the leadership necessary to save Hawaii's rural hospitals.

read ... Limbo

Health Connector Claims 15,000 Policies Sold

MN: The connector is now providing affordable access to more than 15,000 Hawaii residents. Because Hawaii opted into the Affordable Care Act, nearly 50,000 more of us are enrolled in Hawaii's Medicaid program....

Background: Health Exchange Signups Less Than 10% of Number Needed

read ... Sales Pitch

NextEra: Solar rebates for Big Projects, not Rooftops

SA:  The Florida Public Service Commission ruled in November that the rebate program will end Dec. 31, 2015.

"The programs are not cost-effective," the commission said in its Nov. 25 ruling. "Consumers have continued to install systems without any rebates."

Robo said that the tax credits can negatively affect the renewable energy market.

"I am not a big fan of incentives that distort the market," Robo said.

Despite NextEra Energy's views on renewable energy rebates, the company lobbied for utility-scale renewable tax credits in 2013.

NextEra Energy campaigned for a one-year extension of the Production Tax Credit, a federal incentive for wind projects. This performance-based incentive was available to owners of wind farms when projects become operational before 2013. The tax credit expiration date was pushed back to 2014.

As of the end of September, NextEra Energy received $132 million credit from the Production Tax Credit in 2014, according to a company filing with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission.

The company's history with federal rebates for wind projects contradicts its present view on Hawaii's solar rebate program, said Robert Harris, Hawaii spokes­man for the Alliance for Solar Choice, an advocacy group for rooftop solar systems.

"NextEra is happy to take hundreds of millions of dollars of tax credits each year, but they don't want the average Hawaii resident to receive approximately $5,000 per solar system," Harris said. "That's hypocrisy."

NextEra has said it favors utility-scale projects, such as solar farms and wind farms because they can produce electricity cheaper than rooftop solar.

"This is a business where scale matters," Robo said. "In Hawaii where land is at a premium, distributed (rooftop) solar makes sense, too. It's one of the few markets where distributed solar is actually economic. If you can build grid scale, it is more economic."

Robo said he wants to do whatever will bring down prices for customers.

read ... Solar rebates face dim future

CoC: Loss of Military Presence Could Drive Hawaii into Recession

SA: As part of its 2020 force structure realignment, the Army is considering eliminating 19,800 soldiers and civilians from Schofield Barracks (16,606) and Fort Shafter (3,786). In addition to the workers, more than 30,000 family members would be affected. The total is about 5 percent of Honolulu's total population, with the communities of Wahiawa, Mililani, Haleiwa and Waialua losing the most people.

The direct and indirect impacts of military expenditures are reported to generate $14.7 billion into Hawaii's economy, creating more than 102,000 jobs for residents who collectively report household incomes around $8.7 billion. These expenditures have elevated the defense industry and military procurement contracts amount to about $2.3 billion annually, making it a prime source of contracting opportunities for hundreds of Hawaii's locally owned small businesses. These expenditures touch every sector of our economy from STEM education to housing, construction, retail, health care, agriculture and sustainable energy.

Moreover, according to the Army, these cuts would result in an estimated loss of 20,000 jobs. That would nearly double the state's unemployment rate — going from 4.2 percent to 7.1 percent — and drop us from sixth best to 43rd....

read ... Dan Inouye is Dead

Grumpy, Sleepy, Dopey -- Flashback 2014

Shapiro: » Little-known David Ige crashed a rematch between Gov. Neil Abercrombie and 2010 foes James "Duke" Aiona and Mufi Hannemann and beat them all to become Hawaii's eighth governor since statehood. It was a meteoric rise from "Whodaguy" to "Whodaguy, sir."

» As Abercrombie watched his bid for a second term swirl down the toilet, he turned reflective and declared: "I was never a spectator." He was more of a spectacle.

» U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz survived a close re-election challenge from U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, the late Sen. Daniel Inouye's choice. Hanabusa couldn't quite sell her playground theme: "He took my lollipop and won't give it back."

» Seven Democratic candidates for the 1st Congressional District were asked in a TV debate to give three words that best described themselves. I thought their names said it all in one word: Grumpy, Sleepy, Dopey …

read ... Flashback 2014

Catherine Awakuni appointed Chair DCCA

IM: ...In 2006 a swap occurred whereby Consumer Advocate John Cole became a Commissioner with the Public Utilities Commission and Public Utilities Commission Attorney Catherine Awakuni became the Consumer Advocate.

In October 2008 the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) Energy Agreement  was signed by Governor Linda Lingle, HECO Chairman Constance “Connie” Lau, DBEDT Director Ted Liu, HECP Executive Vice President Robert “Robbie” Alm, and Catherine P. Awakuni. The witnesses were U.S/ Deaprtment of Eneft’s William “Bill” Parks and Hawaii Renewable Energy Development Venture Technical Director Maurice Kaya....

... she met and later married Michael Colón who also worked as a Public Utilities Commission staff attorney.  Colón worked on issues such as Big Wind.

In February 2013 Colón was hired by Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO). Colón now works as an Energy Contract Manager in HECO's Renewable Acquisition Department. Colón negotiates Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) with Independent Power Companies....

In late 2013 Governor Abercrombie appointed Awakuni as the Administrator of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ (DCCA) Cable Television Division.

read ... Catherine Awakuni appointed To Governor Ige Cabinet

Candidates for neighborhood boards sought

SA: ...Candidates can register with the Neighborhood Commission Office online by Feb. 20, or by submitting a physical Candidate Declaration Form in person or postmarked no later than Feb. 20. The form can be downloaded from the commission's website at www1.honolulu.gov/nco/index.htm. Oahu residents can also learn which neighborhood board they are attached to at the site....

Elections are conducted online with the commission office mailing passcodes to eligible voters, who then may cast ballots for contested seats. The city also makes computers available to the public for voting during the voting period. Voters who can't access the Internet or the public computers may cast ballots by telephone using information included in the mailing.

Results will be announced no later than seven days after the election period ends.

Newly elected board members assume office on July 1. The boards typically meet once a month....

Related: 152 Candidates File for Neighborhood Board Elections

read ... Candidates for neighborhood boards sought

Soon All Four Counties Will Have Film Facilities

KGI: ...Oahu had the only sound studio in the state for decades until Maui Film Studio opened its full-scale soundstage and studio complex in 2013.

The Big Island will soon open Global Virtual Studio, a trans-media accelerator to empower creative entrepreneurs and filmmakers to tell a story with multiple digital formats.

“The proposed Kauai Creative Technologies Center on Kauai, although not a soundstage or film studio, is a first step to develop a viable ‘film business industry facility,’” Umezu said. “Visiting film crews can incorporate the facility to do pre- and post-production work while filming on Kauai, as well as create a professional working environment for industry professionals to learn and improve their skills.”

read ... Not Quite a Studio

Astronomy’s impact: Sector pumps $91.48 million into Big Isle economy in 2012

HTH: Astronomy projects throughout the state generated benefits to local economies on the Big Island, Maui, Kauai and Honolulu totaling nearly $168 million, reads the UHERO report, which the organization released online this month.

“The astronomy sector in Hawaii generates economic activity through its purchases from local businesses, its payment to its employees and spending by students and visitors,” the report reads.

Local astronomy related expenditures on the Big Isle totaled $58.43 million, with $25.8 million spent in Honolulu, $1.28 million on Kauai and $2.58 million on Maui. Those expenditures gave rise to $52.26 million in earnings, $8.15 million in state taxes, and 1,394 jobs statewide.

Hawaii County’s astronomy expenditures created $27.98 million in earnings, $4 million in state taxes, and a total of 806 jobs.

“Nearly 70 percent of local spending occurred in Hawaii County,” the report says. “The $58.43 million of expenditures attributed to astronomy activities in Hawaii County alone generated $91.48 million in local business sales.”

read ... Astronomy’s impact: Sector pumps $91.48 million into Big Isle economy in 2012

Historic trails a public asset worth saving

SA: ...advocacy groups have had to fight against initiatives to weaken state law that protects public trails. In the 2014 legislative session, Senate Bill 2728 sought to give the state Board of Land and Natural Resources the prerogative to designate which trails are public.

This was correctly perceived by PATH and other opponents as an attempt to water down the state's custody of a public asset.

Fortunately, that legislation died once it crossed to the House, but it's disheartening to see that it got that far....

read ... Historic trails a public asset worth saving

Kauai Leading state in hate?

KGI: Kauai reported three hate crimes in 2013, according to a state Attorney General’s Hate Crimes in Hawaii report.

The report is generated annually by information from county prosecutors. Kauai had zero occurrences for the first 11 years that data has been collected — until this 12th report.

“I believe hate crimes — as defined by law — have always occurred, but we are doing a better job tracking and reporting these incidents in recent years,” said County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar.

In 2014, there has been one incident classified as a reportable hate crime, Kollar said. The incident was motivated by racial bias.

There were four hate crime cases reported statewide in 2013. The incidents took place in 2012 but were resolved in 2013.

PDF: AG Hate Crime Report

read ... Hate Crimes

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