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Thursday, January 17, 2013
January 17, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:10 PM :: 4938 Views

HHSC Exec Discusses Banner Partnership with Hilo MDs

Slom: Thank God Senate Will Again Have Daily Prayer

Kim: Opening Day Remarks

Poll: State Taxes Should Require a Super Majority for Passage

NFIB: Want to be a Small-Business Leader?

EPA Releases List of Hawaii's Top Polluters

Speaker Souki Opening Day Remarks

Rep Thielen Hails House Bipartisan Coalition

Opening Day Speech by House Minority Leader

Will LNG become a widely-used marine fuel?

Dr John Rosemond Speaking--Honolulu, Waipahu, Poipu

 

Say and His 17: "Revenge, Retribution, Vengeance, Punishment"

CB: Say and his 17 supporters were defiant to the end, with Say offering a floor amendment that would have given his supporters a chance to vote on the record for his chosen successor, Marcus Oshiro. It failed.

The 51st lawmaker, Karl Rhoads, was out sick; he was a Say supporter who switched to Souki and has been rewarded with the Judiciary Committee chairmanship. With the appointment Tuesday of Justin Woodson to fill an empty Maui seat, Souki actually had the 26 Democrat votes necessary to win the speakership outright.

The power transfer was not without grumbling, played out in front of a packed House chamber on hand to celebrate opening day. The floor deliberations were interrupted by multiple calls for recess, forcing the invited dignitaries, entertainers and general public to wait things out.

Say loyalist Sharon Har said the House resolutions that made Souki's speakership and leadership appointments official reeked of "revenge, retribution, vengeance, punishment."

Among other things, Har complained about the new seating arrangement for legislators in the chamber, an arrangement she argued left members of the Say bloc isolated from each other.

One House dissident — who is now in the new majority — told Civil Beat that the new leadership did their best to accommodate seating requests.

Har reiterated her views before reporters after the morning's events.

While stating that she hoped the speaker spat wouldn't cast a negative tone over the rest of the legislative session, Har said, "I do think that it is interesting that the majority leader talked about change, but I find it rather suspect. Because, again, when you are putting in a former speaker, an 80-year-old former speaker who was speaker 14 years ago, does not necessarily represent change."

Har continued: "For some of us, that's taking a step backwards. It's not moving forwards. We remain hopeful that the parties can work together, but I do believe that there are some clear indications of issues that may exist."

Har, it seems, could not even bring herself to say the words "Speaker Souki" or "House Majority Leader Scott Saiki." She also was upset that Say supporters could not speak out on the House floor, instead being advised to submit their comments in writing.

read … 18 Seeking Revenge

Caldwell to Hawaii Legislature: Where's My Money? I Want it Now

CB: Caldwell told lawmakers this week the city has been shortchanged when it comes to a special tax that's earmarked for rail and that an accounting error led to the loss of $10 million last year.

A day before Wednesday's start of the 2013 session, Caldwell appeared before two legislative committees — House Finance and Senate Ways and Means.

He wants two things: guaranteed money for rail and a larger share of tourism dollars.

Caldwell also outlined his demands in four pages of written testimony that described the priorities of his administration to “build rail better” and keep Honolulu “beautiful, safe and accessible.”

In order to build rail better — a hallmark of Caldwell’s campaign — the mayor said the city needs to be able to rely on receiving its share of the one-half percent general excise tax surcharge that is helping pay for the project.

The state collects the general excise tax surcharge on behalf of the city before sending it into the municipal coffers. For this, the state charges a 10 percent administrative fee. Caldwell would like to see that fee rescinded.

FULL TEXT: Caldwell Testimony

read … No Borrow!

Souki, Kim take different tones on new taxes

SA: State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim said Wednesday that despite anticipating a better economy, lawmakers should not impose new tax burdens on residents or reflexively expand state programs.

House Speaker Joseph Souki said the state must generate new revenue if legislators want to restore the social safety net, improve public education and repair infrastructure.

PBN: Souki, Kim deliver opening remarks to Hawaii lawmakers

read … To Be Settled in Secret Conference Committee on Last Day of Session

Schatz Refuses to Support Waiver for HECO, May Force massive Hike in Electric Bills

CB: Hawaiian Electric Co. is considering asking environmental regulators to extend deadlines for complying with new regulations that they say would cost ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

The extension requests could allow the utility that serves Oahu, the Big Island and Maui County time to switch from oil to liquefied natural gas for powering the state’s electricity needs. The new rules don’t apply to LNG.

The Environmental Protection Agency regulations take effect in April 2015 and apply to the sulfur content of fuel. In 2017, the rules restrict ash residue.

But experts an LNG plant couldn't be on line until 2019 at the earliest.

HECO currently uses low sulfur fuel oil in its generators. In order to continue using the oil, the electric utility estimates that it will have to spend about $1 billion in technological upgrades to bring its generators into EPA compliance.

But the extensions may have a hard time gaining the support of Hawaii's political leadership, support that may be needed to convince EPA to grant any waivers.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said that he would want to take a hard look at HECO's plan that would support whether HECO could make the switch to LNG. And he noted that energy experts have said there's another option: HECO can switch to diesel fuel, which would require minimal changes to the utility's generators.  (Diesel would also force a big hike in electric bills.)

“It would be premature to ask for any waiver without fully scrubbing their plan for coming into compliance,” said Schatz. “Obviously, it’s preferable if they can make the fuel switch or technological improvements to come into compliance with federal law.”

read … Helping the ‘Green’ Energy Scammers by Keeping Your Bill High

Consultant predicts Chevron refinery will close Next

SA: Chevron Corp. will likely follow Tesoro Corp.'s lead and close its Campbell Industrial Park refinery within a few years as the environment to do business in Hawaii becomes more difficult, an East-West Center energy expert said Wednesday.

If both of Hawaii's refineries are closed, the state would have to import 100 percent of its gasoline and other refined products, a shift that would not affect consumer prices, said Fereidun Fesharaki, an East-West Center senior fellow and chairman of a global energy consulting firm.

The refineries, which already have a hard time making money in the relatively small market, are being squeezed further by the state's shift away from oil to renewable energy sources and pending Environmental Protection Agency regulations that will make it virtually impossible to use fuel oil for electricity generation, Fesharaki said at a media briefing.

Fuel oil sales to Hawaiian Electric Co. and the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative make up a significant portion of Chevron's and Tesoro's sales.

read … Abercrombie Killed Them Both

Omidyar’s Hanalei Development Designed by Turtle Bay Architect

KE: I stumbled upon an article that Pierre's wife Pam had written for The Hawaii Independent. She's plugging the value of early childhood education, which is fine, and "acting with intention," which prompted me to raise an eyebrow, but what jumped out at me was this statement: [W]hen we align our values with our actions, we have even greater potential.

And I wondered again how, exactly, this project fits the Omidyars' declared values of supporting sustainability in Hawaii. How can building more lavish vacation rentals and an upscale resort, both of which would dump more tourists into Hanalei possibly be sustainable? Because let's get real, they ain't gonna restore the fish pond to actually raise fish.

She goes on to write: In this modern age of consumerism and instant gratification, more attention is being paid to whether our current lifestyles are making us happier – and more specifically, identifying the things that make us truly happy. In many cases, happiness stems from the foundation that was created for us during childhood. 

Yes, Pam, that's exactly right, and if you and Pierre took just a moment to watch the videotape of the community meeting in Hanalei you would learn that sentiment is at the core of so much of the opposition to your project. Over and over people stood up to say they had such a happy childhood on the North Shore and they want to be able to give their kids at least some semblance of that same experience.

And they're upset because you folks are bankrolling a project that undermines their pursuit of happiness, and actually fosters the consumerism and instant gratification that has worked to degrade the culture and natural environment of Kauai.

As has been noted repeatedly, the Omidyars have the chance to become either heroes or pariahs. Which will they choose? Of course, insulated as they are by the underlings/middle men who stand to make money off this project, they may never know they have this choice.

Btw, I wasn't surprised to learn that the same architect — WCIT — who is designing the Hanalei project is also behind the proposed expansion of the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu, which residents there are fighting tooth and nail. 

Related: Pierre Omidyar: The Secret Empire of a Resort Developer

read … Turtle Bay

HMSA Supports Banner Takeover of HHSC Hospitals

HTH: HMSA has been a driving force in Hawaii to create a health information network that allows providers on different islands and in different offices to have access to a patient’s medical history, Gold said. Recent health care reforms passed through Congress emphasized the need for those health information networks, Gold added.

The company has in the past asked members of Hawaii’s Congressional delegation to get an increase in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, without success, Gold said. The company made the same request to state legislators. Hospitals in the state are probably reimbursed at 20 to 30 percent below their actual cost for Medicaid patients, he added.

Gold also responded to recent reports that Arizona-based Banner Health has expressed interest in taking over several state-run hospitals on the Big Island and Maui. He said HMSA officials have reached out to Banner officials for a meeting to discuss what such a move would mean for HMSA.

“From everything I’ve heard, Banner would bring a level of professionalism, systems, processes that would make those hospitals better,” Gold said. People with whom he has spoken who are familiar with Banner “think the level of quality care would go up. People at the hospital may disagree.”

Related: HHSC Exec Discusses Banner Partnership with Hilo MDs

HGEA January 14, 2013:  HGEA released a press statement on Friday regarding Banner Health, a national non-profit hospital system based in Phoenix, Ariz. that is currently in talks with Hawaii Health Systems Corporation’s Maui region and East Hawaii region to form a partnership. Because of Banner Health’s anti-union stance, we are concerned about how this partnership would negatively impact employees, their jobs and our communities.  Following is HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira’s statement: “The prospect of Banner Health’s takeover is unsettling. Frankly, it is incomprehensible that the state would willingly relinquish neighbor island healthcare decisions to a mainland facility. This proposal certainly wouldn’t be in the best interest of our local communities and our state.”

read … Banner Year?

Oi: PLDC Style Control of School Land Won’t Be for ‘Ritzy Tourist Projects’

They were mostly one-story buildings sprawling across broad pieces of land, with lots of grass, shady trees and hibiscus and crown flower and tiare bushes, what state Sen. Jill Tokuda described last week as “plantation-style campuses.”

The context of her remarks was discussion of an idea lawmakers are considering to capitalize on “underutilized” public school properties by creating a trust to lease such land for commercial projects.

Talk has been focused on so-called “workforce housing” and health clinics, an effort to blunt apprehension that land would go to luxury homes, ritzy retail development or even tourism-related projects since the fundamental goal, of course, is to raise revenue

People who live near schools with dwindling enrollment are concerned because smaller schools have been targets for closing in recent years and they are unsure of rules that would be put in place and the effects on their neighborhoods. Their anxieties are validated by the Legislature’s creation of the Public Land Development Corp. that largely exempted projects from environmental, building and zoning requirements. That endeavor has been suspended because of fierce public opposition.

There is, however, reason to test the school property idea with a pilot project, but legislation should be absolutely firm about the revenue going only to public school restoration and modernization, and not to fill some budget gap or to pay for other schemes politicians are inclined to dream up.

Schools need not be as sprawling as many now are; compact facilities could be more efficient. Still, there should always be ample spaces for education and expansion as demographics change, for places to play and maybe for cafeterias sheltered from the whimsies of wind and rain.

SA: Usual Suspects Steer anti-PLDC Protests in anti-GMO Direction

read … Watch what they deny

Honolulu still hasn’t regained all jobs lost during recession

PBN: Honolulu lost 11,400 private-sector jobs during the recent recession, ranking the city in the top half of the nation’s 102 major markets, according to a new analysis.

Honolulu had 362,900 private-sector jobs in November 2007, one month before the recession began, but that number fell to 351,500 by November 2012, a difference of 11,400, or 3.14 percent, according to the analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics by On Numbers, an affiliate of Pacific Business News.

Honolulu was ranked 47th among the 102 markets in terms of raw numbers, and 43rd for percentage, On Numbers found.

read … Abercrombie Economy

Big Island Plastic Bag Ban Murders 12,000 Trees Every Year

WHT: On the Big Island alone, more than 723 tons of paper grocery bags are used each year, according to KTA. The production of those paper bags contributes to air pollution and would require 12,000 trees to be cut down.

News Release: Plastic Bag Prohibition in Effect on Hawaii Island 

read … Where are the Tree Huggers?

Solar Scammers Trot Out Last Year’s Bogus Study

PBN: The Blue Planet Foundation said Tuesday that the existing state renewable energy tax credit, which has helped the solar photovoltaic industry reach new heights, provides a “significant net fiscal benefit to the state.”

The Honolulu-based nonprofit, which aims to end the use of carbon-based fuels,released a full report detailing the economic impacts of Hawaii’s renewable energy tax credit with analysis conducted by former University of Hawaii economistThomas Loudat.

The findings show every commercial PV tax credit dollar invested yields $7.15 that stays in Hawaii and $55.03 in additional sales, which generates $2.67 in new tax revenues.

For example, the report said that a typical 118-kilowatt commercial PV installation creates 2.7 local jobs each year during the 30-year lifetime of the system.

read … Solar tax credit generates revenue for Hawaii

Hawaii unemployment rate falls to 5.2%

HNN: The national jobless rate held at 7.8 percent from November to December, but Hawaii unemployment fell one tenth, and behind the 5.2 percent figure were declines in all four operating counties:

  • Oahu 4.3% down 5/10ths.
  • Big Island 6.9% down 5/10ths.
  • Kauai 6.0% down 4/10ths.
  • Maui Co. 5.2% down 5/10ths

read … Unemployment

Group: Lighten tax burden for isle poor

HTH: A Honolulu-based nonprofit law firm wants state lawmakers to establish a Hawaii earned income tax credit and eliminate the income tax on the poor to ease the burden on low-income individuals and families.

This would help return money to those who need it most, as well as address the inequities in Hawaii’s tax system, which are adversely affecting the state’s most vulnerable residents, according to the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice. The measures would encourage work among low-income families, reduce poverty, increase self-sufficiency and stimulate the local economy, claimed the group’s report to the Legislature.

Last spring, the center released a report, “The State of Poverty in Hawaii and How to Restore Our Legacy of Fairness.” Several policy recommendations were made, such as increasing the minimum wage, which has been $7.25 since 2007, to a level that’s closer to a living wage. However, such a proposal gets enormous push back, particularly from businesses, said Victor Geminiani, Hawaii Appleseed Center executive director.

“Hawaii is one of only 15 states that levy an income tax on families earning minimum wage and one of only four that taxes those living below the poverty level,” the report states. “The aggregate state and local tax rate for our low-income population is the sixth highest in the nation. In other words, Hawaii requires its poorest taxpayers to spend more of their household budgets on state and local taxes than the vast majority of states.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found in 2011 families of four living in poverty were paying $331 in income taxes, which is higher than in all but two other states.

Geminiani said Gov. Neil Abercrombie campaigned on instituting a state EITC to address poverty and grow the middle class. He also mentioned growing support from health and human services groups in recent years.

The amount of the proposed credit would depend on how much income a family has and how many children are in a family. It’s also dependent on what the claimant gets under the federal program.

Lowell Kalapa, head of the conservative nonprofit Tax Foundation of Hawaii, said Hawaii tying itself to a federal program that would allow a percentage of the federal credit amount would be “a mistake,” especially because the state would be subject to the whims of federal officials who could choose to double or quadruple the amount of the federal credit, beyond what Hawaii could afford.

read … Appleseed

Amusement Park Proposed for Kakaako

SA: Balding, known locally as a canoe paddler, surfer and triathlete, plans to lease from Kamehameha Schools half of the 6-acre grassy parcel near Kakaako Makai Gateway Park to plant the entertainment park. It is to feature a stationary surfing wave, skateboard park and go-kart track, plus a miniature golf course, rock-climbing wall, kiddie carnival rides, plus food offerings … and a small Ferris wheel.

"You only live once," Balding, 48, told the Star-Advertiser's Andrew Gomes, adding that he had been thinking about such a complex for 20 years. "You either go big or go home. I'm going big."

read … Go Home

 

Hapuna Beach: Sen Laura Thielen Defends Lingle’s DLNR

WHT: Kenoi thinks the county could take better care of the two parks than the state, and he’s been trying for several years to get the state to transfer them. But opposition from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has moved over to the Senate along with former DLNR Chairwoman Laura Thielen.

Thielen, (now) a Democrat, is now a state senator, and her position on both the Senate Water and Land Committee and the Ways and Means Committee puts her in a position to be a factor in the decision.

Thielen made her position clear Tuesday, when Kenoi presented his legislative wish list to the Ways and Means Committee. She quizzed Kenoi about Hapuna Beach, asking whether the county planned to oversee all of the 61.8-acre park, or only the public beach area. (In other words, she picked up where she left off as Lingle’s DLNR director.) Court cases have established that the state is in charge of trails and archaeological sites, such as those adjacent to the beach access.

read … Kenoi vs Thielen Redux

Biofool Producer Introduces New Invasive Grass Species

ELP: Viaspace Inc. (OTC: VSPC) said that its proprietary dedicated energy crop, giant king grass, is now growing in Hawaii….

Previously, Viaspace announced that Giant King Grass has been released from quarantine by the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for distribution in the United States. Hawaii, however, has additional plant import rules, and the giant king grass is being grown in a facility under the purview of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Kukkonen personally supervised the planting in Hawaii and met with Department of Agriculture officials as well as with potential Giant King Grass customers in Hawaii. Kukkonen continued, "The climate in Hawaii is ideal for giant king grass.

read … Another Invasive Species

Groin Removal Blamed for Waikiki Beach Erosion

HNN: The state wrapped up a major project to replenish the sand between Kuhio Beach and the Royal Hawaiian groin last May. The DLNR, Hawaii Tourism Authority, and Kyo-ya Hotels split the $2.3 million cost, but the sand in this spot eroded faster than expected.

"It exposed an old foundation of a home or a clubhouse that probably dated back to the 1920's," said Lemmo.

Some longtime beach boys believe that the removal of two nearby groin structures caused the problem, but the state doesn't want to jump to any conclusions.

"It's being caused by a number of factors including possibly persistent trade wind swell, unusual wave direction, possibly the man-made structures in Waikiki are having an influence," Lemmo said.

read … But State Doesn’t Want to Own Up

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