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Tuesday, July 12, 2016
July 12, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:30 PM :: 3233 Views

Ige Vetoes Eight Bills

Full Text: Contractor Offered Cool Schools at $5990 per Classroom—Was Ignored by DoE

Djou Challenges Caldwell to Respond to On-Going EMS Staffing Problems

Maui HGEA Payoff: Still $25M too Much

Papahānaumokuākea: Schatz Absurdly Wrong

AG Seeks Deputy Solicitors General

Neighbor island ESSA town halls start Monday

Power Has Been out at Oahu Jail Since Friday

Report: $10K ‘Affordability Gap’ for Hawaii College Students

Star-Adv: Push for Fake Indian Tribe ‘Almost Certainly will Stall Out’

SA:  …there’s been slow progress in fulfilling a plan to self-finance a ratification election, an end result toward which an estimated $2 million must be raised. This means a timetable-setting vote for the end of 2016 must be scrapped and a new date, a year later, is being penciled in….

opponents have filed legal challenges asserting, among other things, that there is a link between state government and the initiative of forming a race-based political entity that would violate the U.S. Constitution….

To further extricate itself from the state, the decision was made to conduct the ratification of the newly adopted organic documents as a strictly private organization, using only private funds. Any group of people has the right of assembly, which is also guaranteed by the Constitution, advocates rightly argued.

Now, however, the ball is quite clearly in the court of the Native Hawaiian community.  (And the lack of support clearly shows that Hawaiians don’t want the Nai Aupuni Tribe.)

Some $70,000 was raised immediately after the convention, but the excitement was allowed to fizzle and the fundraising tailed off. It’s moved to a low-key, grass-roots educational campaign of presentations to community groups and small gatherings.

Advocates said the process slowly but more intimately connects with the community whose backing is needed. But there is no formal organization overseeing the process, and the absence of one almost certainly will cause the project to stall out.  (CLUE:  It already has stalled out.  Obama’s Last Day is Jan 20, 2017.)

read … Up to Hawaiians to advance sovereignty effort

2016 Democrat Platform: Hawaiians Among “Indigenous Tribal Nations”

SA: …Since 1992, the Democrats have tucked something into their national platform recognizing Hawaiians.

Twenty-four years ago, concern about Hawaiians was tacked onto a section titled “Civil and Equal Rights.”

It urged the U.S. “to recognize its trustee obligations to the inhabitants of Hawaii generally, and to Native Hawaiians in particular.”

Over the years it grew with more stipulations. Former Gov. John Waihee helped support the Hawaiian recognition plank, but he noted that with a nod toward “economy of language, there has been some shrinkage.”

Before last week, the Democrats’ national platform said “Democrats also support efforts for self-determination and sovereignty of Native Hawaiians.”

The amended platform plank is stuck in a section, “Honoring Indigenous Tribal Nations,” but goes at some length to discuss self-governance and self-determination and then urge “proactive actions by the federal government to enhance Native Hawaiian culture, health, language, and education.”

Waihee praised the addition, saying the “symbolism is important.”…

Hanabusa said her amendment was prepared with help from the local Democrats’ Native Hawaiian caucus, but when she got to the Florida meeting, she found that there was a move to have Native Hawaiians included as an American Indian tribe….

Hanabusa said a move at the end of the meeting to specifically mention Clinton as the presidential nominee was met with so much protest and shouting that it was withdrawn.

“The people went crazy, they shouted ‘No!’

PDF: Draft Dem Platform (see pg 19-20)

read …. No!

As Predicted: Ige Vetoes HGEA Hospital Payoff, Calls for Legislature to Amend in Special Session

SA: …In a message to lawmakers, he said that Senate Bill 2077 jeopardizes the tax-exempt status of the Employees’ Retirement System plan because it allows affected employees to choose between a lump-sum cash payment that is taxable as wages and a special, employer-subsidized, early-retirement benefit. He said the ERS informed him of the risk Friday.

“I will neither approve this bill or let it become law when the offering of benefit choices included in the bill poses this threat,” he wrote.

Ige also expressed concerns about the “substantial” cost of the benefits to the state, which his administration pegs at more than $60 million.

The governor’s proposed measure would eliminate the choice of benefits and instead provide a negotiated separation benefit. It would appropriate $25 million in general funds to cover the costs of the benefits.

The bill vetoed by Ige would guarantee that 1,400 union workers at Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital would get special severance benefits — even if they continued working at the facilities under Kaiser Permanente, which is taking over the hospitals.

But Ige said he’s not sure that all the workers will be harmed by the transition to private ownership.

He noted that by mid-May, Kaiser had offered jobs to 1,538 state employees, regardless of whether they were part of a union or worked for the state for less than a year, and that more than 95 percent of workers had accepted the employment offers. Further, he said that he understood that Kaiser would pay most employees salaries or wages equal to what they are currently being paid by Hawaii Health Systems Corp.

“This suggests to me that a substantial number if not the majority of HHSC’s Maui region employees might not have to face the economic hardships to the degree that prompted the Legislature to consider and pass the current bill,” Ige wrote….

read … Precisely as Predicted

Special Session Called to Amend Maui HGEA Payoff Bill

CB: …legislative leaders called a special session Tuesday to look at how the measure might be amended to address the governor’s concerns about it being overly generous. Lawmakers are set to reconvene Monday.

The bill affects 1,400 unionized workers at the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation’s Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital.

The governor put the measure on his intent-to-veto list last month. Ige said it impacts the financial decision-making that went into handing the hospitals over to the private sector, and could set a bad precedent for similar deals in the future.

But some of the most powerful members of the Legislature represent Maui, including House Speaker Joe Souki and Sens. Roz Baker and Gil Keith-Agaran.

Lawmakers have said they may be able to fix the bill in a way that simultaneously resolves a lawsuit between the United Public Workers union and the state which has stalled the privatization.

Hawaii Government Employees Association Executive Director Randy Perreira, who strongly supports the bill, has said the state is breaching its bargaining unit contracts. He’s worked to rally union members to thwart a veto.

Perreira has also said the bill won’t cause a $212 million increase to the unfunded liability for increases in retiree benefits as critics have alleged….

CB: The Hawaii House and Senate each convened on Tuesday to take up amending the Maui hospital bill. Both chambers will reconvene July 18.

read … Special Session

NextEra Hardball--Iwase Panics, Gorak Law License Threatened

HNN: …The Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission is calling for a state Attorney General investigation into what he says is a "smear" campaign against interim PUC commissioner Tom Gorak.

Chair Randy Iwase said it's part of an attempt to derail the commission's investigation into NextEra Energy's buyout of Hawaiian Electric Co.

"This is unprecedented ... It has no purpose other than to try to influence the outcome of the merger decision and or to cast dispersion and smear the good name of the newly appointed commissioner," said Iwase.

Iwase is upset about a 10-page draft complaint for the Supreme Court's Office of Disciplinary Council, accusing Gorak of violating legal ethics while serving as the PUC's top lawyer. He said it's partly based on information from PUC proceedings that are supposed to be confidential.  (Hardball!)

Several sources said the document has not been sent to the ODC.  (Its hanging over his head.  Will he quit PUC?  Batter up!)

The document alleged that Gorak and Iwase iced out Commissioner Lorraine Akiba and former board member Michael Champley and denied them access to staff and legal advice (in order to wait Champley out and block the NextEra merger).

It also claims that Gorak has a conflict of interest that should prevent him from voting on the NextEra-HECO merger because he served as a challenging "litigator" or advocate during the hearings. 

"Gorak's actions expose the commission to potential liability ... as a result of his assuming multiple conflicting roles," the anonymous complaint said….

Meanwhile, state senators who are questioning Gorak's appointment are discussing whether to call a special session to vote on his confirmation before the PUC makes a decision on the NextEra-HECO deal.

"We take it seriously the advise and consent part and the public should too. Because you want to vet somebody before they've been appointed, not afterward," said state Sen. Sam Slom (R) Hawaii Kai.

read … Quit PUC or Lose License

Solar Contractors Scamming Consumers Again as ‘Grid Supply’ Maxes Out

SA: …The Public Utilities Commission replaced a popular solar incentive, known as net energy metering, with a new “grid supply” system last fall and put a 35-megawatt cap on the new program. The grid-supply program credits solar energy customers about 8 cents less per kilowatt-hour than the full retail rate paid under net energy metering.

The cap breaks down to 25 megawatts on Oahu and 5 megawatts each for Maui County (which includes Molokai and Lanai) and the Big Island. Oahu has reached roughly 59 percent of the 25 megawatt cap.

Maui Electric Co. said in June it stopped approving the solar systems because the county hit the 5-megawatt cap regulators placed on the program.

“They reached their cap, but clearly that hasn’t stopped people from submitting their packages to them,” said Marco Mangelsdorf, president of Hilo-based ProVision Solar.

(And you all know very well what the solar contractors are telling consumers.)

Maui County residents who want to install new solar systems will now have to buy batteries to hold any excess power generated by the panels. They can still draw power from the grid when needed but can’t send power to the grid. The solar-plus-battery systems are called “self-supply.”

read … Old Habits Die Hard

EMS plans changes, may reevaluate 12-hour shifts as UPW-induced staffing shortages continue

KHON: …EMS employees reached out to us via Report It over the weekend with concerns and frustrations regarding multiple ambulance closures.

There are 20 ambulance units in Honolulu and for every shift, two people are required to operate each unit.

But sometimes there aren’t enough people on staff to do that. When the department doesn’t have enough staff to run units, they have to close them, and it has happened multiple times.

It happened on Friday night from midnight to noon Saturday. This time, two units were closed for the entire 12-hour shift….

According to the city’s website, there are also two rapid response vehicles for two districts, but Rigg says it was more important to staff ambulances that could transport patients instead, so they haven’t operated those since 2015.

We also reached out to the mayor multiple times for a comment, but spokesperson Andrew Pereira responded via email saying, “Dir. Mark Rigg is a member of the cabinet and I’m told he addressed your questions regarding this issue.”

read … UPW Games 

Even PR Firms Don’t Want to Spin Rail

ILind: She began with a link to an article from Pacific Business News published four years ago (“Honolulu rail project cutting PR budget by 70%”)….

Early in the rail debacle Mayor Hannemann hired a lot of “PR” people to do exactly that–spin his concept that had no valid data to support it–although, I do believe he actually did convince many of them that this project would not only be his great legacy, it would also be theirs. Many good and ethical PR people have come and gone from this project because they eventually refused to “spin” information that wasn’t true. Some, just gave up when they realized the public could no longer be fooled by pretty pictures, promises, and nice words that didn’t match the facts.

read … Tough talk from a PR pro

Young Bros. seeks 4.36% rate hike

WHT: The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission has announced two public meetings to discuss an application filed by Young Brothers, Ltd., an interisland shipping company, for approval of a general rate increase.

Meetings will be held across all islands, with two scheduled for Hawaii Island. The first meeting will take place today in Hilo at 3 p.m. at the State Office Building, Conference Room C at 75 Aupuni Street. The second meeting is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the West Hawaii Civic Center, Community Meeting Hale at 74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Highway in Kailua-Kona….

Roy Catalani, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and External Affairs at Young Brothers Ltd., said the proposed 4.36 percent rate hike is necessary to increase revenue on regulated business by a total of a little more than $3 million, based on 2016 projections.

That increase will satisfy the company’s revenue requirement of just more than $75 million annually, which will allow for a 10.25 percent intrastate rate of return — or a return on the company’s investment in hard assets currently in service….

read … Rate Hike

GMOs Safe, Dennis Gonsalves A Big Island Hero

Ha: After an enormous amount of research, the verdict is in: GMO foods are safe. The Big Island’s Dennis Gonsalves, who designed the virus-resistant Rainbow papaya, is a hero.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine examined almost 900 studies, conducted over the past 20 years, and heard from 80 speakers….

Did you know that people from all over the world fly Dennis Gonsalves in for help? They honor him and ask him for help with their crop problems.

Here, though, our own people demonized and sacrificed Dennis. It makes us Hawaiians look like idiots….

Remember back in late 2013 when the Hawaii County Council voted on whether or not to ban genetically engineered crops? It was near-hysteria. The County Council brought in a yogic “flyer” with no scientific credentials to testify about GMOs. They refused to listen to our own scientists. We actually had to listen to the self-proclaimed GMO “expert’s” testimony for 45 minutes.

Amy Harmon wrote a very good article for the New York Times about that time. She wrote about County Council member Greggor Ilagan and his impressive effort to actually research genetic engineering.

Now the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine confirms that GMOs are safe, and we know that our County Council was wrong to approve a ban on them.

We’ve gone from anti-science hysteria to knowing GMOs are safe, but there’s a native Hawaiian casualty — a local guy from Kohala that people all over the world honor.

We should be praising Dennis. We should be holding him up for young people to be inspired by. He’s a hero and I’d like to see us honor him. It was very shortsighted and unfair that we did not stand up for him. We should all be ashamed….

read … Hero

Dark Money Behind Anti-GMO Candidates

KE: Hawaii anti-GMO groups are pushing their candidate slate hard in the upcoming Primary, offering more evidence that securing political power is their underlying goal.

But with nearly all of the funding for these groups coming from outside Hawaii, the question becomes, who really benefits if their power grab succeeds?

The most vocal entity in this political machine is the Hawaii Center for Food Safety Political Action Fund. Tax documents show that its parent organization, Center for Food Safety, took in $3.5 million in 2014. CFS spent $738,569 on the Hawaii office that year, and a total of $425,000 on lobbying. But that's all the information that it has disclosed, and it has yet to release its 2015 return.

So Hawaii voters have no way of knowing who is bankrolling the group's political activities in the Islands, or how much the Washington,D.C.-based CFS is spending to influence elections here.

Other players are the tawdry Babes Against Biotech, which echoes CFS stances and reposts its social media memes; the smarmy Kuleana Coalition for Change, which is soliciting “anonymous” donations to support Maui candidates on the CFS slate; and HAPA, the political advocacy group masquerading as an educational nonprofit, which was founded by Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser and trained several of the slate candidates through its Kuleana Academy.

According to its 2014 tax return — 2015 is not yet available — HAPA has spent its money producing propaganda and holding meetings. Though I previously disclosed that HAPA had received a grant from CFS, HAPA has not disclosed any of its funders….

read … Musings: Power Grab

Ige Signs HB2707 – Giving Tax Credits to Marijuana Dispensaries

WHT: The changes:

— Allow for advanced practice registered nurses to certify new patients, a move hoped to give prospective patients more options. At one point, statistics showed about 90 percent of the state’s medical marijuana certifications were recommended by only 10 doctors.

— Allow dispensaries to claim certain state business tax credit write-offs, a cost savings hoped to be transferred to customers. However the bill also clarifies dispensaries are not eligible to receive tax exemptions for building in enterprise zones.

— Remove a rule which required patients and caregivers who enter dispensaries to undergo background checks.

— Allow dispensaries to grow plants in buildings with transparent or translucent roofs starting in 2017. Growing under natural sunlight is hoped to cut electricity costs and lower prices.

— Clarify that a single “plant” must be at least 12 inches high and 12 inches wide. A dispensary can have up to 3,000 plants per production center. Under the definition, a dispensary could have an infinite number of smaller-sized clones and seedlings, according to Garrett Halydier, vice president of the Honolulu-based Hawaii Dispensary Alliance, which could allow for more diverse varieties and a quicker turnover.

— Clarify that prohibitions regarding drug paraphernalia do not apply to people who use medical marijuana legally.

— Direct the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism to collect non-identifiable data about dispensaries and the state’s medical marijuana program. Data could include the amount of cannabis grown and sold, where it’s grown and for what price.

— Expands the list of marijuana products patients can legally buy to include transdermal skin patches and inhalers. Patients still can’t purchase marijuana cigarettes, though Halydier said those wanting to use them could still purchase raw bud product at dispensaries and roll themselves.

— Allows marijuana to be transferred between islands for testing purposes, a move essential for dispensaries located on an island with no testing lab. It could also save money, Halydier said, by consolidating all product testing to a single location.

— Allows dispensaries to stay open on Sundays.

— Allows the University of Hawaii to conduct marijuana-related testing and research.

— Establishes a “legislative oversight working group” to develop bills to continue improving the dispensary system. Members will include state lawmakers, industry advocates, a physician, patients, a caregiver, an advanced practice registered nurse and representatives from law enforcement.

read … Tax Credits for Growing Dope

State Marijuana Regulations so Complicated that Nobody Can Open on Time

Honolulu Charter: Enviros Keep Tight Grip on Land Use Laws 

SA: …The Honolulu Charter Commission, at a busy meeting Thursday, nixed a plan to give city planners more leeway in issuing zoning variances and advanced a proposal requiring all nonprofit groups to be vetted before being allowed to get taxpayer grant money.

Proposal 81 had called for changing the charter provision to allow the Department of Planning and Permitting to make it easier to get zoning variances by loosening the standard of proof to show “practical differences” rather than “unnecessary hardship.”

On Thursday the proposal failed to muster enough votes to advance. With only 10 of the 13 members present, the commission deadlocked with four voting to support the change, four voting to reject it and two abstaining.

While it is on Wednesday’s commission agenda, as well as Wednesday’s Charter Commission Style Committee agenda, it is not expected to be taken up, according to Commission Chairman David Rae.

Commission member John Waihee, a former governor and a strong proponent of Proposal 81, said there’s a remote chance it could be resurrected if one of the four voting to reject it asked for a revote. But he doesn’t expect that to happen, he said.

The failure to move out Proposal 81 was met with relief by environmentalists and other land-use watchdogs worried that the measure, initiated by the Department of Planning and Permitting, would be used to allow variances to developers of large-scale projects, thus bypassing standard land-use laws….

read … Grip

Iwilei Sweep Teaches Skills to Homeless

SA: … The smell of urine emanated from the sidewalks of Iwilei on Monday as the city’s homeless enforcement team returned to once again break down makeshift shelters built out of cardboard, tarps and wooden pallets — one of hundreds of sweeps that have taken place since the cleanup crew was created more than three years ago.

Monday through Friday the so-called SPO/SNO Enforcement Team discards — and stores — tons of personal belongings from Oahu’s homeless encampments at a cost to the city of about $15,000 a week….

“In two months we’ve been swept five times,” Manuluata said. “I’m not used to this. It’s hard. We have nowhere to go.” (Except a shelter….)

The SPO/SNO Enforcement Team represents what Mayor Kirk Caldwell calls “compassionate enforcement” to encourage homeless people such as Manuluata to give up life on the street and instead move into a shelter or the city’s nascent Hale Mauliola community on Sand Island.

Bryanna Tunai, 21, sat in a beach chair outside her structure eating a cookie as the enforcement team’s dump truck noisily crushed pallets, plywood and the remains of someone else’s encampment.

“We have rights,” Tunai said (eating a cookie). 

Tunai is a veteran of the street who, like untold others, has grown both accustomed to — and weary of — the incessant sweeps that some say merely push homeless populations into neighboring communities.

“I’ve been out here since I was 16,” Tunai said. “The sweeps don’t faze me. We go back and forth between here and Aala Park.” ….

In addition to harassment from the homeless people they remove, the crews are always on the lookout for hypodermic needles and “toilet buckets” filled with human urine and feces.

“When they leave, they leave their trash for us to pick up,” Sasamura said. “As a result of the sweeps, they’ve added mobility to their list of skills. Some of them scale down on the items they keep with them, and others find wheeled objects to help them transfer.” ….

“They need to focus on picking up the carts, otherwise the homeless just rebuild again,” Richardson said….

WHT: Pahoa man charged with second alleged assault on Homeless

read … Repossess Your Carts!

Ing Makes Fool of Himself, Forced to Apologize

MN: …When asked how he would work with his opponent's support base, which includes endorsements from more than a half-dozen unions, should he win the Democratic primary, Ing answered that he would have "no choice because they're the folks that run the show in politics throughout the state.

"They're the largest campaign contributors," he said, as some booed. "It's true."

Ing apologized later, saying he misunderstood the question….

The winner of the primary on Aug. 13 will face Republican Daniel Pekus in the general election.

The forum was sponsored by the Maui Young Democrats….

Flashback: Legislative Candidate Mark Ing: Bin Laden Was “Leading a Movement Against the American Crusade”

read … Airhead Ing

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