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Monday, January 30, 2023
January 30, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:06 PM :: 2395 Views

Are Zoning Laws the Cause of Hawaii's Housing Crisis?

Hold off on Maui County executive pay raises?

High cost of living drives family, friends out of Hawaii

Hawaii may become the first U.S. state with climate change warnings on all gas pumps

SB19: Allow Dead People to Vote 

“What we have had here is quite a bit of corruption”

SM: … Right now, there are 22 states where Republicans have a trifecta. Democrats have a trifecta in 17 states.

In fact, there are only 11 states where a divided state government still exists. (Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin)

More trifectas exist now than at any time in the last 30 years, according to the nonpartisan website Ballotpedia….

…“What’s driving this is the increasing polarization of the country,” professor Colin Moore at the University of Hawaii explains.

Moore studies trifectas and has seen firsthand the benefits – as well as the downsides – of one-party rule.

While a trifecta may mean more laws get passed in more states, Moore says it can also lead to voter apathy over time and corruption. He says Hawaii has dealt with that firsthand.

Right now, there are only eight Republicans in the Hawaii legislature compared to 68 Democrats.

“Democrats have pretty much run Hawaii since statehood,” Moore said. “What we have had here is quite a bit of corruption,” Moore said.

“We have one of the lowest voter turnouts in the nation," Moore said….

read … Washington may be divided, but one-party rule is common in most states

Bills seek GET exemptions: Some focus on medical services in an effort to ease physician shortage

HTH: … The proposed exemptions in the bills are for food, medicine, maintenance, farming, housing, hygiene products and other goods and services, but many of the proposed measures focus on an exemption for medical services.

“The GET on medical services has undoubtedly contributed to the state’s overall physician shortage, fostering an unviable business environment for smaller practices with narrow margins,” said Sen. Dru Mamo Kanuha of Kailua-Kona, who introduced Senate Bill 761, which would exempt all medical services by health care providers.

The federal government has designated Hawaii County a health professional shortage area, with the Big Island having the third worst primary care provider shortage out of 3,000 counties in the U.S.

“Recent studies have shown that a GET exemption for the for-profit medical sector’s approximately 38,000 full-time workers would translate to about $5,725 in savings per year, per worker,” Kanuha said, noting the benefits could increase incentives for physicians to practice in Hawaii.

“I am confident that the influx of health care providers and staff to the state will generate sufficient economic activity to offset any loss in GET collections,” he said….

Physicians and providers who see Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE patients are subject to the GET, with Hawaii being the only state in the nation to tax these patients, which make up roughly 50% of all patients in the state.

“Providers oftentimes pass on the GET for services rendered to the patient in order to maintain profit,” said Kanuha, who also is co-introducer of Senate Bill 1128, which would exempt physicians and advanced practice registered nurses acting as primary care providers. “An exemption as prescribed by SB 1128 would translate to big savings for patients, as well.”

With hospitals and subsidized nonprofit medical clinics exempt from the GET, private practice providers bear the brunt of the tax, resulting in decisions by physicians to retire, close or move elsewhere. In 2020, 110 doctors retired in Hawaii County, 139 moved, and another 120 opted to work shorter hours.

“The reality is, if something is not done, and done rapidly, you are not going to have any physicians left in the community other than the ones that work for the hospitals,” said Dr. Fred Nitta of the Hawaii County Medical Society. “It used to be around 90% of the physicians were in private practice, now my guess, as far as this side of the island, it’s 10% or maybe less.”

SB 1128 also notes if the GET were imposed on hospitals, it would “result in nearly all hospitals having negative margins, essentially taxing the institutions out of business and significantly impairing patient access to health care.”…

read … Bills seek GET exemptions: Some focus on medical services in an effort to ease physician shortage

Bills would expand fees to access Hawaii state parks, trails

SA: … Most of the eight House and Senate proposals would charge tourists over the age of 15 to buy an annual “license” to use the state’s natural resources….

The bills introduced this session in the House and Senate take different approaches to expanding the practice of “green fees,” “environmental protection fees” or “impact fees.”

Several require the purchase of a one-year license for tourists over age 15 who want to use “a state park, beach, state-owned forest, hiking trail on state-owned land, or other state-owned natural area.”

And several call for the creation of unpaid oversight commissions whose responsibilities include issuing grants to nonprofit groups and other organizations dedicated to protecting Hawaii’s environment or fighting climate change.

>> House Bill 1162 has similar provisions to other bills, including penalties and the creation of an oversight commission. But HB 1162 would lower the age limit fee requirement to 15-year-old visitors, who would have to purchase an annual $50 “environmental license.”

>> HB 1051 and its companion, Senate Bill 1349, also would require tourists as young as 15 to pay $50 for a one-year “license” online or through a mobile app. Visitors who fail to buy a license would face unspecified financial penalties, which would not be enforced for the first five years after either bill becomes law.

The visitor fees would go into a new “Visitor green fee special fund.”

Like other bills, HB 1051 and SB 1349 also would create an unpaid “environmental legacy commission” that could disperse grants — as long as the grants do not add up to more than 50% of annual fee collections.

Both bills propose starting up the commission with $3 million out of the state’s general fund.

>> SB 658 would charge tourists over the age of 15 $50 for a one-year license and calls for the creation of “a visitor green fee special fund, into which shall be deposited fees, penalties, appropriations, and gifts and donations for the program,” along with an environmental legacy commission that also could award grants.

It also calls for unspecified financial penalties for violations, which also would not go into effect for the first five years.

>> SB 304 would charge tourists over age 15 $50 for an annual “environmental license” that could be purchased online, via an app or through retailers and nonprofit groups.

The bill also allows for unspecified financial penalties, which also would not be imposed until five years after the new fees go into effect.

A proposed “Environmental Legacy Commission” also would be able to distribute grants out of the fund.

>> SB 636 also proposes a visitor fee of $50 for a one-year license that the bill says could generate up to $400 million annually “to leave future generations with a healthy and safe environment.”

The fees would be deposited into a “Hawaii environmental legacy special fund.”

SB 636 also calls for the creation of an oversight commission that also would be empowered to issue grants. But a higher minimum of 50% of the revenue must be dispersed.

>> HB 442 also would require the purchase of a license for any visitor over the age of 15 to be deposited into a new “visitor green fee special fund.”

Anyone caught without the proposed license would face unspecified financial penalties….

REALITY: Crandall_v._Nevada

read … Bills would expand fees to access Hawaii state parks, trails

DLNR Nominee Dawn Chang Faces Tough Questions About Her Past Work

CB: … A groundswell of opposition is growing among local conservationists and some prominent Native Hawaiians who want to see Gov. Josh Green withdraw Dawn Chang, a former deputy state attorney general and private consultant, as his nominee to lead the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Chang’s history working on behalf of some of the state’s most powerful developers and her record on Hawaii’s unique burial site matters, including a saga in which crews unearthed hundreds of remains at Kawaiahao Church for a facility that ultimately was never built, should disqualify her from overseeing DLNR, they say. 

As of Friday, more than 800 people had signed an online petition started by Hui Iwi Kuamo‘o, a grassroots group that aims to protect ancestral Hawaiian burial sites, calling for Chang to leave. …

Background: Sierra Club: We Will Destroy Dawn Chang  just as we destroyed Carlton Ching

read … DLNR Nominee Dawn Chang Faces Tough Questions About Her Past Work

Raising Taxi Rates Helps, But Rate Deregulation Is What’s Needed

CB: … On Jan. 22, Honolulu’s taxi rates rose for the first time since 2013….

policymakers outside Hawaii are beginning to take a new approach. They are aiming to achieve regulatory parity between TNCs and taxis by deregulating taxi rate controls….

I encourage the mayor and Honolulu City Council to look to New Zealand and Arizona, where deregulation has ushered in a new era of successful, high quality private transportation services….

We are asking the mayor and city council to repeal the price fixing provisions in the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu (ROH) 12-1.10.

The regulatory process, as it stands, has left the taxi industry in crisis:

• 75% of taxi drivers have left the business.
• A taxi fleet that numbered about 2,500 in 2015 has been reduced to just a few hundred today….

Related: Uber Caldwell: Level the Playing Field for Everybody Except HandiVan

read … Raising Taxi Rates Helps, But Rate Deregulation Is What’s Needed

A State Abortion Coordinator? Mrs Kaniela Ing wants to Model Reproductive Rights on State’s Wildly Successful Homelessness Initiative

CB: … Hawaii Abortion Collective, an advocacy group formed in the weeks after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, has compiled a guide to abortion resources, which are not always transparent. 

“Even as a health care provider it’s been challenging for me to find out exactly what services are offered by our biggest medical providers,” said Sharon Offley, an advanced practice registered nurse and midwife at Hua Moon Women’s Center on Kauai. 

“For some people there is a stigma around abortion that perpetuates some of this,” she said. “But I feel like pregnant people do deserve transparency in how they can access services.”

Beyond a lack of transparency, Hawaii Abortion Collective has identified dozens of other threats to abortion access in the islands, including deficits in statewide abortion infrastructure, coverage restrictions for people with federal insurance, moral or religious stigma, lack of coordination among providers and financial and geographical constraints. 

“That is a long list and if we’re going to tackle it at the Legislature year by year, even if we have a victory every year that could take 40 years,” Jabola-Carolus (aka Mrs Kaniela Ing) said. 

A more effective way forward, Jabola-Carolus said, is laid out in proposed legislation filed last week that would establish and fund a state reproductive health care coordinator to tackle barriers to abortion access. The coordinator would also develop abortion training and continuing education programs for qualified medical professionals and establish neighbor island clinics to bolster abortion access in rural areas.

“Think of it as the statewide homeless coordinator but apply it to reproductive health care,” Jabola-Carolus said. …

(IQ Test: Are you laughing?)

(Tip for Pro-Lifers: Support this. It will destroy abortion.)

SA Editorial: Protect access, right to abortion

read … A State Abortion Coordinator? Hawaii Lawmakers Consider Overcoming Barriers To Access

Lawmakers considering $250,000 settlement in case stemming from sexual assaults at Kona school

HTH: …The civil action, filed in March 2021 in Third Circuit Court and later petitioned to U.S. District Court, alleged that between November 2018 and Feb. 26, 2019, a male student at Konawaena High School repeatedly sexually assaulted, sexually abused, harassed and/or bullied a female minor who attended Konawaena Middle School on the high school premises.

The suit further claimed the defendants — the state Department of Education, Board of Education, now-retired Konawaena High School Principal Shawn Suzuki and other not-yet-named parties — were made aware of at least one temporary restraining order having been filed against the male student prior to November 2018 that alleged the same misconduct as the victim in the 2021 lawsuit.

Despite the knowledge, the defendants did not take action to protect students from the male student, according to the lawsuit. As a result the minor victim “was assaulted on repeated occasions in the ‘E’ building of KHS,” the lawsuit’s complaint reads….

Though the male accused of the sex crimes is not named in the lawsuit, the minor’s guardian confirmed to West Hawaii Today that he is Justin Mariano, who was indicted in 2019 for sexual assault in three separate criminal cases, including one involving the victim in the civil suit that lawmakers are considering appropriating funds to settle.

Mariano this fall was found fit to stand trial in all three cases after spending over two years at the Hawaii State Hospital after a Kona Circuit Court judge found him unfit, as well as a danger to the community on Feb. 28, 2020. Three trial dates remain set: March 7, March 28 and May 16, each victim having their own trial.

Bail remains at $20,000, which had been posted upon Mariano’s arrest, with release to house arrest with conditions including electronic monitoring. Court records indicate Mariano was aware of the victims’ mental capacities. If convicted, Mariano could face up to 20 years incarceration for each count of first-degree sexual assault, 10 years for each count of second-degree sexual assault and five years for third-degree sexual assault….

read … Lawmakers considering $250,000 settlement in case stemming from sexual assaults at Kona school

Hu Honua case heads to high court again

SA: … The hearing will be held at 5 p.m. at the University of Hawaii at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law in classrooms 2 and 3. It also will be livestreamed….

The seemingly never-­ending saga has been going on with the PUC for the past 15 years, including more than five years with the high court. The PUC issued a 2-1 majority decision on May 23 dealing another setback to Hu Honua, which is also referred to by its legal name of Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC.

But Honua Ola is hoping for a more amenable PUC this time around if the Hawaii Supreme Court remands the case once again to the state agency….

Since the 2-1 decision was handed down against Honua Ola on May 23, former PUC Chair Jay Griffin and Commissioner Jennifer Potter both have stepped down. Commissioner Leo Asuncion, who cast the dissenting vote in favor of Honua’s power purchase agreement with Hawaii Electric Light Co. in the May 23 order, is now the PUC chair, with Naomi Kuwaye and Colin Yost having been appointed as commissioners….

read … Big Island energy plant case heads to high court again

Peculiar: Tulsi Gabbard on Shortlist for Trump VP

NW: … Among Trump allies and political insiders, a supposed shortlist of candidates has started to solidify, all of them being women: the controversial and outspoken Greene of Georgia; Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the current head of the House Republican Conference; South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem; former news anchor and failed 2022 Arizona gubernatorial candidate, Kari Lake; and, most peculiarly, former Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a one-time Hawaii Democrat who left the party in October after years of criticism about her right-wing views….

read … Marjorie Taylor Greene Won't Be Trump VP for Shallow Reason: Ex-Pence Aide

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