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Sunday, December 13, 2015
December 13, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:44 PM :: 3544 Views

Law & Corruption in Hawaii

Why you should oppose the DOI Proposed Rule—And How

Charter Commission Agenda: Defer all ‘Proposals to Dismantle HART’

Jonesing for a Fix? Delving into the Merchant Marine Act of 1920

Chained dogs on Legislative Agenda for 2016

An Early Christmas Present from IRS to Heald Students

Star-Adv: Cancelling IT Contracts is Ige’s Only Real Accomplishment

SA: …Ige’s been willing to cancel procurements deemed to be unaffordable, and last week he unveiled a plan to tighten oversight on computer projects going forward….

There have been advances on pending priorities as well: finalizing the (Abercrombie’s) preservation deal for the Turtle Bay scenic area, as well as paying down the state’s unfunded liabilities for its retirees (as mandated by State Law)….

As encouraging as this is, Hawaii does need more from its soft-spoken and deliberative governor in the next three years of his term.

There have been flashes of a more assertive style of leadership — for example, his outspoken critique of the proposed acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Industries by a larger Florida-based utility, NextEra.

But much remains on the to-do list that a more aggressive approach would help whittle:

>> The homelessness and affordable-housing crisis predated his administration, and the state’s longstanding deficit of low-income housing will take time to overcome.

But the steps of the past year have disappointed. When Ige issued an emergency declaration, some anticipated that he’d be able to cut through the bureaucracy.

That really hasn’t happened. He hasn’t yet delivered on a promise to dismantle the persistent encampment at Kakaako Waterfront Park

>> The Thirty Meter Telescope ruling has put this project on hiatus until the developers decide whether to start over on the path to a state permit.

>> Education remains one of Ige’s chief concerns, especially finding ways to direct more resources to the campuses where principals can manage them. That hasn’t happened yet, although he has pledged to increase the weighted student formula — the allotment that each school gets based on enrollment — in the coming budget year. It remains to be seen whether that plan survives the next round of legislative sausage-making….

read … First Year

How Many Federal Billions has Hawaii not Spent?

SA: How many billions of dollars in unexpended federal funds are sitting in Hawaii’s state coffers?

That simple question posed by a state senator has departments scrambling to compile those figures, underscoring the need to upgrade the system for monitoring the state’s federal awards.

State Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, wanted to know by Monday the state’s total amount of unexpended federal funds, after holding a November briefing with state departments that have allowed millions in federal dollars to languish — putting future awards in jeopardy. But coming up with that sum has been an arduous task, and state Department of Budget and Finance Director Wesley Machida has asked for an extension….

The state, excluding the University of Hawaii, receives about 300 new federal awards each year that account for about $2.5 billion in federal funds, or 20 percent of the state’s revenue, Machida said. Some awards extend over multiple years. According to the Federal Fund Information for States, Hawaii ranks 16th in per capita federal spending at $2,152.

With so much federal money at stake, Tokuda singled out three departments for the informational briefing last month:

>> The Department of Transportation (DOT) in October reported it had $656.5 million in unspent federal highway funds, down from about $950 million in 2010. It also has $66.9 million more in airport improvement funds from the Federal Aviation Adminis- tration. DOT expects to spend the money within the time limits required by the FAA.

>> The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) reported having $55 million in unspent federal housing funds for Native Hawaiians under the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act of 1996.

>> The Health Department had $100 million in federal and state funds in its Drinking Water State Revolving Fund at the end of 2014, prompting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to withhold $8 million until the department met certain thresholds for drawing down the fund.

“If we don’t disperse funds, we lose funds,” Tokuda said….

read … Use it or Lose it

TAT already applies to TVRs but state lacks ability to ensure compliance

SA: In September 2014, Hawaii’s Regulated Industries Complaints Office published “Information for Owners of Rental Property,” which allows owners to know their legal responsibilities.

Same with the Hawaii Real Estate Commission’s August 2014 Bulletin, at page 7, which also offers instruction from the Hawaii Department of Taxation (DoTax) on compliance in respect of Act 326, “Transient Accommodations.”

Hawaii state law has always required TVR operators to collect and remit to the state the TAT and the general excise tax (GET).

And two additional laws (Act 326 in 2012 and Act 204 in 2015) provided additional tax reporting requirements for non-hotel accommodation providers….

DoTax has not been provided the human and technological resources to enforce the existing laws….

read … Ensure Compliance

‘Worst state for doing business’

WHT: When the state Supreme Court ruled on Dec. 2 that the Board of Land and Natural Resources erred in issuing the construction permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope, it sent a chilling message to the business community in general.

The decision has also forced existing telescopes backers on Mauna Kea to assure edgy donors that Hawaii is still a place where astronomy can continue.

That’s according to the island’s chambers of commerce — which say that businesses can’t operate under the kind of uncertainty generated when the state gives the green light for massive projects, but the courts strike down the government approvals.

“The observatories have communicated to me that they have had to assure their donors they can continue to do business here,” said Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce director Kirstin Kahaloa. “The donors of all of the other observatories are watching what is happening with TMT. They are concerned.” …

“If the TMT doesn’t move ahead, it will send a strong message that the state doesn’t want astronomy here anymore,” said Kahaloa.

“This decision proliferates our reputation as the worst state for doing business,” she said.

Bill Walter, vice president of the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, said the court ruling isn’t an isolated one. A common thread winds through multiple decisions going back to the Hawaii Superferry and the foundered Hokulia project, he said. Commonalities include an organization that wishes to invest tens of millions of dollars in a project, guidance on the process and permits from government agencies, then the courts later halting the project based on incorrect procedure….

read … Worst

Mountain’s sacredness seems a recent thing

SA: …As a former resident of the Big Island, I spent much time hunting and hiking on Mauna Kea during the 1970s and 1980s. It would seem to me that during that time I would have come across a group of Hawaiians engaged in whatever sacred practices were necessary to guarantee the largess of the “gods” of sacred Mauna Kea. But I did not. I saw only other hunters and, of course, the prey.

Jump ahead to the present and suddenly Mauna Kea is sacred beyond measure….

read … Recent Thing

Ige: UPW, HGEA to Represent Workers at Kaiser-Controlled Maui Memorial Hospital

PBN: …United Public Workers has requested an injunction against the state in U.S. district court, claiming the merger could impair worker benefits through collective bargaining agreements already negotiated.

In an exclusive interview with PBN, Ige said wages, benefits and “financial arrangements” of the acquisition continue to be discussed.

“There is a lawsuit we're contending with but the negotiations with Kaiser have progressed and we are confident we can execute in a timely manner,” he said.

Kaiser Permanente has committed to employing any existing Maui hospital workers for a guaranteed six months after the transition.

“Kaiser is actually anxious because state workers are looking at their options, and some are looking at moving to other state jobs and Kaiser wants them to come work for the new company,” Ige said. “Once we complete the negotiations on the transition and the legal documents, then the unions will begin negotiations with the new company to come up with a new contract for their employees. Hawaii Government Employees Association will probably put up a unit to represent nurses in the private sector as well.”

The deal is slated to be finalized by the end of the year.

East Hawaii state hospital representatives have been in preliminary discussions with Adventist Health about a potential partnership….

When asked if he pictures the entire 13-facility state system moving to private management, Ige said significant savings could be made for the state by switching. The evolving national health care landscape has made it increasingly difficult to run health facilities in rural areas, he added….

Related: Hospital Crisis: How to Use Union Work Rules for Fun and Profit

read … ​Gov. David Ige on Maui state hospitals’ privatization

Bunda Lined up to Take Ernie Martin’s Seat

Borreca: If Council Chairman Martin makes good on his often-rumored plan to run against Caldwell for mayor next year, he would have to resign his Council post.

Suddenly offering himself as a candidate for the 2nd Council District was former state Senate President Bob Bunda, who launched his campaign not with a news conference but a fundraiser.

The $500-a-ticket affair was held Dec. 1 at the Pacific Club, according to a filing with the Campaign Spending Commission, which said that Bunda was running for the election in 2018.

It is not really a coincidence that Laura Figueira is listed as Bunda’s campaign treasurer. Figueira was Bunda’s administrative assistant when he was in the Senate and was appointed by Gov. Linda Lingle on Sept. 7, 2010, to fill Bunda’s Senate seat when he resigned for an unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor.

Since then, Figueira has served as an assistant in Martin’s Council office.

If the Council kingdom is not magical, it, at least, seems a bit preordained.

read … City Council members seek protection of a magical cap

City Lets Varona Village Decay for 20 Years

SA: Some describe Varona Village as the place that time forgot: abandoned houses, one with a missing roof and others with “No Trespassing” signs nailed to the front; and vacant lots with overgrown grass and weeds.

But then there are the homes, several with well-manicured yards and fences, occupied by former Ewa Plantation Co. sugar workers and their families.

Plans to rehabilitate houses in Varona have languished for decades, and now city officials have identified it as a community where more affordable housing units can be developed — particularly as efforts increase to get more of Oahu’s homeless population off the streets.

Varona is one of eight communities in Ewa Villages built for plantation workers between 1900 and the 1950s. While there has been development in some areas, Varona has largely remained intact with remaining homes still rented to former workers and their spouses.

Nearby, the construction of Ka Makana Alii, a 1.4 million-square-foot regional mall, is expected to bring more attention to the area, and the Hawaiian Railway Society’s train is already a tourist attraction.

Varona is an area of about 26 acres and about 90 lots. The city acquired Varona, Tenney and Renton villages when Oahu Sugar, Ewa Plantation’s successor, shut down in 1995….

read … Decay

Dengue outbreak largest in US State in more than 60 years

HTH: Hawaii Island’s dengue fever outbreak appears to be the largest in the United States since World War II, according to various reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health sites.

Hundreds and even thousands of cases have been reported in South and Central America, including areas in Mexico near the U.S. border with Texas, as well as within U.S. territories. But since at least 1946, no outbreak within the continental U.S., Alaska or Hawaii has matched the Big Island’s, which, as of Friday, stood at 146 confirmed cases of locally acquired dengue fever….

State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said last week that American Samoa and Puerto Rico had seen “multiple dengue outbreaks with hundreds more (cases) on a regular basis. They’re technically a part of us … so I would not say we are the largest.”

read … We’re #1

Report: Hawaii Best State for African-American Students

USNWR: A sweeping portrait of the performance of African-American students in U.S. schools today shows while strides have been made over the past 25 years, they are performing at significantly lower levels than students nationally.

On the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 18 percent of African-American fourth-graders were proficient in reading and only 19 percent scored as proficient in math, according to an analysis by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation released Friday. The eighth-grade numbers were even worse, with only 16 percent of African-American students proficient in reading and 13 percent proficient in math.

By comparison, the report said, the national average for proficiency among all students in fourth-grade reading was 36 percent, while it was 40 percent in fourth-grade math, 34 percent in eighth-grade reading and 33 percent in eighth-grade math….

In addition, while African-American students are gaining more access to rigorous classes, they aren't to the degree they should be, and it's also not clear that those who do enroll in higher-level courses are succeeding. In three states, more than 40 percent of African-American students graduated having taken at least one Advanced Placement exam, but Hawaii was the only state to see more than 15 percent of African-American students actually pass those exams….

LINK: Hawaii Report Card

read … US News & World Report

NextEra Merger news

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