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May 2, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:24 PM :: 1488 Views

Maui County to (attempt to) Outlaw 'Minatoya List' Condotels

SB1035: Legislature Passes Bill to Exempt Medical Care from GE Tax

Maui County files complaint seeking to hold cell carriers responsible for failure to report outages during fires

HB2144: Allow Production and Sale of 'Homemade Food Products'

HB2298: Coffee Labeling Bill Pushes Back on Blenders

Bill 85: Update Maui’s ‘circuit breaker’ property tax credit

Hawaii Least Drug Problem in USA

Hawaii Worst State for Nurses

Psychologist who got ‘unusual’ plea deal admitted to abusing other young victims, filings reveal

HNN: …  The Hawaii child psychologist who agreed to plead guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old patient admitted to abusing more underage victims, court documents reveal, in a disturbing development that raises new questions about the case.

Records say Kona psychologist Reuben Lelah provided the Hawaii County Prosecutor’s Office with a written confession last fall in which he essentially admitted he’s a serial sex offender.

Despite being armed with that information, prosecutors offered Lelah a plea deal that will drastically reduce the time he spends behind bars for assaulting the 14-year-old. Under the deal, he was even allowed to pick his punishment — something a legal expert calls unusual.

According to the court filing, the prosecutor’s office received a package from Lelah last October.

Inside were “approximately 15 letters, handwritten, addressed to various individuals.” Court filings said the letters “contained admissions of conduct” against the 14-year-old and “additional minors that the defendant engaged in various degrees of manipulative or sexual conduct with.”

Also included in the package from Lelah was a note to a deputy prosecutor. In it, the psychologist wrote, “I have tried to have my attorneys send this letter and journal entries to you but was unsuccessful. So I am sending it to you against their advice.”….

with the plea deal, he could serve anywhere between 18 months and 10 years behind bars.

A judge is scheduled to hand down his sentence May 24….

read … Psychologist who got ‘unusual’ plea deal admitted to abusing other young victims, filings reveal

Tax Relief, Gut n Replace, Close Votes -- Legislators Send 200 Bills to Governor

SA: … As the legislative session winds down to a largely ceremonial finish on Friday, the full House and Senate on Wednesday sent nearly 200 bills to Gov. Josh Green that include $1 billion to help Maui recover from the wildfires and another bill that gives counties the authority to regulate short-term vacation rentals on their islands, including the ability to ban them if they choose.

The House and Senate also approved sweeping tax relief aimed at easing Hawaii’s high cost of living for working families over the next seven years, adding up to about $5 billion.

Some legislators in both chambers called it the biggest tax relief for residents in Hawaii history….

The House, at the last minute Wednesday, deferred a bill that would have bypassed Hawaii’s long-standing practice of banning outdoor advertising by allowing the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority to sell naming rights on the Hawai‘i Convention Center.

House Bill 2563 started out directing the HTA to develop an app for tourists but ended up with new language giving HTA the authorization to sell naming rights for the convention center.

State Rep. Elijah Pierick (R, Royal Kunia-Waipahu- Honouliuli) on Wednesday called HB 2563 an example of “gut and replace” — a legislative practice that led the state Supreme Court in 2021 to rule a previous law invalid because replacement language did not undergo the mandatory three readings in each chamber of the Legislature.

In its decision, the court did not specifically outlaw the practice of gut and replace. But it left open the possibility of legal challenges to future bills that fail to undergo the mandated hearings.

Later in the daylong House floor session, Pierick also called out an insurance- related bill, HB 2394, as an example of “gut and replace.”

“The original content and theme are not the same as what we have today,” Pierick said.

But state Rep. Nadine Nakamura (D, Hanalei- Princeville-Kapaa), House majority leader, responded: “We did check with the Attorney General and we have gotten clearance that the subject matter is consistent with the theme of the bill and it can go forward.”

One of the most divisive bills approved Wednesday directs counties to develop ordinances to allow at least two accessory dwelling units on lots zoned for residential use by the end of 2026 in an effort to increase Hawaii’s stock of affordable housing.

Some House members said Wednesday that Senate Bill 3202 treats Honolulu differently from neighbor island counties — and runs afoul of the “home rule” philosophy that helped drive the separate bill giving counties the discretion to regulate — and even ban — vacation rentals, if they choose.

“Oahu and the suburban districts definitely do not want this,” Rep. Scot Matayoshi (D, Kailua-Kaneohe) told his House colleagues….

The bill survived a failed attempt by Rep. Gene Ward (R, Hawaii Kai-Kalama Valley) to defer it to next year and, instead, now goes to Green.

The 25-member Senate passed all of the bills it considered on Wednesday, with one squeaking by on a 13-12 vote.

SB 2342 mandates changes to Hawaii motor vehicle insurance coverage, including a provision that doubles minimum liability coverage required to $40,000 per person and $80,000 per accident.

Sen. Brandon Elefante (D, Aiea-Pacific Palisades-Pearl City) led off the dissent by saying that — even though minimum liability coverage requirements in Hawaii haven’t risen in 25 years — now isn’t the time for an increase, which will raise rates….

LIST: Bills Pending Governor's Action

CB: Lawmakers Give Final Approval To A 'Historic' Income Tax Cut In Long Day Of Voting

CN: Hawaii legislature supports Maui aid, approves vacation rental bill | Courthouse News Service

read … Hawaii lawmakers approve nearly 200 bills including tax relief | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

SB2919: Bill aimed at short-term vacation rentals passes

HTH: … Legislation that would give Hawaii’s counties the authority to fully regulate and to phase out short-term vacation rentals cleared its final floor vote Wednesday in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 2919 passed its final reading by a 22-3 vote. All three no-votes came from Big Island senators: Lorraine Inouye of Hilo, Tim Richards of Waimea and Joy San Buenaventura of Puna, all Democrats. The lone Big Island senator to vote in favor of the bill was Dru Kanuha, a Kona Democrat and the Senate majority leader….

“In my district, there isn’t a lot of industry, and people use (STVRs) as a second source of income,” San Buenaventura told the Tribune-Herald. “They comply with Hawaii County rules, getting the permits, paying the (transient accommodations tax).” …

Jordan Ruidas, spokeswoman for Lahaina Strong, a Maui group supporting the rebuilding of Lahaina following the devastating fires that killed at least 100 last August, hailed the bill’s passage, calling the measure “a testament that amazing things can come from devastation.”

“This victory, which gives counties the power to tackle our short-term rental crisis, is not only a huge win for Lahaina, but for all of Hawaii,” Ruidas said in a statement. “This was won through the struggle of our grassroots movement, which put the opportunity and need to tackle our Maui vacation rental crisis into the dialogue through relentless advocacy, public education, community organizing — and even a 173-days-and-counting sustained occupation of Ka‘anapali Beach.

“… We look forward to Governor Green promptly signing this legislation and for immediate action from Mayor (Richard) Bissen and Maui County Council to provide dignified housing for fire survivors and return our communities to local people.

“No excuses left.”

(CLUE: They will try to steal the Minatoya List TVR entitlements.  They will lose in court.) 

PDF: Short-Term-Occupancy-List-aka-Minatoya-List (mauicounty.gov)

MN: Joint bill aims to phase out and repeal TVRs in the Maui Apartment District heads to the Planning Commission

read … Bill aimed at short-term vacation rentals passes

SB2922: No Limit on HECO Securitization Rate Hikes for Businesses

SA: … SB2922 Securitization is a financing mechanism that would enable HECO to charge a fee on every ratepayer’s bill for up to 30 years. HECO would then borrow money by securing that guaranteed revenue at low interest rates.

Things get complicated when determining how the rate is charged to consumers. While HECO proposed that the fee would be capped at 5% of an average residential ratepayer’s bill, there were no explanations of how rates would be applied to businesses who would pass those fees on to consumers. This is important because more than 60% of HECO’s revenue comes from industrial and commercial users, not homeowners….

Typically, consumers see an itemized list of expenses before they agree to pay for work. The same should hold true for HECO and its plan. However, HECO does not have a wildfire mitigation plan — the PUC ordered the utility to create one in November, and it is still being developed. It isn’t reasonable to commit consumers to 30 years of payments for an interim plan.

For example, how many miles of electrical wire will be undergrounded? In what areas are pole replacements being considered? What is the estimated cost difference? There was no estimated cost provided for HECO’s plan. Throughout the session, legislators repeatedly asked the company to provide financial details for its proposal but were rebuffed.

Finally, SB 2922 did not guarantee that local workers or retirees would be protected. Nor did it provide any assurances that HECO would remain locally owned and operated. The bill did not guarantee that HECO would avoid bankruptcy; only a resolution of the litigation can confirm that HECO will remain solvent….

SB2922: Text, Status

read … Column: HECO securitization plan needs vetting before green light

‘Still a threat’: Victim decries decision to release one of Hawaii’s most notorious serial rapists

HNN: … Freudenberg served more than 40 years behind bars for a series of attacks against 15 women in Manoa in the 1980s. He was 23 when he pleaded guilty to crimes, including rape, sodomy, sex abuse and burglary.

The woman who spoke to HNN said Freudenberg cannot be trusted and pointed to his own words at a parole hearing, in which he could not guarantee that he wouldn’t reoffend.

Freudenberg’s attorney, Myles Breiner, said (blablabla) …

He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, and was denied parole repeatedly until last year. After his release, Freudenberg will live in a halfway house with an ankle monitor….

Freudenberg was a University of Hawaii Manoa honors student and president of his fraternity when he committed the crimes over a 14-month period….

Freudenberg became an electrician while in prison…. 

KITV: Notorious 'Manoa Rapist' out on parole after serving more than 40 years in prison

2022: Glitches in state’s victims notification network leaves rape survivor in the dark

read … ‘Still a threat’; Victim decries decision to release one of Hawaii’s most notorious serial rapists

Developers And Labor Unions Are Contributing To Blangiardi's Reelection Campaign

CB: … Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has collected about $90,000 in campaign contributions since the start of the year, bringing his available spending money to about $750,000 as he pursues reelection.

Blangiardi is unopposed so far, though nine other people have pulled papers to possibly run against him. The deadline to file is still about a month away.

Top Blangiardi donors include people from housing and development companies as well as political action committees representing labor unions, according to a campaign finance report filed Tuesday. They generally donated the limit of $4,000.

Some of these donors include John King, developer of Kapaa Industrial Park in Kailua; Stephen Kelly, president of the Kapolei Properties Division at James Campbell Co.; Lance Parker, executive vice president at Alexander & Baldwin; and Joelle Chiu, senior development director at Ahe Group LLC, which develops affordable housing.

The Plumbers & Pipefitters Political Action Committee and Hawaii Laborers Political Action Committee each also donated the maximum amount….

Blangiardi received $1,000 from Chip Fletcher, interim dean of the University of Hawaii School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, and $500 from Maile Meyer, founder of Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii.

Blangiardi’s predecessor Kirk Caldwell collected about $204,000 during the same period when he ran for reelection in 2016, more than double Blangiardi’s haul….

On the City Council side, council member Andria Tupola reported collecting about $3,400 this period.

Only Blangiardi and Tupola have filed their candidacy paperwork so far…

Council member Calvin Say, who had a long career in the Legislature that included a stint as House speaker, has indicated he might not run for reelection. Five people have pulled papers to run for his seat, including current state Rep. Scott Nishimoto.

Candidates must file paperwork by June 4. The next reporting deadline is July 11 and will cover the period from the end of April through the end of June….

read … Developers And Labor Unions Are Contributing To Blangiardi's Reelection Campaign

Will Supreme Court Allow Honolulu to Force Homeless Lunatics and Drug Addicts into Treatment?

CB: … Blangiardi’s visit came just days after oral arguments were held in a U.S. Supreme Court case that may change the way some communities handle their homeless populations.

On April 22, the nine justices deliberated over a contentious case involving Grants Pass, a small town in Oregon. The town had fined homeless people for sleeping in outdoor spaces. Advocates for the homeless sued and won, saying the city’s policy effectively made it a crime to be homeless.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had previously ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment prohibits placing criminal penalties on people who are homeless and do not have access to shelter.

Dozens of cities and counties, including many on the West Coast, have rallied behind Grants Pass officials, saying that courts have gone too far in preventing them from being able to regulate problematic behavior, and that that’s effectively tied their hands.

 The city has not intervened in the case either. But Blangiardi said that while he does not believe in “criminalizing homelessness,” he thinks that a judicial ruling more favorable to government action could be advantageous if it gave officials more flexibility.

“That’s what we are hoping for,” he said. “With people who can’t make a decision for themselves, we could take them in, treat them. There are people lying in the street. We want to help them.”

He said he would also like to be able to do more when elderly people are threatened by aggressive homeless people.

“People shouldn’t feel afraid,” he said….

read … Honolulu Mayor Lobbies For More Federal Money For City's Homeless Problem

Volunteer Firefighters Are Big On The Mainland. Not So Much In Hawaii

CB: … career firefighters account for almost 92% of Hawaii’s force, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. That makes Hawaii second in the nation for its proportion of career versus volunteer firefighters. The National Volunteer Fire Council estimates that volunteers save the U.S. $47 billion annually.

On Hawaii island, the department’s 150 volunteers account for about a quarter of its staff. And they are crucial to the fire department for economic and geographical reasons, Todd said. …

read … Volunteer Firefighters Are Big On The Mainland. Not So Much In Hawaii

Hawaii Stop Big Oil Lawsuits to be Heard in June

IM: … The Hawai`i Supreme Court is holding oral arguments on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, 10 a.m. in the Aloha Petroleum, Ltd. lawsuit against two subsidiaries of American Insurance Group, the National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa, and American Home Assurance Company….

The Environmental Court, First Circuit in Honolulu, will hold a trial from June 24 to July 12, 2024….

read … Greenhouse Gas Lawsuits and Amended Laws | Ililani Media

Hawaii AG’s Stop Big Pharma Lawsuit Kept in Federal Court

CN: …  federal court in Hawaii refused to remand the state attorney general’s complaint against pharmaceutical companies that have allegedly unfairly pushed up the price of their drugs. The pharmaceutical firms properly removed the complaint to federal court, as one of them is contracted to provide health care to members of the military….

BN: Hawaii Drug Price Suit Against PBMs to Be Heard in Federal Court (bloomberglaw.com)

Read the ruling here.

read … Hawaii vs. drug prices | Courthouse News Service

Red light cameras at intersections on Oahu could soon also enforce speeding

HNN: …  For the first time since 2002, speed limits in Hawaii could soon be enforced by automated cameras — thanks to a bill easily approved by both House and Senate on Wednesday.

It’s the first effort of its kind since the failed van-cam program, which gave photo enforcement such a bad reputation in Hawaii, lawmakers have been reluctant to revisit the technology.

Senate Bill 2443 emerged from a conference committee with a cautious approach.

Although the Department of Transportation hoped for authority to widely deploy speed cameras, lawmakers limited them only to the intersections that already have red light camera….

read … Red light cameras at intersections on Oahu could soon also enforce speeding

City Council discusses Mayor’s proposal for new Ocean Safety Department

KHON: … The Honolulu City Council Committee on Housing, Sustainability and Health discussed resolutions to create a new Ocean Safety Department Wednesday. One includes the Mayor’s proposal that would stand up a new department with an appointed director. More than a dozen pieces of testimony were submitted in opposition from lifeguards and community members citing concerns over no commission part of the push.

“I think the commission is the logical way to go and again I think the public would see the same thing and it would provide the most accountability and transparency,” said Aka Tamashiro, who opposed Resolution 103….

read … City Council discusses Mayor’s proposal for new Ocean Safety Department

Lahaina Fire News:

Legislative Agenda:

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