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Wednesday, January 16, 2013
January 16, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:15 PM :: 10886 Views

Privatization: Post Office to be Replaced by 'Hybrid Model'

Poll: Majority in Hawaii Against Gay ‘Marriage’

CB: In Hawaii, according to the recent poll, 48 percent of registered voters support civil unions while 42 percent are opposed.

On gay marriage, 50 percent oppose allowing same-sex couples to marry while 42 percent support it.

(The rest of the article is a bunch of excuses why Gay Marriage is going to happen anyway, etc.)

Link: CB legislative session January 2013 crosstabs same sex marriage

Reality: Broken Trust Gang finally Imposes Gay Unions on Hawaii

read … A bunch of excuses

Arbitration Award Sets Stage for Union Raid on Budget ‘Surplus’

SA: The state has bills to pay. Gov. Neil Abercrombie already has stated his intention to pay down some of the state's unfunded liabilities for retiree pensions and health coverage, and lawmakers, with new leadership at the helm, should back him on that commitment.

But the bigger worry is about payments that will come due a lot sooner — in the pay packets of government employees. A draft arbitration award gives more than 2,700 members of the United Public Workers 3.2 percent raises from January through June of this year, an $8 million immediate cost item that lawmakers will have to fund. The blue-collar workers union managed to escape the 5 percent pay cuts that hit the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the Hawaii State Teachers Association and, over the long course of the contract dispute, managed to hang onto an old provision in which employees paid a lower share of health premiums than did members of other unions.

If this accord drives other unions to bargain for more in the next go-around, it could bust the budget going forward — a fairly dark cloud to be hanging over any lawmaking session. And the new session is certain to encounter pent-up demand from social-service nonprofits and other interest groups strained by the cutbacks of the recession….

Deciding how to dial down tax credits for solar installations, to name one high-profile example, must be part of the public debate this session. Solar power is a critical element in the state's energy portfolio, but at some point the training wheels on the industry will have to come off.

Better use of public lands as an asset that could produce lease rent would be another prudent source of sustaining revenue, but generating that funding stream is a longer-term project. That means much of the new spending that will be considered should be scheduled in tandem with the development of new revenue sources.

Ignore This: $126M Giveaway: Abercrombie quietly boosts spending on Public Employees’ Insurance

Precisely As Predicted: Four of a Kind: UPW, UHPA get big Fat Pay Raise—and HSTA suit could give one to HGEA

read … Interest Groups Fight to Steal Your Money

Dissidents Have Produced No Agenda 

Shapiro: The dissidents came to power promising more "progressive" policies and more openness in House operations, but have yet to produce an agenda for either.

They gained the upper hand over Say by joining forces with the lower chamber's resident political dinosaur, former and future Speaker Joe Souki, and making a deal with Republicans.

Nothing says progressive like a Jurassic tea party.

So far, instead of articulating policy initiatives, the new House majority has been busy fighting with Say over who gets the cushiest offices and choicest parking spaces.

That's always been the great failing of Hawaii politics: Instead of debates about a better Hawaii, battles are more often about personal power and whose special-interest benefactors get served first.

In this case, the dissidents gained traction when public worker unions turned against Say for opposing a general excise tax increase to spare public employees the economic pain the rest of us experienced in the Great Recession….

Souki's most prominent fiscal ideas in recent years have been legalized gambling, adding to the state's debt by "borrowing" funds collected for the city's rail project, and bringing back unpopular traffic cameras to suck more fines out of errant drivers.

read … Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Souki Just as Rigid as Say?

SA: The internal feud unfolded mostly away from public view and was stoked by personalities as much as principle. Several of the dissidents have cloaked the struggle as a victory for progressive change, but their partnership with Souki — who as speaker in the 1990s ran the House just as rigidly as Say — and their alliance with minority Republicans suggest more of a pragmatic compromise….

Luke was a vice speaker under Say, and Saiki was Say's majority leader, until their relationships disintegrated in part about how long Say planned to remain in charge of the House. According to lawmakers familiar with what happened, Saiki and Luke thought Say would lead the House for six years, but when it became obvious that Say did not plan to step aside, challenges to his rule surfaced when Demo­crats would organize to choose their leadership and committee assignments after every election cycle….

When the leadership dispute did go public, it was often unpleasant.

After the 2006 elections, Say's allies stripped Rep. Dwight Taka­mine of his chairmanship of the Finance Committee after he was slow to commit to Say. Dissidents said that Taka­mine was asked to mediate by U.S. Sen. Daniel Ino­uye and was never part of their faction, but some of Say's allies insisted that "there needed to be heads on stakes" as a warning. Ino­uye wrote Taka­mine a letter of apology, explaining that his request had made the situation worse, "with more, not less blood, on the floor." 

(Reality:  After the 2006 election, Inouye asked Takamine to attack Ed Case supporters in the legislature leaving “more, not less blood, on the floor.”  Takamine’s actions threatened Say’s coalition, thus leading Say to strip Takamine of his chairmanships.  Takamine then racked up the worst attendance record for that year and switched to Senate in the next election.  He now works for Abercrombie as DLIR Director.) 

read … Dissidents reign as session opens

HECO’s $200/barrel Scam Exposed

CB: HECO’s public relations people say that as a result of this new project going through, the average Hawaii ratepayer’s electricity bill would increase by only about $1 per month.

But let’s look at that in a little more depth. HECO is seeking approval to pay Aina Koa Pono (AKP) $200/barrel for the biofuel it produces on the Big Island at Kau, and would pass on any extra cost (beyond what oil actually costs at the time) to its ratepayers, both on the Big Island and on Oahu.

HECO has kept that $200/barrel price secret – they are still keeping it secret – but the Big Island Community Coalition folks figured out the price, and how the “$1/month rate increase” was determined.

Using the Energy Information Agency’s (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook (AEO-2012), one can see that HECO is using the highest price scenario, which projects an oil price close to $180/barrel in 2015. In the AKP discussion, it was said that the price of oil would exceed the actual price projected at the end of the period.

We can see that the line hits $200/barrel in 2035. Since they assume that oil will be $180 in 2015, they can therefore say that the difference (between the actual and projected price) would be very small: Hence, an increase of only perhaps $1/month for the average ratepayer.

However, it follows that if the actual price of oil is much lower than $180/barrel, rate payers will be paying the difference between that amount and $200. What if the actual cost of oil in 2015 is $120/barrel? That would cause rates to go up much more than $1/month – especially for high-power users.

read … Richard Ha

Schatz: Jones Act Exemptions are a ‘One-Off’, Good Riddance to Tesoro 

CB: Schatz said his support for the Jones Act is unwavering.

“I’ve always been for the Jones Act and I will not change. I believe it is important for America to control its own shipping and maintain labor and environmental standards within the industry,” said Schatz. “There is no appetite for a significant change to the Jones Act. There are occasionally exemptions that are pursued, but those are on a one-off basis. As a matter of national policy, the Jones Act is critical in terms of labor and environmental standards and in terms of our own national and economic security.”

In November, several Hawaii businesses filed a lawsuit to overturn the Jones Act, arguing that it was monopolistic and a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. And a recent editorial in Bloomberg News called for repealing the law, noting that some estimates show that in Hawaii it has raised prices on goods by one-third.

But Schatz said that it was "nonsense" to think the Jones Act raises prices that much, and said that the main culprit for high shipping costs is not domestic vessels, but fuel costs.

“I think we are the most isolated, populated place on the planet and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it costs a significant amount of money to get goods here,” he said.

When it comes to shipping, Schatz said that the best way to keep rates under control is through regulation by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

But in other industries, he said, Hawaii could use more competition, an issue that falls under the purview of the Senate Commerce Committee.

“One of the reasons that the cost of living is so high in Hawaii is that we have a number of monopolies and duopolies," said Schatz. "Competition is good. Competition drives prices down and quality up. And so it will certainly be in the commerce committee’s jurisdiction to try to facilitate competition.”

He said that the telecommunications market could be broadened, for example. (Al Hee!)

However, Schatz said Hawaii’s small size limits competition to some degree, noting the recent announcement that Tesoro, one of the state’s two oil refineries, was shutting down.

“As a small market it’s not always that feasible to have three, four or five players because the barrier to entry is so great. Oil refineries are one example,” he said. “It’s one thing to say it’s great to have competition, but the market is too small to retain two refineries. There are some instances where we are unlikely to have some competition, then we have to look at the regulatory arena.”

read … Off

Poll: Hanabusa Wins Among Democrats, ‘She Might Have a Good Chance’

TH: Hawaii voters are divided in their opinions about Gov. Neil Abercrombie's (D) decision to appoint Brian Schatz (D) to the Senate instead of Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii), according to a new poll conducted for the Honolulu Civil Beat. Voters are evenly divided over whether they would have preferred Schatz or Hanabusa for the seat, with 36 percent backing each. But 49 percent approve of Abercrombie's decision, while 36 percent disapprove of it.

She might have a good chance in either race: While the paper did not provide numeric breakdowns, it writes that the Democrats in the poll "tended to support" Hanabusa, while much of Schatz's support comes from independents and Republicans, an unhelpful thing in a Democratic primary.

Read … Democrats

Woodson: Abercrombie’s Carpetbagger, just 2 Years on Maui

MN: "I was surprised," Woodson said Tuesday afternoon. "I feel blessed, and I feel humbled. I'm just ready to do a lot of work and work very hard for this community."

Woodson, who was born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, is a 2 1/2-year resident of Maui but is familiar with the Valley Isle much longer. He frequently came to the island to visit his former girlfriend and now wife, Stacy Suyat Woodson, who was born and raised on Maui.

Prior to moving to Maui, Woodson and his family spent seven years on Oahu, where he worked at the Legislature and as a Realtor and got involved with the Hawaii Democratic Party….

Joe Souki, who appears to have the votes to become state House speaker, said via phone from Oahu on Tuesday that he was "very happy" with Woodson's appointment, noting Woodson had paid his dues as a Democrat, had experience in the Legislature and had pledged his support to help Souki secure the state House speakership, which is expected to be confirmed this morning….

Woodson earned his bachelor's degree in political science from California State University Fullerton.

He and his wife, Stacy, have four children ranging from 1 to 8 years old.

Woodson said he has grown an emotional attachment to Maui through relations in the community such as school and other events, which he called a "blessing."

"I may not be from Maui, (but) I feel that I am of Maui," he said.

SA: He publicly supported Abercrombie in the 2010 election.

read … fluff piece

HSTA ‘Encourages’ Teachers to Demand 25% Hike in GE Tax

The teachers who organized the so-called "Work to the Rule" protests that spread to schools statewide will rally at the State Capitol Thursday afternoon, urging lawmakers to consider legislation that the teachers' union says it does not support.

Organizers are pushing for what it calls the Penny for Education Act. "What this does is raise the GET (general excise tax) by one cent per dollar, and what this does is it really tries to solve the major problems of education in Hawaii," said organizer Corey Rosenlee, a teacher at James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach….

In a message posted on its Facebook page, the HSTA says it "does not support the rally on the 17th because of the rally's message and intention. HSTA is focused on what is most important at this moment in time and that is winning a fair contract. The 17th rally is centered around a piece of legislation that was not written by HSTA and was not put through the proper channels of review and approval."

"All of our efforts will be, on the 17th, here at HSTA, in trying to resolve some of the issues in regards to teacher evaluation, and trying to make it fair and equitable for our members," said union president Wil Okabe.

Later, after several Facebook messages were posted in response, the union said "While HSTA does not support the legislative bill that the 17th rally is focused around, HSTA does not discourage teachers from having their voices heard."

"We encourage teachers to voice out their opinion because that's the democratic process, to be able to express themselves, and we encourage them to continue to do that," said Okabe. "However, as far as HSTA is concerned, we have to go through the protocols necessary by the organization."

The rally is scheduled Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at the State Capitol.

read … What they always want

HSTA Negotiations Resume Tomorrow

CB: Teachers union leaders will be returning to the bargaining table Thursday. They plan to pick up where they left off Friday with state negotiators.

When the governor imposed the state’s “last, best, final offer” in July 2011, his deal included a provision to make teachers pay half their healthcare premiums. HSTA’s latest proposal calls for a 60/40 split, in favor of the employee, which is what UPW won last month in arbitration along with 3.2 percent raises.

UPW rejected the 5 percent pay cuts that other Hawaii unions accepted to help the state deal with its deficit two years ago. Instead, UPW went to arbitration, as did a couple other unions.

HSTA President Wil Okabe said Tuesday that he expects the firefighters, nurses and police unions to reap similar benefits from arbitration. He said this should give the teachers union and Hawaii Government Employees Association — which like HSTA can’t do arbitration because it has the right to strike instead — more ammo in their fight for better contracts. (Teachers can't strike until the Hawaii Labor Relations Board rules on HSTA's case against the state.)

The state says it can’t afford to give all the unions pay raises and better healthcare benefits.

Board of Education member Jim Williams said in December that it was unfortunate HSTA leaders were unwilling to accept more than $49 million of new compensation for teachers. He said that proposal was $11 million more than what was offered in any previous state proposal.

He said Tuesday that it would be premature to comment in detail on HSTA's latest proposal until the two sides have a chance to meet.

"We're going over not only the costs but also the terms of what they proposed," Williams said. "I am pleased that they at least made a proposal; that's positive. I'm sure we won't agree with everything in it, but having a proposal is better than not."

Okabe said Tuesday that UPW’s new contract was a factor in HSTA’s latest proposal. He said the teachers union and HGEA should receive a deal that’s fair compared to other public employee unions in Hawaii.

But pay isn’t the only thing Okabe said should be fair for teachers. He said the new teacher evaluation system needs to be, too.

The union wants the state to hold off on implementing a teacher evaluation program that’s being piloted in 81 schools so more data can be collected (Insert excuse here), Okabe said. The new system is supposed to go statewide next school year.

Background: FULL TEXT: HSTA's $440M Contract Proposal

read … More Money Less Accountability

Hawaii Firearms Owners Plan Saturday Rally in Support of Second Amendment Rights

HR: Second Amendment advocates in Hawaii are pushing back. They will join a nationwide movement this Saturday, January 19, at noon at the Hawaii State Capitol in support of the right to keep and bear arms.

Eric Reed, national organizer for Guns Across America events and owner of Gun Control = More Crime, said: “Our goal is to unite gun owners behind a singular message of protecting our Second Amendment rights.  We hope citizens will become more vocal and active politically in regards to any changes in gun control laws.”

Attendees will have the chance to sign a petition that will be delivered to US Senators.

Details: www.facebook.com/GunsAcrossAmericaHawaii

USA Today: Where Each State Stands on Gun Control

ILind: A Typical Demented Gun Control Rant

read … Rally

Another Kakaako ‘Affordable’ Project to be 100% Rentals

SA: Construction of an affordable rental apartment tower in Kakaako called Hale­kau­wila Place has begun after a four-year delay largely over financing. But in overcoming the challenge, the project acquired a silver lining that will benefit lower-income residents.

The 19-story tower with 204 units will be limited to tenants earning no more than 60 percent of Hono­lulu's median family income, which equates to about $43,000 for a single person or $62,000 for a couple with two children.

Monthly rents will likely range from about $850 for studios to about $1,400 for three-bedroom units….

Finding new financing proved difficult, and at one point included a deal for a $70 million loan from an electrical worker pension plan that fell through in 2009.

Ultimately, Carr secured $28 million in federal and state low-income housing tax credits and a $26 million loan from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Hawaii Community Development Authority, a state agency governing development in Kakaako, also committed to making a $17 million loan. The loan package closed last month.

The low-income housing tax credit program requires that housing units created by the credits be occupied by households earning no more than 60 percent of the median income. Carr said he will rent all the units in the project to tenants at that income limit.

"That's really what's needed in the marketplace," he said. "We are so far behind on (satisfying) the need for this kind of rental units."

read … Renters Forever

Island Air Unions Must Give Back or Face Shutdown March 11

SA: Island Air union leaders have been told that the company's preliminary agreement with a prospective new buyer calls for concessions from labor groups and a requirement that the airline's recently acquired ATR 72 plane be up and running by Feb. 13.

If not, then Island Air "will supposedly cease operations as of March 11," according to a memo sent Friday by local Air Line Pilots Association leadership to its crew members.

Island Air, which now is using just two planes, has 5 percent of the interisland passenger market.

Rodyniuk said Tuesday that Island Air expects the 64-seat ATR 72 to be "up and running in the next couple of weeks."

He said the identity of the buyer is being kept under wraps at its request.

That secrecy doesn't sit well with the unions, according to John Dean, senior labor relations counsel for ALPA.

"We've reached out to them for more information, and they have told us they'd be communicating with us shortly," Dean said. "But as of right now they have not shared anything further."

read … Still Secret

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