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Thursday, June 25, 2020
June 25, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:29 PM :: 2691 Views

HB2502: 'Gut and replace' bill would give emergency powers to health director

Will Hawaii COVID Lawsuits be Consolidated?

Constitutional Law and States of Emergency: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hawaii Fisheries Down 80%

Surprise: Public Employee Wage Hikes Total $150M

SA: … House Speaker Scott Saiki said the House and Senate have scheduled final floor votes on the public worker pay increases incorporated into Senate Bill 785 for Friday, and said Gov. David Ige’s administration should have enough money to pay the raises and still balance the budget with budget savings that lawmakers engineered in May.

State tax collections have plummeted as the pandemic shut down most of the Hawaii economy. To help offset the lost revenue lawmakers last month passed bills to defund vacant state government jobs, lapse unspent money back into the general treasury and substitute borrowed money for cash to pay for housing and other projects.

If the administration still comes up short, Saiki noted that lawmakers also authorized Ige to borrow up to $2.1 billion from the Municipal Liquidity Facility, a federal program established to make emergency loans to states and counties for up to three years to help cover their costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate President Ron Kouchi said that “the legislative action needs to be an up or down. The governor bargains, he sends the agreement over, and we need to take an action. It is a tough bill, and it is a tough time, and we’ll see what happens.”

House Minority Leader Gene Ward said his understanding was that all public worker raises would be delayed until after the pandemic has ended. Hundreds of thousands of private sector employees have lost their jobs or seen their hours cut during the COVID-19 crisis.

“This is an irresponsible thing to do on the part of the Democrats,” Ward said in a written statement. “I cannot in good conscience vote for a pay raise for anyone in the state of Hawaii while businesses are dying and people are out of work, hungry, and scared.”

Kelii Akina, president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, said that “we respect the work of our public employees, especially first responders during the present crisis, but giving raises at this time could be unsustainable.”

“State and county budgets are facing severe shortfalls, the economy has crashed, tax revenues have dried up, the state is breaching its constitutional debt limit, and hundreds of thousands of Hawaii residents have lost their jobs,” Akina said in a written statement. “Under such conditions, it only makes sense that our lawmakers live within their means and reduce or hold the line on spending.”

Kouchi said he has also been receiving “more than a few” emails from people who think it is unfair for public workers to get raises when thousands of private sector workers have suddenly found themselves jobless….

read … Laughing at Your Sacrifice

Group drops lawsuit against Gov. Ige's emergency proclamation

KITV: … A group called 'For Our Rights' dropped its lawsuit challenging Governor David Ige's Emergency Proclamation, according to the state Attorney General's (AG) Office ….

(Editor’s Note: A second suit is still active.)

read … Group drops lawsuit against Gov. Ige's emergency proclamation

Hawaii Economic Chief: Tourism Is ‘Who We Are’ And Must Be Rebuilt

CB: …Facing a foundering economy marked by a 23% unemployment rate and a looming financial cliff as federal stimulus money begins to dry up, Gov. David Ige’s administration hasn’t been able to create a short-term economic recovery plan to create jobs for the more than 140,000 Hawaii residents who are out of work.

For now, recovery depends on tourists coming back.

“That’s totally correct,” said Mike McCartney ….

“You can’t flame out an engine and rebuild another engine to replace it while the plane is flying,” he said. “You need to nurture and repair that engine first.”

Before the COVID-19 crisis Hawaii was struggling with tourism run amok: more than 10 million annual visitors, or some 250,000 per day, crowding beaches and hiking trails and spilling into residential neighborhoods staying in illegal Airbnbs.

(Translation: There are a lot of people who want tourism to fail and all the unemployed to leave Hawaii.)

McCartney echoed other policymakers saying Hawaii needs to rebuild the tourism industry in a way that creates more revenue with fewer negative side effects. But he said for now, the state must rely on the industry to start rebuilding.

(Translation: All the talk of ‘changing tourism’ is just utopian pie-in-sky crap.)

“The reality is our economy is based on visitors coming here and us being hosts,” he said. “It provides a way of life to the people of Hawaii. It’s who we are. It defines us. And it connects us to the rest of the world.”….

read … Hawaii Economic Chief: Tourism Is ‘Who We Are’ And Must Be Rebuilt

Hawaii Ready to take more COVID so Bring It

SA: … As state officials announced plans to allow in more air travelers as part of the next major step in opening Hawaii’s economy, they said the islands are well prepared to deal with the growing risk of additional COVID-19 cases and a possible second wave.

“We’re very, very well equipped,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green said. “I think we’re completely prepared. We have seen utterly low numbers. And that’s why the governor has been able to instruct all of us to begin this plan.”

The plan, announced by Gov. David Ige Wednesday at a news conference at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, would allow passengers to get tested for COVID-19 before travel as an alternative to the 14-day quarantine program.

A recent insurance industry report that analyzed the number of hospital beds and certified physicians per 1,000 people found that Hawaii was among the least-prepared states in the U.S. for a second wave of the disease.

Hawaii scored an average of 1.86 hospital beds per 1,000 people and 2.58 certified physicians per 1,000 people, making it the fifth-least prepared state for another wave of cases, according to the report published by QuoteWizard. The only states less prepared, the report said, were Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and Utah.

However, state Health Director Bruce Anderson argued Wednesday that Hawaii has plenty of health care capacity and personal protective equipment to handle new coronavirus cases.

Currently, he said, the state has only 23 hospitalized cases, including six who are in intensive care units, with only three on ventilators….

read … Officials say Hawaii is ready for more COVID-19 cases

Hawaii lawmakers advance police reform bill that’s been obstructed for years

HNN: … State Sen. Kurt Fevella was the only one on the committee to express concern that the change would hurt recruiting and embarrass those officers.

“How is this going to help us recruit and make public safety safe?” Fevella asked his fellow lawmakers.

An exchange with state Sen. Karl Rhoads followed:

“County police officers have a special exception that doesn’t even apply to ACOs (adult corrections officers) or to the sheriff’s department or anyone else who carries a gun as part of their duties. They have a special deal and the primary thing that this bill does is say we’re going to treat you like everybody else,” Rhoads said.

Fevella responded, “And so ACOs are not like law enforcement, they’re security guards. "

Rhoads said, “Well, the sheriffs are certainly law enforcement.”

The exchange ended and the vote was taken. All the conference committee members from the House and Senate voted “yes” except Fevella who voted “no.”

The bill now goes to the full Legislature….

read … Hawaii lawmakers advance police reform bill that’s been years in the making

Police Shootings Soar Under Ballard

CB: … Ballard became HPD chief in November 2017. In the two years that followed, the number of people killed by HPD surged. There were as many killings (14) in the first two years of her tenure (2018-2019) as in the previous seven years combined.

Ballard recently told the Honolulu Police Commission this surge is “high for Honolulu but in general for any other large major police department, that’s nothing.”

That’s nonsense.

(A more honest answer would be: “Under Kealoha the HPD was working with the criminals.  Now we’re not, hence the friction.”)

And then there are HPD’s facile justifications. After officer-involved deaths, Ballard and her representatives routinely claim that the use of force was justified and that police acted “in policy.” These claims typically occur so soon after an incident that there is no way HPD could have done a serious review. Ballard’s press conferences also traffic in evidence-free assertions that crime in Honolulu is rapidly rising.

That is not responsible leadership.

For years, HPD has not bothered to post its use of force reports on its PR-heavy website, and now Ballard says the reports might shrink to a single page. In reply to a press conference questioner who recently asked why the use of force policy posted at HPD’s website is heavily redacted, Ballard replied with a grand non sequitur — it is because “we have chosen to do so.”

There is also the feeble Honolulu Police Commission. When we wrote about the HPC in 2014, we observed that its main function was “to cast a halo of legitimacy over HPD.” Times have not changed.

As Loretta Sheehan and Steven Levinson lamented when they quit the Police Commission on June 1, the HPC has very limited powers to oversee HPD, and its members are passive and pusillanimous about exercising the few powers they do possess.

In January, when Sheehan was replaced as chair of the HPC, and while former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha and former prosecutor Katherine Kealoha were awaiting sentencing for some of their crimes, Sheehan’s successor, Shannon Alivado, said “I don’t want to dwell on the past,” and she encouraged her colleagues on the commission to have more “aloha” towards HPD.

When Dave Shapiro of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser wrote that police commissioners should be watchdogs, not lapdogs, Alivado lambasted him and other members of the media for “causing unnecessary angst within the community.”…

read … There's a failure of political will to hold law enforcement accountable for its performance.

Bill expands state powers on quarantine and health emergencies

KHON: … Lawmakers are laying the groundwork on vast new public controls ahead of a future health crisis under a bill that has a public hearing tomorrow morning at the capitol. HB2502 had passed several committees prior to the COVID pandemic, then lawmakers did what’s called a “gut and replace” with new language.

The proposed new version of HB2502 gives the health director — instead of just the governor — the power to declare a public health emergency. It lays out how any communicable disease can trigger future isolation and quarantine orders, including those of travelers. It establishes a $5,000 fine for health rule violations. It allows all state departments to share confidential health information with each other and with private contractors. it would make traveler screening mandatory.

A new “travelers screening special fund” would get first priority on a list of things paid for with hotel taxes and fines. It exempts from certain procurement rules all goods and services bought with the money.

The proposed bill changes the very definition of “quarantine” in state law by adding people with just the potential “risk of transmitting” a disease, whereas the current law mandates only people believed to have been exposed or known to have been infected can be quarantined. It gives the health director and the governor the power to order quarantine, whereas now the law is limited to a departmental or court order.

The bill allows an individual subject to quarantine or isolation to request a hearing to contest the order.

Orders issued by the health director can be renewed by the director or governor every 90 days.

“We understand there is significant opposition to this bill that’s been expressed by the community,” the ACLU of Hawaii told Always Investigating. “Generally speaking it’s worth noting that any government restrictions on liberty, including quarantine orders and movement restrictions, need to be based on best public health recommendations, time-limited, the least restrictive means to protect public health, and be continually re-evaluated to ensure they remain justified in light of the medical and scientific evidence and evolving conditions. Any laws that do not meet these requirements would be a cause for concern with respect to peoples’ civil liberties.”

A state Senate spokesperson told Always Investigating that the committee chair declined to comment at this time on the measure.

The hearing is Thursday, June 25, at 9:30 a.m. Read more or submit testimony at these links:

read … Bill expands state powers on quarantine and health emergencies

Ala Moana Towers Designed to Create Rail Route?

SA: … >> Since 2018, developer Brookfield Property Partners has been the owner of Ala Moana Center — and it has a strong vision for the area. In addition to its longer-term desire for 400-foot towers at the mall, in the near term, it is now advancing plans for a 595-unit rental-housing tower at Ala Moana Plaza, the Piikoi-Kona strip mall occupied by tenants such as Eggs ‘N’ Things and Nijiya Market.

>> The city wants to preserve a rail corridor from the planned Ala Moana terminus, for a future spur to the University of Hawaii-Manoa. Two earlier options are now closed due to new buildings, so Brookfield’s proposal for a rail route through its property can be seen as a community benefit partly in exchange for greater heights and densities, said Harrison Rue, the city’s TOD administrator….

(Translation: Developments blocked rail so another development would be necessary to save rail.)

read … Get public input on Ala Moana towers

Child abuse bill advances

HTH: … The state Senate Committee on Human Services on Tuesday recommended passage, with amendments, of a House measure that would require the clergy, commercial film and print image processors, and commercial computer technicians to report suspected child abuse and neglect.

House Bill 1942 was introduced by Rep. Linda Ichiyama, an Oahu Democrat. The measure notes the state’s Child Welfare Services received 3,702 reports of child abuse and that half were made by people required to report it….

read … Child abuse bill advances

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