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Friday, March 8, 2024
March 8, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:15 PM :: 2718 Views

TAT Audit: Maui County fails to Collect Millions from Vacation Rentals

Audit: 100% FEMA Fail on Kauai Disaster Procurement

Study: DoE Pandemic Failure will Cost Hawaii $31B

OIP: Sunshine and UIPA Bills on the Move

Fake Minutes and Fire Secrecy: OIP Posts Three New Opinions

Soft on Crime: After 41-year Crime Spree, Child Molesting Meth Dealer Gets Something Besides Probation

Kouchi: “Strong-arming, arm-twisting, bullying of members”

CB: … The Sunshine Blog was interested to hear Senate President Ron Kouchi’s speech that ended the floor session on Thursday. He apparently felt the need to stoutly defend his colleagues for the dramatic 13-12 rejection of Alapaki Nahale-a as a University of Hawaii regent.

“Somehow there have been allegations about strong-arming, arm-twisting, bullying of members,” he intoned at the end of floor session. “But if in fact that were happening, I don’t know how we get to 13-12, I don’t know how people would have the conviction to stand up and vote the way they see fit.”

Yeah, right. Surely he doesn’t really think his members are immune to the politicking that goes on every day the Legislature is in session. Perhaps he missed Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz dropping in on the Higher Education Committee’s grilling of Nahale-a to get in more than a few licks of his own….

Nahale-a resigned as chair of the Board of Regents Tuesday night, just hours after he was rejected by the Senate.

That makes Gabriel Lee, the vice chair, the interim chair. And sets up an interesting conundrum for the search for a new UH president. The 11-member board is now one short and insiders say is split 5-5 when it comes to who aligns with who. That will make it quite difficult to agree on a replacement for David Lassner, who is retiring this year.

The Blog has heard some familiar names being bandied about as the potential new president: Mufi Hannemann, the former Honolulu mayor. Colleen Hanabusa, the former congresswoman and current HART board chair. And Brennon Morioka, the current dean of the UH College of Engineering….

SA: University of Hawaii housing repair plans axed, records show

RELATED: Kouchi in Danger After Nahale-a Debacle?

read … We Are Not Bullies. So Says Senate President Ron Kouchi

Attorneys claim new evidence in search for spark that set off Lahaina inferno

HNN: … “What I’m holding in my hand right now is called a fulgurite. A fulgurite is created when electricity hits the ground” said attorney Jan Apo.

Jan Apo is born and raised Lahaina.

He said the fulgurite they found across from Lahaina Intermediate School is a small but mighty piece of evidence.

“This proves that the electricity hit the ground ... when the power lines broke and fell to the ground,” Apo said.

Hawaiian Electric Company declined to comment on Thursday, but in the past said its lines were de-energized.

Apo said Shane Treu’s video is also strong evidence that HECO caused the worst wildfire in modern-day history claiming more than 100 lives and destroying thousands of homes.

“Power lines just went down,” Treu said in his video on August 8, 2023. “See um right there. That’s the power lines that started it.”

Apo said their investigation reveals the lines were initially de-energized. However, he said HECO re-energized the lines as it was laying in dry brush.

“We just got our power back on,” Treu says in the video.

“And that caused the fire,” said Apo. “So, there is no question that these fires were caused by the power lines.”

Apo said their investigation also discovered the power poles were ridden with termites and weren’t stabilized properly, causing it to come crashing down in hurricane-forced winds.

“Even after that pole caused a fire and killed 100 people, that pole is still not guyed properly today,” attorney Jon Givens said.…

LINK: What is a Fulgurite?

read … Attorneys claim new evidence in search for spark that set off Lahaina inferno (

DOE Construction Plan: Burn $543M before June 30

CB: …The department sparked outrage from state lawmakers late last year when it announced plans to let $465 million in capital improvement funding lapse because it was not going to be able to spend the funds by a state deadline.

The more aggressive spending plan, presented to the Board of Eduction on Thursday, would reduce the funding that’s proposed to lapse to approximately $298 million. Because of other projects it needs to get going, that means the DOE is now trying to spend or allot almost $543 million in construction contracts by June 30.

But BOE members were skeptical about the department’s ability to spend more than half a billion dollars in such a short period of time. The DOE spent just $42.8 million in construction funds in the first five months of the the school year, according to materials from Thursday’s meeting….

Even as the Legislature has increased schools’ CIP funding over the past several years, DOE has failed to use the money and spent less than 1% of its appropriations for construction in the last fiscal year. …

The latest version of the state budget, which is moving through the House, would re-appropriate funding for every project on the department’s lapse list. If the budget passes as currently proposed, DOE would have another two years to spend $255 million in project funding that would otherwise expire in June, said Rep. Scott Nishimoto, who oversees CIP funding on the House Finance Committee. 

“Basically every project that can go forward, we put it in the budget again,” Nishimoto said. 

But it will be weeks before the final budget is passed by the Legislature and the state is facing significant uncertainty about how to pay for Maui fire recovery.  

DOE Deputy Superintendent Curt Otaguro said the department reduced its initial lapse list by reevaluating its construction projects and determining what funds it could realistically encumber in contracts before June 30.

High-cost projects, including a $35 million centralized kitchen in Wahiawa, are currently in the stages of contracting and will help DOE spend its funding more quickly in the future, he added. 

“We’re focused on getting those complex projects into the queue,” Otaguro said. 

The department has also received verbal confirmation from the Office of the Comptroller that it has an extended deadline of Dec. 31 to encumber funds for six projects, said Audrey Hidano, interim assistant superintendent of the office of facilities and operations. …

read … DOE Says It Can Step Up Spending To Save Construction Projects

New Law Restricting Carrying Of Firearms May Have Unintended Consequences

CB: … On June 2, Gov. Josh Green signed Senate Bill 1230 into law, imposing greater statewide restrictions on where firearms may be carried. While the legislation is a welcome step in the right general direction, for one population of individuals, Hawaii has become a lot less safe as a result….

Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 134-7(f), which limits the rights of individuals restrained by protective orders to “possess, control, or transfer ownership of any firearm” originally contained language wherein a restrained individual, after showing good cause to a judge, could receive an exemption from firearms prohibitions.

This exception was often used by members of the military whose careers would effectively end without legal access to firearms. SB 1230 amended Section 134-7(f), removing the language allowing for good cause exemptions.

The changes to HRS 134-7(f) have created a situation where military respondents who may have originally been willing to settle, can no longer do so lest they risk their entire career….

read … New Law Restricting Carrying Of Firearms May Have Unintended Consequences

HB1845: Publicly Financed Campaigns

CB: … ‘Public Campaign Finance Lite’: House Bill 1845 to expand partial public financing of campaigns cleared the House on Tuesday and is headed for the Senate. Don’t confuse it with Senate Bill 2381, the full public financing bill that has already been passed in the Senate and is now in the House.

Partial public financing already exists in Hawaii, but is seldom used because it is just too … partial. Only $71,878 in public funds were disbursed to 15 campaigns in 2022.

HB 1845 would double the amount of public funding available to most candidates who are not unopposed. To qualify, they’d have to generate a certain amount of donations from private individuals (the bill would lower that threshold so more candidates can take part) and agree to not exceed voluntary limits on total spending….

It’s a proposal from the Campaign Spending Commission, which also isn’t opposed to full public campaign funding, Executive Director Kristin Izumi-Nitao told Civil Beat in January.

The original version of the bill called for the changes to take effect this year, but of course things don’t tend to happen that fast in the Legislature. The latest version has stripped out all the specific dollar figures and added a “defective” effective date of 3000, assuring it’s headed for conference committee should it pass the Senate….

read … The Sunshine Blog

Hawaii Human Services Director Stepping Down In May

CB: … The director of the Hawaii Department of Human Services is leaving her post to become executive director of the Hawaii State Bar Association.

Cathy Betts, who will formally resign in May, has led DHS since 2020. She was the deputy director from 2017 to 2020…

read … Hawaii Human Services Director Stepping Down In May - Honolulu Civil Beat

Malfunction sends eastbound Skyline train in the wrong direction

KITV: … Concerns are being raised after a malfunction on Oahu's Skyline light rail train on Thursday. Some customers say the train changed destination and reversed back in the west direction.

About 30 riders reportedly had to get off the train at the Kualakai – East Kapolei station when the train reversed back in the wrong direction from the Pouhala – Waipahu station. It happened around 6 a.m.

The city's Department of Transportation Services says they are still working with the contractor to see what the issue was….

read … Malfunction sends eastbound Skyline train in the wrong direction

Bill that allows homes to use gas water heaters passes to the House, Solar Industry Cries a River

KITV: … A bill that allows new single family homes to be built with tankless gas water heaters has moved forward within the legislature. Right now, new homes are required by law to be built using solar water heaters.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Lynn Decoite on behalf of the Hawaii State Energy Office. Decoite said she hopes this bill will provide more water heating options for families.

“I want to have not just a plan A, but a plan B and C. We've had a lot of emergencies that have occurred. As you know even with the consistent black out were having, there are those that choose to use other sources of energy and this bill will allow you to also have that option,” said Decoite….

Senate bill 2677 SD2 allows residencies to use gas water heaters if they fall under four different variances; resiliency purposes, low income communities, off grid situations, and wildfire prone areas….

read … Bill that allows homes to use gas water heaters passes to the House; Environmentalist concerned

Hawaii couple sentenced to nearly three years for stealing identities of deceased infants

KITV: … Walter Primrose and Gwynn Morrison, a Hawaii couple, sentenced to almost three years in prison for stealing the identities of deceased infants….

read … Hawaii couple sentenced to nearly three years for stealing identities of deceased infants

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