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Tuesday, February 20, 2024
February 20, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:22 PM :: 1259 Views

Hawaiʻi’s future jobs: 70% require postsecondary education by 2031

Cockfighting fans fight Northern Mariana ban at Ninth Circuit

Tax Hike News: COVID giveaway to Public Employees plus Maui Fire Costs Could Top $1B This Year Alone

CB: … The state is racking up about $1 million per day in costs to shelter Maui fire survivors, and concerns are mounting that it may not get as much federal reimbursement as expected. That has lawmakers scrambling to determine just how much the recovery will cost.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz told his colleagues in a memo last week the state’s share of the recovery effort this year alone may amount to $600 million, which is the sum Gov. Josh Green had earmarked in his financial plan for the Maui recovery during the next four years.

Dela Cruz warned in the memo that it is unclear how much of that money will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “There may still be additional expenses that the State must pay upfront that are still being calculated,” he wrote.

House Speaker Scott Saiki agreed, and then some. “There are a lot of questions that still have not been resolved or answered. My inclination is that we will probably be looking at north of $700 million for Maui expenses this year,” he said Monday in an interview.

The state must also budget for hundreds of millions of dollars in hazard pay that is still owed to state workers from the pandemic, Saiki said, adding that the combined cost of hazard pay and the upfront wildfire recovery costs this year may top $1 billion….Lawmakers will publicly discuss Maui wildfire recovery costs at a 9:30 a.m. briefing at the Capitol on Tuesday focused on Senate Bill 3068 and Senate Bill 582. Both bills are emergency appropriation measures designed to cover near-term wildfire expenses in this fiscal year….

(IDEA: Cancel the COVID giveaway and use money for Maui instead.)

It was always understood the state would need to cover much of the cost of temporary housing for fire survivors up front, but the Green administration anticipated some 90% of that cost would be reimbursed by FEMA.

(TRANSLATION: This $600M is just this year’s tax-hike hype.  Same story different session.)

Members of the Ways and Means Committee gathered Friday with Green administration officials for a closed-door meeting at the Capitol on the fiscal implications of the Maui fire, and a lawmaker who attended the meeting said FEMA has been rejecting large numbers of claims for reimbursement.

The lawmaker, who provided details on condition of anonymity, said some senators signaled that some departments need to prepare plans to cut their budgets if the state runs out of money….

A major issue raised by Dela Cruz in his memo was the number of West Maui residents who are considered “noneligible FEMA households,” and are costing the state $1,000 per day per household….

SA: Costs of Maui fire recovery running higher for state than expected | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

read … Bad News For The Budget: Maui Fire Costs Could Top $600 Million This Year Alone

Legislature Plans ‘Fundamental Change’ for HECO:  Yes, its a Rate Hike

CB: … “We put a significant amount of work into the bill, just to understand where HECO is, where investors believe HECO is and what the future looks like,” Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole said in an interview. “Put simply, what’s being proposed is a fundamental change to the dynamic between the state and the utility. And so the question is, What type of fundamental change should be made in return?”

The fundamental change sought by HECO would allow the company to impose new fees on its 460,000 customers statewide outside the standard ratemaking process. The utility could use the fees to finance bonds at a lower interest rate than it could otherwise obtain, which could ultimately mean lower costs to customers….

HECO’s original bill generated wide-ranging support from groups as varied as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 1260, the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce and the Ulupono Initiative, which (is Pierre Omidyar)….

Gov. Josh Green, meanwhile, supported the bill’s intent but said the measure should clearly state bond proceeds would be limited to paying for “wildfire protection plan costs for planning, implementation and execution approved by the public utilities commission,” as Green has proposed in a separate measure outlining a comprehensive wildfire protection plan.

Keohokalole’s version, submitted as a Senate draft passed by the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, which he chairs, would allow the utility to use the bonds to recover costs related to the wildfires broadly.

But the utility also would have to take a number of steps in exchange.

(CLUE: All three versions involve a RATE HIKE.)

Perhaps most notably, the company would have to provide a reorganization plan that would include several conditions. HECO would have to separate its energy generation and grid functions, for instance, and provide for “a system of enhanced local governance and accountability, which may include alternate models of public ownership.”

Bond proceeds could be used to cover “prudently incurred costs that are consistent with a commission-approved plan to mitigate wildfire risk and impacts.”

Additionally, bond money could be used to settle wildfire-related liabilities, but would have to be approved by the PUC, limit burdens on customers and include “shareholder-backed offsets.”

read … Proposed HECO Bailout Bill Could Force The Utility Company To Restructure

How Green Amendment to Hawaii Constitution will make Fuel and Electricity More Expensive

RN: … Last week, the Hawaii Senate Committee on Agriculture and Environment unanimously voted to advance a bill including individual environmental rights in the state’s constitution. The proposed change, known as the Hawaii Green Amendment, seeks to ensure individuals, including future generations, the right to clean water, air, a healthful environment, climate, native ecosystems, and beaches.

If enacted, it would position Hawaii as the fourth state to guarantee these rights, joining the ranks of Pennsylvania, Montana, and New York.

“Our environment is part of who we are here in Hawaii. It nurtures every part of us–our health, the joy we feel in nature, at the beach, or hiking in the mountains. Hawaii’s environment is fundamental to a healthy economy and stable workforce,” said lead sponsor Senator Mike Gabbard(D-21). “Sadly, the Maui wildfires and Red Hill fuel leaks brought home the fact that when we damage our environment, we damage the people. Likewise, when we nurture our environment, we nurture the people.”

Nine other states have proposed legislation to let voters decide in this year’s election whether they want these Green Amendment protections included in their state constitutions. New Jersey, Hawaii, and Washington are the closest to making the change.

Montana’s environmental protections in its constitution were the springboard that allowed a group of 16 children to successfully sue the state for favoring the fossil fuel industry over their constitutionally protected rights to a clean environment….

(TRANSLATION: Fuel and electricity become more expensive.)

FTG: Hawaiʻi Senate Committee Votes to Pass a Hawaii Green Amendment; Adding Individual Environmental Rights to the State Bill of Rights – For the Generations

read … Hawaii pushes for a greener constitution – Reckon

The Plan is Working as Intended:  1,500+ families believed to have left Maui since August wildfires

HNN: … A new number to help understand the exodus from Maui. The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement says more than 1,500 families have moved off-island since the August fires. Mayor Richard Bissen says the fires displaced 5,400 families, and more than a quarter have left Maui….

CNHA says it has a data-sharing agreement with Red Cross and FEMA that cannot be disclosed, but it also has its own data.

HNN: Survey shows increasing number of Hawaii residents feel the state is moving in the wrong direction (hawaiinewsnow.com)

read … ‘We are still in a crisis’: 1,500+ families believed to have left Maui since August wildfires (hawaiinewsnow.com)

Carpenters Union Illegally Voids Maui Mayor’s Nominees for Boards and Commissions

CB: … In a meeting Friday of the Government Relations, Ethics and Transparency Committee, (Carpenters Union operative) Chair Nohelani U’u-Hodgins said Bissen missed the deadline to submit his nominations by one day.

The nominations were due by Jan. 31. The mayor’s letter was dated Jan. 31, but the clerk’s office did not ‘receive’ it until the morning of Feb. 1. Therefore, U’u-Hodgins said her committee has the purview to reopen the process and handle the matter itself.

“We’re starting from scratch,” U’u-Hodgins said at the meeting….

read …  Maui County Committee Tosses Mayor's Picks for Boards and Commissions - Honolulu Civil Beat

House marijuana debate shows softening support for legalization in Hawaii

HNN: … While a sweeping bill to legalize adult use of marijuana is moving through the state Senate, the state House is struggling to pass a bill to increase how much marijuana someone can possess without a criminal penalty.

The bill caused a revolt of usually loyal Democrats in the House last week, in a bad sign for those hoping for major marijuana reform this year….

The bill would change the law to allow users to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and face only a non-criminal violation and a $25 fine. The current law allows possession of three grams and violators face a $130 fine.

Critics of the bill say it amounts to nearly nine times more marijuana, which could facilitate low-level street dealing.

The bill passed the Judiciary Committee, but ran into serious opposition on the House floor on what should have been a slam dunk vote to simply pass it to the next committee. Among the leading critics was Kailua Rep. Scott Matayoshi.

“One ounce is a lot of marijuana,” he said. “One ounce is 50 to 60 joints.”

Rep. Lisa Kitagawa, also from Windward Oahu, was concerned about access for young people.

“I’m concerned about what we are saying to our youth,” she said. “We are looking at our vaping epidemic we can’t get that under control. By saying that up to an ounce is decriminalized, you’re ultimately saying you are not going to get in trouble other than a $25 fee.”

Most Republicans opposed the bill as well, claiming that marijuana was a gateway to hard drugs.

“It leads to many different things and there are many people dying from illegal drugs on the street,” said Rep. David Alcos, a Republican from Ewa Beach…

read … House marijuana debate shows softening support for legalization in Hawaii

Food prices increase at grocery stores and restaurants

KHON: … According to the consumer price index for Urban Honolulu, the overall cost of food and beverages went up by 4.2% compared to last year.

“A six-pack of beer was more than what I wanted to spend, it was like $20 dollars for a six-pack of beer so I bought one,” said visitor Curtis Tate.

There is a difference in cost between preparing food at home versus dining at a restaurant.

Food at home went up 1.6% from last January to this year while eating out went up 8.5%….

For businesses, operating costs are on the rise due to shipping and wholesale foods increasing by more than 13%….

increases in the minimum wage and operation costs were taken into account…

read … Food prices increase at grocery stores and restaurants (khon2.com)

After 20 Years of Violations, Administrative order between EPA, Hawaii county demands improvements to aging sewage plants

HTH: … The agreement — officially called an “Administrative Order On Consent Agreement” — cites a litany of deficiencies and violations within the county’s wastewater infrastructure and related systems between 2017 and 2022, and concludes that the Hilo, Papaikou and Kula‘imano sewage treatment plants are not operating within EPA-approved standards.

In particular, the agreement highlights a series of mechanical failures across all three treatment plants, and lists multiple instances of the Hilo and Kula‘imano plants discharging sewage into the ocean.

“Inspectors have determined that (Hawaii County) is not operating and maintaining its sewer collections systems to prevent sewage spills,” reads a portion of the agreement. “(The county) also has not sufficiently assessed the condition of its sewer systems and does not have a program in place to systematically repair, rehabilitate or replace its aging force mains prior to failure.”

Ramzi Mansour, director of the county Department of Environmental Management, was frank about the agreement, saying the county has “a history of violations over the last 10 years or so.”

read … Administrative order between EPA, county aims to improve aging sewage plants

Lahaina Fire News:

Legislative Agenda:

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