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Thursday, December 13, 2012
December 13, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 11:10 AM :: 5337 Views

Jones Act U.S.- build requirement is a sham

Hearing Act 130, Relating to Charter Schools

Supreme Court: Labor Board Can Slow Walk HSTA

 

Why Stop at $500K? DoTax Secret Agreement Allows Giant Solar Scammers to Reap Multiple Tax Credits

CB: One day after two environmental groups sued the state over controversial new rules that effectively reduce the number of state tax credits that can be claimed on solar systems, the Hawaii Department of Taxation has exempted some projects from the rules.

Mallory Fujitani, a spokeswoman for the tax department confirmed the exemptions, but said she could not disclose which projects or how many have received a reprieve because of state privacy laws that protect taxpayer information.

But Sen. Mike Gabbard, chair of the Energy and Environment Committee, who has pushed for exemptions for solar farms that are in development, said the exception covers 12 solar projects, including the 5-megawatt, utility-scale Kalaeloa solar project on Oahu.

“The letters grandfather those companies and allow them another year to get the old tax credit amounts,” he said.

Developers of large solar projects, such as those that feed energy into the islands' electric grids, have complained openly about the new rules, saying that they could kill some of the state’s most important renewable energy projects that have been in the works for years.

The state currently has about a dozen utility-scale solar projects in the works, according to information from the state energy office. It’s not clear if these projects are those that are primarily being exempted.

Three of the projects are for the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative and are expected to account for about 50 percent of the island’s daytime electricity use. Jim Kelly, a spokesman for KIUC, said that the utility hadn’t heard anything from the tax department about being exempted. He said that in the past, the utility had asked the tax department to grandfather in its projects, to no avail. He said that the fight could be picked up in the Legislature this session.

Two of the projects KIUC will own — a solar array in Anahola being constructed by REC Solar, and a solar system being developed by SolarCity. Each project is 12 megawatts.

Kelly said that the utility had expected to claim about $8 million in state tax credits for each of the $40 million systems. But the new rules cut that amount by about half. He said the Anahola project will cost the utility an extra $240,000 a year during the 25 years that it is paying off the system.

Alexander & Baldwin is also developing a 6-megawatt project for KIUC. The company did not return a call for comment as to whether its project had been grandfathered in by the tax department.

Kelly said that Alexander & Baldwin had been scrambling to finish the solar farm by the end of the year to make the deadline for the rule change.

“Those guys are hustling, and I mean hustling, seven days a week to get this thing turned on by December 31,” he said.

As Explained: Why Stop at $500K? DoTAX Quietly Multiplies Hawaii Solar Tax Credit

read … Giving Away the General Fund

Legacy: Dan Akaka Unable to Win Passage of Akaka Bill

SA: Akaka's most significant achievement was helping to obtain the Apology Resolution in 1993, which was signed by President Bill Clinton and acknowledged the role of the United States government in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893. The senator has described the resolution as part of the reconciliation between the United States and the Hawaiian people.

But Akaka's attempt to gain federal recognition for Native Hawaiians as indigenous people with the right to self-government has sputtered in the Senate since 2000 despite being approved three times by the House. Conservative Senate Republicans have blocked the bill as race-based discrimination, and some Hawaiians say the legislation would undermine the sovereignty movement by preventing a truly independent Hawaiian government.

Akaka's inability to advance the bill — known as the Akaka Bill — has provided fuel for critics

"As long as federal recognition remains a goal of Native Hawaiians, he will always be the person who laid the foundation for it," Waihee (who should be in prison for Right Star) said….

State Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria (D, Kakaako-McCully-Waikiki) said … he does not believe Akaka will be judged harshly by history for not fulfilling the Akaka Bill….

Daily Kos: Akaka’s Farewell Speech Transcript, Video

read … Crooks and Cronies Dejected

3x0=0: Hirono will sit on Senate energy, judiciary and veterans committees

SA: Hirono, who replaces retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, has called for a national renewable energy standard and supports Hawaii’s goal to generate 70 percent of energy from renewable sources and conservation by 2030.

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Hirono will help vet nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts. Hirono has said that she would weigh legal opinions on abortion rights, health care reform, campaign finance and gender discrimination when considering judicial nominees.

Hirono will follow Akaka on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Akaka is now the committee’s chairman.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, will retain his chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which oversees federal spending. Inouye, as the chamber’s senior Democrat, also serves as Senate president pro tempore and is third in line of succession to the presidency.

(Note: No mention of Indian Affairs. Bye-bye Akaka Bill.)

read … 3x0=0

Federal judge expects ruling in Honolulu rail lawsuit ‘in short order’

PBN: “I hope to have an order out in short order,” Tashima said. “This matter is now submitted.”

Nicholas Yost, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney and a partner in the San Francisco-based law firm SNR Denton, said he expects a ruling before Dec. 19, which would be the date the funding agreement between the city and the FTA could become final. He said he believes that will happen because it would be easier for that full funding grant agreement to be stopped by a ruling than undone by a ruling once it is final.

“The judge seemed very attuned and alert to what the important issues were,” Yost said. “We thought it went very well. The judge seemed on top of the issues while not indicating which way he is going to go.”

An injunction on the fourth and final phase, which would end at Ala Moana Center, should be a “forgone conclusion,” Yost added.

But no matter how Tashima rules, both sides said they expect the losing side will appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

HR: Federal Judge Will Rule Soon On Future Of Rail Project

KITV: Future of rail project in judge’s hands

SA: Fate of rail will be decided soon

CB: $1.55 Billion Federal Rail Grant On The Line In Federal Case

read … Rail

Weeks after election, state workers still not paid

HNN: More than a month after the Nov. 6 election, people who worked at polling places across the state say they still have not been paid.

Checks to approximately 3,100 workers have not been mailed, Hawaii News Now confirmed, but the State Elections Office says the delay is unavoidable.

The office has to verify the work and then hand it off to the State Accounting Office before the checks can be cut. It is a lengthy process, but checks will be mailed this week, officials say.

"They claim we're supposed to be getting our checks in a week or two, but I'm not holding my breath because I've been told so many different stories," said Robert Rabideau, Jr., election precinct chair for Maui Waena.

read … Incompetent Nago

Hawaii one of only Two States With Hispanic HS Graduation Rates Above State Average

VOX: Hispanic students are less likely to receive high school diplomas than their non-Hispanic white and Asian counterparts in 48 states, according to the latest U.S. Department of Education study.

Only in Maine and Hawaii were Latinos more likely to graduate than non-Hispanic whites. Those states reported an 87 percent and 79 percent graduation rate among Latino youths respectively.

Read … Hispanic Graduation Rates

Nearly 100 Schools to Protest Accountability

KITV: Nearly 100 schools have joined the "Work To The Rules" movement and will be protesting Thursday before and after contract hours in front of their schools, according to organizers. Click here to see the running list of schools with teachers participating.
This is the fourth protest and more schools have promised to join in the new year. On protest day, activities normally volunteered outside of the contractual hours of 8 a.m. through 3 p.m. by teachers will be suspended.
read …
Nearly 100 schools to participate in teacher protest

Greedy HSTA

I love and respect teachers, but not their greedy union, the HSTA. The dysfunctional teacher union leadership has repeatedly botched contract negotiations with the state and holds out for even more money and NO merit awarded compensation.

Highlights of the state's (taxpayers) latest offer include: $49 million in new compensation, which included two percent raises in each year for all teachers; Restoring the 5 percent reduction in teacher compensation that was instituted in 2011; and additional support, compensation, and incentives for professional performance. Not good enough for the HSTA leaders in these tough times? Let the leaders walk and take their pay cuts.

read … Sen Sam Slom

KHON: Former school secretary who stole nearly $15K gets 1 year in prison

Substitute teachers to receive tens of millions in back pay

KHON: Substitute teachers won millions in back pay on Wednesday in court, but the state has yet to pay for past rulings….

"If you put all of this together, you're talking something north of $65 million."
That's based on one case the state has exhausted appeals two years ago on in which it must pay $14 million plus interest and attorneys fees, totaling about $30 million. That covers per diem substitutes.
A second circuit court ruling last year covering part timers has a tally likely also in the millions.
And now the latest, this third related case covering substitutes and part-timers adds about $14 million plus interest, bringing Wednesday's ruling up to about another $20 million.
"As to at least the claim of the original substitutes, for their work as substitutes, there's really nothing left for the state to appeal, they've got to pay," Alston said. "I am told that there is money for this in next year's budget, but who knows."
The cases affect nearly 30,000 people between substitutes and part-timers. Some in the class-action suit are owed just a couple hundred, but others are awaiting as much as $10,000 in back pay

read … Just in time for the Legislative Session

DoE 55 School Bus Contracts Expire this Month

CB: We have already taken important steps to increase efficiencies and cut costs, including:

  • Embedding procurement excellence by centralizing our procurement process.
  • Becoming a member of the National Association for Pupil Transportation to keep up with the industry’s best practices.  
  • Testing systems of technology that will bring efficiencies to route management and rider tracking for current and future student transportation needs.

Most recently, along with the Board of Education (BOE), we hired Management Partnership Services (MPS) to analyze our bus network, and make recommendations for improvement.  This thorough review was necessary to clearly identify missteps taken over the years so that they are not repeated.

More than 55 contracts expire this month, creating an opportunity for us to correct what has gone wrong for too long.  We will be toughening up qualifications for contractors and be more diligent in managing services provided. We presented MPS’ findings before the BOE and a joint state House-Senate informational briefing. Both bodies are critical to approving the changes that the Department intends to make.

read … L’Heureux

Another DoE Embezzler Heads to Prison

SA: Muranaka used more than half of the money, $8,190, to pay her rent at the Kuhio Homes state public housing complex in Kalihi.

Defense lawyer Susan Arnett said Muranaka came under financial strain and took advantage of the school’s unsound accounting practices.

“Blank checks were signed, and then left around, and various people had access to them, principally (Muranaka),” Arnett said.

Muranaka also committed bribery when she accepted more than $2,000 worth of gift cards from a school vendor for ordering printer toner cartridges at exorbitant prices.

Costales said Muranaka’s theft put the school in the red, preventing the purchase of supplies, the funding of programs and the filling of a job position.

Muranaka, 44, has not paid back any of the money….

Perkins sentenced former Waipahu High School business manager Warren Harada to 10 years in prison in June in a similar plea agreement with the state when Harada failed to pay back the $499,76 he stole from the school.

The Hawaii Paroling Authority informed Harada in October that he must serve 41⁄2 years of his sentence behind bars before he is eligible for parole.

read … Greedy

Hawaii Lawmakers Report Receiving Twice as Much in Gifts as Last Year

CB: Hawaii legislators received $278,416 in gifts between July 2011 and June 2012.

That's more than twice as much as they reported receiving last year.

But whether that's because lawmakers received more gifts or simply reported more of them is unclear.

Hawaii legislators received more than $137,000 in gifts last year, according to a Civil Beat analysis of their 2011 gift disclosures.

Hawaii state ethics law requires legislators to report any gifts worth more than $200, as well as multiple gifts from the same person or organization that total more than $200….

Former Rep. Pono Chong reported receiving the greatest amount: $19,066.

House Speaker Calvin Say's disclosure lists more than 230 entries, more than any other lawmaker….

Kondo did note that a controversy last year over gifts of DVDs from a film studio drew attention to lawmakers' gift disclosures.

Relativity Media, a California film company, came under fire from the ethics commission in 2011 for failing to accurately report the DVDs, which were worth thousands of dollars. In the process, lawmakers were also questioned.

"We had inquired with each of the legislators specifically about [whether they received] the DVDs," Kondo said. "There was at least one and possibly more that filed amended gift disclosures to report the DVDs."

Relativity Media paid a fine of $8,000 to the state to settle the ethics commission's charge. The incident drew media attention to ethics rules about disclosing gifts.

read … Naughty

City paramedics, EMTs file complaint on overtime pay

SA: A group of Honolulu paramedics and emergency medical technicians filed a legal complaint Wednesday accusing the city of failing to pay them overtime earned during the past six years.

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of 71 paramedics and EMTs, who allege the city has “repeatedly, knowingly and willfully” denied them overtime pay.

Because of the statute of limitations, the plaintiffs can seek overtime pay dating back only three years.

Paramedic Sonya Adams, the lead plaintiff in the complaint, said fellow paramedics and EMTs regularly work overtime because of staff shortages.

“We all work OT whether we want to or not,” she said. “And we don’t even get paid for it.”

Adams, who has worked as an EMS supervisor for the past five years and has been with the department for 13 years, said errors concerning unpaid overtime pay date back to 2006, when the department hired a new payroll clerk.

read … Overtime

Honolulu’s October unemployment rate twice as high as pre-recession level

PBN: The unemployment rate for October was 5 percent, which was 2.5 percentage points higher than the jobless rate in October 2007, according an analysis of unemployment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics by On Numbers, an affiliate of Pacific Business News.

Nationally, the unemployment rate in October 2007, two months before the recession officially began, was 4.7 percent. The national jobless rate in October of this year was 7.9 percent

read … Abercrombie Fails

Oi: Traffic Should be Focus of Turtle Bay Opposition

Everyone acknowledges that the plan to massively expand the Turtle Bay Resort to 625 hotel rooms and 750 residences will massively expand the number of minivans, SUVs, convertibles and all variety of motorized vehicles traveling to, from and through the region on its one and only narrow coastal road.

People who live close-in as well as other Oahu residents realize this. Business owners along the thin string of Kamehameha Highway recognize it. State and city officials admit to the unwelcome traffic congestion the resort’s enlargement will generate. Even the resort’s owners and investors concede the problem, not really needing its new environmental study to tell them so.

Yet, little stands in the way of the resort’s developers gaining a permit for the project and fulfilling the prophecy of a hell on wheels.

read … Why they don’t build roads

Dopey Advertiser: Legalize ‘Natural’ Marijuana, Criminalize Synthetic Marijuana

The Office of National Drug Control recognizes that use of synthetic marijuana "is alarmingly high," citing a 2011 survey indicating that 11.4 percent of 12th-graders used Spice or K2 in the previous year, making it the second-most common illicit drug among high school seniors.

Unlike medical benefits acknowledged in natural marijuana, synthetic marijuana carries a lot of unknowns, such as chemical composition and health risks on developing brains. Psychotic symptoms are more likely with synthetic marijuana items because they do not contain cannabidiol, the chemical in natural marijuana linked to sedative and antipsychotic properties, notes the August issue of Social Work Today.

The synthetic drugs discussion also is likely to launch debate about the lesser harms of natural marijuana — perhaps even decriminalizing small amounts here, as was just enacted in Colorado and Washington state.

Already, state Sen. Josh Green, an emergency room physician on Hawaii island who has been skeptical about the use of legal medical marijuana, said he recently has seen serious medical problems from synthetic marijuana by two patients in recent weeks but has "never seen any long-term devastating effects" from real marijuana.

The legal marijuana shift in Colorado and Washington bears watching, as it will grow increasingly hard to ignore. At this point, though, federal and state efforts should remain focused on combating the increasing distribution of synthetic drugs that are unequivocally dangerous.

read … On Drugs

Invasive Moth to Combat Invasive Weed

HNN: The Hawaii Department of Agriculture has obtained approval from the United States Department of Agriculture to release the Arctiidae moth (Secusio extensa) to combat the spread of Fireweed, an invasive pest that is toxic to livestock, Senator Daniel K. Inouye announced Wednesday.

Fireweed is an invasive weed from Madagascar which has infected an estimated 850,000 acres primarily on Maui and Hawaii Island.

Fireweed has no natural predators in Hawaii, is resistant to drought, and if left unchecked, could spread to an additional 1.5 million acres in the next ten years.

Click here to read more on Fireweed.

read … Invasive

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