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Thursday, March 23, 2017
March 23, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:47 PM :: 3982 Views

Rep Andria Tupola to Run for Republican Party Chair?

Do Muslims Have a Property Interest in US Visas?

DLNR Statewide Hunting Survey

Caldwell’s Chief of Staff Quits

Victory! Lawmakers table Assisted Suicide bill following intense debate

HNN: …On Thursday, lawmakers said the bill is poorly written and would need considerable changes.

The House Health Committee deferred the bill, essentially killing it.

The issue has proven complicated and polarizing in the islands.

Earlier this month, Senate Bill 1129 passed with overwhelming support in the Senate in a 22-to-3 vote, after hours of passionate testimony from lawmakers on both sides. …

opponents of physician-assisted suicide say it could lower quality of care and lead to elder abuse. Some doctors have argued it violates their Hippocratic oath, and many believe it has the real potential to harm vulnerable individuals. …

"We are definitely not ready to jump ahead to putting our most vulnerable at risk for assisted suicide," Joy Yadao said.... 

Reality: Meet the Insurance Executive Behind Assisted Suicide in Hawaii

read … Death to Suicide

SB1183: Rail Tax Hike, Skim is Back --for DOTAX and HIDOT

SA: A rail-tax extension is back in play at the state Capitol — but the proposal will likely face more tough scrutiny and hurdles in the weeks ahead.

On Wednesday, state lawmakers on the House’s Transportation Committee amended Senate Bill 1183 — the measure recently sent to them to address Oahu’s troubled rail project — so that it once more extends the island’s general excise tax surcharge past 2027.

This latest version doesn’t specify how long that extension would be….

The committee also re-inserted a proposal that proved controversial earlier in the legislative session. The measure once again calls for a portion of the rail surcharge to fund state highway projects. The details of how that revenue-sharing would work under the bill’s latest version still need to be worked out, according to a House spokeswoman.

The latest version also leaves the state’s administration fee for collecting the tax, commonly known as “the skim,” to be decided later.

Rep. Sean Quinlan (D, Waialua-Kahuku-Waiahole), the committee’s vice-chairman, was the lone dissenting vote Wednesday….

The real negotiations on what to do about rail aren’t expected to take place until later during the session’s conference committees, when House and Senate leaders meet to hash out differences on bills.

The Transportation Committee also deferred a resolution Wednesday that would request the state auditor to compare the costs of building the last stretch of rail at street level versus above ground.

read … Skim is Back 

HB1580 Hawaii Legislators Still Working on Plan to Ban Gasoline, Diesel Vehicles

CB: House Bill 1580, which cleared the House last week and is moving forward in the Senate, would lay out plans for clean ground transportation, with the ultimate goal of avoiding any fossil fuels.

Lawmakers are also considering legislation to address deficiencies in the state’s plans for fuel shortages and other energy emergencies.

Senate Bill 909 would provide policy guidance on preparing for, responding to, recovering from and mitigating any actual or potential energy supply disruption or shortage to preserve the state’s energy security and to ensure that fuel products and energy resources are made available to emergency services and the public in an orderly, efficient and safe manner.

read … Ban Gasoline and Diesel Vehicles

HB552: Obamacare Mandate Tax for Hawaii

SA: Hawaii lawmakers advanced a bill on Wednesday that would ensure benefits under former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act are preserved under state law in the event Republicans in Washington, D.C., repeal the law they have spent seven years fighting.

The vote in favor of House Bill 552 by the state Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee comes as the U.S. House of Representatives prepares for a floor vote today….

The bill also would retain some form of the health insurance mandate that requires taxpayers to have health insurance throughout the year or pay a penalty.

KITV: AARP Tries to Scare Seniors

read … Tax Hike

Honolulu Council ‘Rats Approve Garbage Tax, Bus Fare Hikes

KITV: The council voted in favor of increasing bus prices beginning January of next year.  Single fares would jump 25 cents to $2.75.  A day pass would increase 50 cents, and a monthly pass would jump from $60 to $70.

Also beginning next year, Oahu residents could pay for trash collection.  Wednesday, the council approved a measure charging people $10 a month for curb-side pick-up.

McCully resident Susan Harrison-Washington is worried some may decide the trash pick-up fee is too expensive.

“If people let their trash sit because they can’t afford to have it taken away, then that becomes a health issue.  We don’t want to have any kind of disease or Vermin or any of that kind of thing hanging around in the neighborhood.” Said Harrison-Washington.

(Yes.  Lets keep the vermin at Honolulu Hale where they belong.)

The bills on the bus fare and garbage fee now go to a City Council Committee for consideration. They need to be voted on two more times by the full council before becoming law.

SA: Mayor’s budget plan, tax and fee hikes get initial OK by Council

read … Garbage Tax

Bill 7 A Massive Property Tax Hike

SA: …Islandwide, there are some 250,000 residential properties, with about 8,000 fitting into the Residential A classification. Since the law took effect in 2014, those property owners have been paying at a rate of $6 per $1,000 of assessed value, generating about $39 million a year. The standard residential class tax rate has stayed put at $3.50 per $1,000.

Through the relief measure, Residential A properties would be taxed at $4.50 per $1,000 for the first $1 million and double that rate — $9 per $1,000 — for any value above the million-dollar mark. For example, the owner of a property assessed at $1.4 million, would pay $4,500 on the first $1 million and $3,600 for the $400,000 above that, for a total of $8,100. That owner now pays $8,400….

read … Soon Everybody’s House Will be Assessed at $1.5M or Higher.  Just Wait.

Lawmakers consider charging prepaid wireless users a Million Dollar fee

HNN: …A bill in the state Legislature would charge a fee of 1.2 percent on pre-paid wireless plans or cards, with the revenue going into the Enhanced 911 Fund. If you're a cell phone user under contract, you've already been paying 66 cents a month for the service.

"They have been subsidizing the pre-paids, who have not been paying anything," said Courtney Tagupa, executive director of the Enhanced 911 Board, which oversees the fund.

Tagupa said the proposed fee would bring in another $1 million a year to pay for emergency call centers.

Small business advocates are opposed, saying it will cost mom-and-pop businesses more to account for the new fee. They also claim it will hit lower-income consumers, claiming they'll pay a higher fee than they would with a contract plan.

"It's for pre-paid phone services, which is basically used for those who have bad credit, or who are on a fixed income, like the elderly," said Tina Yamaki, President of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii. She said in 2016, the fund had $15 million in the bank.

"They do have money that is unencumbered, and yet they're still going after these smaller businesses," she said. "That's really going to have a bad impact on them."….

read … Another Tax Hike

City Employees Use Each Others Raises as Excuse for More Raises

KHON: Currently, assistant chiefs make more money than deputy chiefs, even though they’re lower in rank, and the department wants to change that.

It’s asking the city’s salary commission to bump up the pay for deputies and the fire chief to establish a 5-percent pay gap between the positions, so deputies would get paid about $10,000 more and the fire chief would get paid $11,000 more….

In 2015, the salary commission approved pay raises for department heads and deputies to take care of this imbalance, which it calls salary inversion. Even with directors and deputies getting a roughly 5-percent pay raise last fiscal year, it’s still an issue.

As for HFD’s request, we’ll follow up to see if that gets approved.

The Honolulu Police Department had that issue in the past in which assistant chiefs made more than deputy chiefs, but that’s no longer the case. According to the city, the highest paid civil service subordinate makes $170,000.

read … Shell Game

Reduced Budget Growth hits construction, schools

SA: …Gov. David Ige has proposed a package of spending cuts for the next two years that includes slashing the state construction budget financed with general obligation bonds to $1 billion from $1.5 billion during the next two years.

That reduction in construction spending would save the state nearly $20 million in borrowing costs during the two years beginning July 1, according to a message Ige sent to lawmakers Monday. Lawmakers have not yet been provided with a list of which state construction projects the administration proposes to cut.

House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke said the House has proposed its own revisions in the Ige budget that also incorporated cuts in the two-year construction budget from the $1.5 billion originally proposed by Ige to about $1.1 billion.

The state Department of Budget and Finance is also recommending wiping out over the next two years $20 million that was supposed to fund the governor’s grant program to encourage innovation in public schools.

The administration is also suggesting lawmakers trim another $20 million from the budget over the next two years that had been earmarked for boosting education funding by increasing the schools’ allocations based on the weighted student formula.

Ige is also proposing to pull back on his plan to fund dental benefits for adult Medicaid recipients for potential savings of about $14 million over two years, according to documents provided to lawmakers.

At the same time, the Ige administration is asking lawmakers to authorize $30.6 million in severance payments for Maui County hospital workers whose jobs will be privatized later this year.

read … Reduce Growth—Call it a Cut

Fukumoto? Some Democrats Urge Rep Marilyn Lee to Get Out of the Way

CB: …top Democrats welcomed Fukumoto’s party change.

Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui said in a statement, “It’s clear that this was a decision she did not come by lightly, and that she believes this decision is not only best for her, but also in the best interest of her constituents.”

He added, “Going forward, I believe that Representative Fukumoto will continue to ably serve her constituents and the State of Hawaii with great respect and independent thinking.”

Meantime, two state senators whose districts include the Mililani area, issued a joint statement welcoming Fukumoto and urging the Democratic Party to allow her in the tent.

“We applaud her efforts to reach out to her constituents who reside in both parts of Mililani that we represent, and understand that she wants to do whatever she can to carry out her legislative work in the best interests of our community’s residents,” said Sens. Michelle Kidani and Donovan Dela Cruz. “We agree that as a member of the majority party, Representative Fukumoto will better be able to work more effectively on a legislative agenda that meets real needs with available resources and that is supportive of Hawaii’s people.” ….

read … Will Marilyn Lee Step Aside?

Census: Oahu Loses 5,156 People in 2016

HTH: A net exodus of 5,156 people from Oahu last year brought its population down by 0.06 percent and dragged the state down to a scant 0.24 percent growth rate for the year. It’s the first year since 2007 that Oahu lost more people than it gained.

read … Losing Population

Hypocrisy: Hawaii Accepts only 127 Refugees Since 9-11 Attacks

SM: ...states that have settled fewer than 500 refugees from a single country since October 2001: Alabama (1,683 refugees total), Alaska (1,222), Arkansas (168), Delaware (165), Hawaii (127), Mississippi (110), Montana (107), West Virginia (189) and Wyoming (6)….

Read … Smithsonian Magazine

DUI Attorneys Use Prosecutor’s ‘Ghost Ticket’ Defense for Their Own Clients

CB: Several defense lawyers who specialize in drunken driving cases are hoping to use Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro’s own words against him in an attempt to beat various DUI charges that have been filed against their clients in Oahu District Court….

Questions have also been raised about whether Kaneshiro himself has been fully honest about his own investigation into HPD officers he has accused of issuing fake citations as part of a scheme to collect more overtime pay.

The prosecutor’s office has recently admitted in court records that it did not have documentation that would support all of Kaneshiro’s claims.

“In a DUI case or any other criminal case, the prosecutor’s office has a great amount of credibility and power in the courtroom,” said Kevin O’Grady, who’s one of the defense attorneys trying to wade through the morass. “When a prosecutor speaks, the judge or jury takes their word at it and their word carries great weight.”….

read … Ghosts Everywhere

Objection! 831 Exhibits Introduced in Telescope Case

SA: …Asked to respond Wednesday, university spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said UH-Hilo attorneys are merely following the process set forth by Amano, drawing attention to any exhibits that may be immaterial, duplicative, irrelevant or late.

Several petitioners filed objections to the university’s exhibits, as well, he said.

Meisenzahl said there are 831 exhibits filed in the proceeding, which is nearly four times the amount in the original 2011 contested case that was overturned by the state Supreme Court in 2015.

“The opposition’s motion is consistent with the express strategy to delay decision-making on the merits of the University of Hawaii’s application for conservation district use permit filed over six years ago,” he said….

read … Objection

Oahu's hot housing market, limited supply leading to soaring demand

HNN: …Sales of single-family home doubled in Kaneohe in February. Real estate experts say inventory in the area has dropped by 25 percent in recent weeks due to higher demand, which officials say is likely because Kaneohe neighborhoods are more affordable than other desirable Windward-side communities like Kailua.

According to the Honolulu Board of Realtors, prices are up 12 percent over this same time last year. The median price for a single-family house in Kaneohe is now a little over $847,000. Compare that to the median cost for a home in Kailua, which is more than $1 million. Officials say Kaneohe homes up for sale are typically only on the market for just 17 days.

Real estate experts say another hot neighborhood is Makiki-Moiliili, specifically for those who are interested in condos or townhouses.

Inventory in that community is dwindling as well. New listings are reportedly down by 23 percent in recent weeks, while sales are up 35 percent over this same time last year. The median price for Makiki-Moiliili condos or townhouse units has reached just over $318,000.  …

read … Supply and Demand

Veterans Choice Worth Improving

SA: …My primary heath care is through the Hawaii VA, and I have seen outside doctors both through Veterans Choice and at Tripler Army Medical Center.

There is no question that Veterans Choice has added another layer of bureaucracy and takes longer. However, the program does find good health providers and the results are positive….

I have found the Hawaii VA staff to be competent and supportive, but they have been leaderless for a year, which is another story. Why?

read … Veterans Choice

Espinda Slowing Down—Only 17 Over the Limit This Time

HNN: …A copy of the speeding ticket issued to Nolan Espinda last month shows he was traveling 52 miles per hour in a 35 miles per hour zone.

Back in July, Espinda -- who is in charge of the state's Sheriff's Department and prison system -- was ticketed for going 68 miles an hour on the Pali Highway….

read … Slowing Down

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