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Tuesday, July 19, 2016
July 19, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:36 PM :: 4502 Views

Keli’i Akina and Mililani Trask Team-up to Reform OHA

EPA Imposes $425M in Costs on Tesoro, Parr Refineries

VIDEO: Linda Lingle Addresses GOP Convention

2016 Candidate Info Available on League of Women Voters Website

Hawaiian Electric Will Move Forward as an Independent Company

Papahānaumokuākea Expansion Public Meetings

Maui Hospital Bill: Legislators ‘Look Foolish Negotiating for Unions’

HM: …Lawmakers called a special session to consider overriding that veto and had hoped to have agreement on a bill it planned to introduce it on Monday.

The workers could transition with a severance package of 4 percent a year, for up to 10 years. Or stay on under an unusual lease back arrangement with Kaiser.

"The workers could stay as government employees but Kaiser would lease them from the state and pay for their base salaries through the end of the collective bargaining agreement," said House Majority leader Scott Saiki.

But lawmakers couldn't get consensus.  They have given themselves until Wednesday to craft something that could be in place for a Friday vote.

A key sticking point for the state is a settlement with the United Public Workers Union.

"If a UPW settlement gives certain kinds of benefits that isn't offered to HGEA, than we have a problem," said Saiki….

Some say the special session makes lawmakers look foolish with nothing to vote on yet, and they say they are being put in the awkward spot of negotiating for the unions.

"Certainly all of us want to help the workers on Maui, but the privatization is a separate issue and what this special session has done is put the legislature in a position of negotiating and we are being held hostage," said Sen. Sam Slom.

"To some extent, them extending puts more pressure on us on both sides of the negotiation to get a settlement as soon as possible, said Ige.

Lawmakers said the proposed amendments to the bill would not include any provision for early retirement. That should resolve a threat to the tax status of the Employees Retirement System.

read … Friday July 22

The transfer of the hospitals would be the largest privatization project in state history

SA: …Gov. David Ige spent much of the past weekend negotiating with the union in an effort to settle the lawsuit, but will still need lawmakers to appropriate money to fund any agreement that is reached.

“This is a complex transaction,” Ige told reporters Monday. “This is probably the most complex transaction in the history of the state. This is the first time we’ve done it, it impacts about 1,500 employees, and so we are working through all of those details trying to ensure that we can move forward.” ….

House Majority Leader Scott Saiki (D, Downtown- Kakaako-McCully) met with reporters Monday to describe the latest proposed draft of SB 2077, which would offer two options to the public workers. One option would allow workers to remain as state employees until June 30, 2017, and then be “leased back” to Kaiser and continue to staff the hospitals.

The other option would provide severance payments of up to 4 percent of the annual salaries of hospital workers up to a maximum of 10 years to encourage them to leave their state jobs before 2017. Lawmakers tentatively plan to set aside $25 million to fund the package, but Saiki said there is no retirement bonus in the bill’s latest draft.

He said the public worker unions have not yet agreed to the proposal.

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim told her colleagues that the Senate should adjourn and wait for the governor to call them back into session when a final agreement is reached with the unions. In the meantime, she said, the special session is wasting taxpayer money.

“These are costs that we are putting on the backs of taxpayers, and we have no clue, no clue as to what it is we need to do at this point and it is making us look ridiculous,” said Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Moanalua- Halawa)….

read … Negotiating

Caldwell: I Want Another $1.5B of Your Money

SA: …“We should have enough money to get to Middle Street,” Caldwell said. “We don’t have the money to get the rest of the way and we need to find that money.”

Caldwell said about $1.5 billion extra will be needed to build the route to Ala Moana.

“You ask what has changed. What has changed is we need more money.” …

Honolulu’s agonizing homeless crisis. The solution, said candidate Djou, is more housing, because by building more houses, supply will start to match demand and soaring real estate prices may level off.

Djou says Honolulu’s urban core needs redevelopment. McCully and Moiliili’s three-story walkups are not efficient and should be replaced with high-rises.

“I feel we need to add 3,000 housing units every year. Either let the affordable housing crisis get out of whack or you got to go up. You have to accept more development in the urban core,” said Djou, adding that he understands that development only comes after the city has put in bigger sewers, roads and sidewalks.

“As a general statement, if I were elected mayor, I would be more receptive to variances with infill in the urban core,” Djou said….

read … Tax Hike

Poll: Native Hawaiians Support Telescope

SA: On one of the state’s hottest topics for more than a year, 76 percent of Oahu residents responded that they support moving ahead with construction of the TMT on Mauna Kea, while 17 percent are opposed to advancing the project, and 8 percent either didn’t know or declined to answer the question. The margin of error is 4.9 percent.

Even most of Oahu’s Native Hawaiians are backing the TMT, with 57 percent supporting construction and 40 percent opposing while 4 percent didn’t know or declined to answer. The margin of error is 12.9 percent.

In addition, 57 percent of Oahu voters said there would be a negative effect on Hawaii’s business reputation if the next-generation telescope were not built. Of those, 26 percent went a step further and indicated that failure to build would negatively affect Hawaii’s business reputation strongly….

As for Native Hawaiians, 57 percent said not building the TMT would have a negative effect on the state’s business reputation, while 15 percent said it would have a positive effect and 38 percent said there would be no effect….

read … Telescope

GEMS a drain on ratepayers as well as taxpayers

SA: …GEMS was set up by Richard Lim when he was director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. After Ige appointed a new director in December 2014, Lim became interim director of the GEMS program between December 2014 to February 2015 at a salary of $9,583 a month.

Among the startup costs for GEMS, Hawaii residents have paid $1.22 million to Goldman Sachs &Co. and Citigroup Global Markets Inc. for underwriting the bonds; spent $1.7 million on attorneys, accountants and rating agencies; spent another $761,649 to California consultant Renew Financial; and covered about $188,000 in salaries to the executive directors overseeing the program.

The program so far has been a drain on ratepayers as well as taxpayers. Young earns $11,500 per month, and a staff of five full-time employees and one part-time employee collectively earn $414,000 a year.

Some have suggested the state might do better by just paying off the bond and closing up shop. However, there is no mechanism to “prepay” by calling back the bonds and repaying the bondholders.

Further, ratepayers would still continue to pay the $1.13 “Green Infrastructure Fee” on their monthly electricity bill to pay back the bonds. As of July 1, ratepayers have paid about $15 million in principal on the bonds and $6.39 million in interest, which is no small sum….

read … Prepay

Hawaii Poll: Nearly Half of Voters Want HPD Chief to Resign

HNN: 48% of likely voters said they had an 'unfavorable' opinion of Kealoha.  That's up 18% since the beginning of last year. The amount of people who give him a 'favorable' rating has also dropped to 28%, down 7% from last year.

48% of those polled also say Kealoha should not remain chief.

read … Chief Losing

HPA Gives Lifelong Criminal Early Release due to Overcrowding

KGI: The chair of the Kauai police commission is calling out the Hawaii Paroling Authority by saying a recent decision to grant parole to an inmate was based “on overcrowding in the prison.” He also said the parolee would likely reoffend.

Kauai Police Commissioner Charlie Iona in an email questioned the parolee’s release back into the community by stating that the parolee, Jesse Olanolan, “had really (placed) a psychological scare on the community as a whole.”

In 2013, Olanolan was sentenced to a five-year-prison term on two cases after having his probation revoked when he was sentenced in 2004. In that case, he was convicted by a jury on two counts of intimidating a witness, according to reports.

Olanolan had amassed a number of violations on his probation by 2013 and an extensive criminal history, so many that the prosecutor requested consecutive terms, according to reports.

His terms ran concurrent and by April, the HPA had granted him parole….

given Olanolan’s “record of a life of crime,” the decision to grant him parole is a “hard argument to sell to the average citizen.”

“You or I don’t have a crystal ball, but if I was a betting man, I can bet you this parolee will commit his crimes again,” Iona said. “That is only way of life he has been accustomed to. And as far as the police department. The resources are limited.”…

The HPA has 47 parolees on Kauai, Johnson said….

read … Will be Back Soon

Hawaii's educators fed up with slow progress to cool classrooms

HNN: Teacher Jennifer Pemintel dreads the start of the school year. She anticipates weeks of suffocating temperatures in a classroom with no
air conditioning.

"I myself personally moved to a different room because I was told that we would get air conditioning throughout the summer. Unfortunately, that's not what happened," she said….

Pimentel's been teaching at Ewa Beach for eight years. Last year she suffered from heat exhaustion.

She's fed up with delays.

"The humidity is going to go up. The heat index is going to go through the roof.  We're going to just have to tolerate it and suffer through it. I don't think that's adequate. That should never be an answer when it comes to education," she said.

On Friday the bidding process opens again….

read … Fed Up

First in History: Hawaii DoE Adopts a Curriculum

WHT: Starting this fall, Hawaii’s public elementary school students will learn reading, writing and language skills under the same curriculum.

The state Department of Education is implementing statewide McGraw-Hill Reading Wonders, a kindergarten to sixth-grade reading program. Reading Wonders marks the “first exclusive adoption of a single program” in Hawaii history, according to McGraw Hill, a New York City-based, education publishing company.

read … Historic First

NextEra Rejection Places LNG Project in Limbo

Ige Claims Others Wait to Buy Hawaiian Electric

Kauai Enviros Really Thrilled About Letting Enemy Subs Sneak up on Navy Ships

KGI: Friday’s 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejection of sonar rules have Kauai biologists and conservationists shouting victory, but they’re reserving absolute celebration until the matter is put to rest.

“This is one step in correcting the soundscape pollution and we can go forward now to more and more understand the importance of the pristine ocean,” said Kapaa marine biologist Katherine Muzik.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a 2012 lower court decision upholding approval for the Navy to use low-frequency sonar for training, testing and routine operations.

The five-year approval covered peacetime operations in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.

The appellate panel sent the matter back to the lower court for further proceedings, and Muzik said she’s hopeful it will be the momentum toward ending sonar use….

read … Disarm America

UH recommends raising its tuition 2%

SA: Under the proposal, resident tuition for full-time undergraduate students would increase by $216 to top $11,000 for the first time. Undergraduate students at the Manoa campus make up nearly three-fourths of the student body. Proposed annual increases across the 10-campus system range from 0 to 2 percent.

The revenue generated from the increases would go toward modernizing campus facilities golden parachutes….

Big Q: Should the University of Hawaii at Manoa increase resident full-time undergraduate tuition to help pay for modernizing the campus?

SA: Decision on next UHM chancellor will impact UH athletics

read … To Pay for More Administrators

Hawaii County Council Considers $39M Tax Hike on Agricultural Properties

WHT: …Property tax breaks for farmers and ranchers will cost Hawaii County $39.6 million in lost revenue this year, slightly less than 10 percent of the county’s $463 million annual operating budget.

The County Council Finance Committee on Monday dug into the issue of the county’s agricultural programs, trying to balance a desire to encourage agriculture with the need for more tax revenue. The committee postponed two bills for further discussion.

“It shouldn’t be just what your zoning is, it’s if you’re using it,” said Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, sponsor of one of the bills under consideration. “If you give an exemption for one group, then everyone else is paying for it.”

Wille’s Bill 218 seeks to phase out one of the agricultural programs — the so-called “nondedicated” program — in an effort to reduce loopholes that allow some to claim the deduction without doing any actual farming. She wants to replace the one-year nondedicated program with a longer term dedication.

With 10,765 parcels in the program, there simply isn’t enough staff to inspect the properties annually, said Real Property Tax Administrator Stan Sitko.

“They’re inspected when somebody applies for the program, and then when somebody complains,” Sitko said.

Puna Councilman Greggor Ilagan has sponsored a competing measure, Bill 219, that would leave the nondedicated program in place, but create stronger enforcement to reduce abuse….

read … Tax Hike

HMSA Insurance Rate Hikes Average 11.1%

SA: …In addition to changes in drug copays, the state’s largest health insurer, with 720,000 members, imposed an average 11.1 percent rate hike for large employers this year and raised rates 8.1 percent for small businesses — driven in part by a spike in drug prices.

The out-of-pocket costs for drugs under HMSA’s most prevalent health plan — which most of its members are enrolled in — have jumped in recent years by as much as $100 per prescription for certain specialty drugs, by $10 for brand-name pharmaceuticals and by $2 for generic medicines, according to data from Mercer, a global benefit consulting firm that serves more than 200 Hawaii employers. HMSA declined to confirm those numbers.

“Last year, HMSA employer groups spent 17.4 percent more on prescription drugs to manage chronic conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and asthma,” said Elisa Yadao, HMSA senior vice president of consumer experience, in an email….

KITV: In California, Obamacare premiums to jump 13.2%

read … Copays

GOP Convention Coverage

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