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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
January 22, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:32 PM :: 4862 Views

The Legislature and the Death of Big Ideas

Abercrombie to Sign Executive Order Creating Super-PLDC

Hawaii School Choice Week Events on Oahu, Maui

FrackNation TV Debut: Debunks Anti-Natural Gas Hysteria

Abercrombie Soda Tax: $1.28 per Gallon

1959: Martin Luther King Jr Salutes Hawaii Statehood

Full Text: Obama's Second Inaugural Address

Star-Advertiser Buys Kauai Garden Isle Newspaper

Gun Ban Would Destabilize Hawaii’s Ecosystem

Will Legislature Make TAT Increase Permanent?

SA: When the 2011 Legislature considered dipping into the counties' hotel tax proceeds to cope with the bad economy, county mayors said they recognized the "unprecedented financial challenges" of the state. The Legislature decided to raise the hotel room tax by 2 percentage points to 9.25 percent through fiscal 2015, capping the amount distributed to counties at $93 million and skimming the rest for state coffers.

"Although this may appear to be a move to maintain parity," Lowell Kalapa's Tax Foundation of Hawaii warned at the time, "what is disconcerting is that there is the great possibility that lawmakers may become accustomed to the increased revenues as the visitor industry and economy improves. Will lawmakers consider making this rate increase and siphoning of the TAT revenues to the (state) general fund permanent?"

As expected, Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Ige now says, "The budget's very tight." He and House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke promise to consider the mayors' plea to lift the cap. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and other mayors are justified in asking that the Legislature stop the hotel tax dip into the county pots sooner than the end of fiscal 2015. But, of course, nothing is promised. The counties will need to make compelling cases to legislators about the many deficiencies and demands on their localized tourism hubs — and there are many — that warrant outlay of reinvestment funds.

In another state-county fiscal tug, the state is confiscating 10 percent of Oahu's half-percent general excise tax surcharge being collected for Honolulu's rail project. That amount is supposedly for administrative costs, but Caldwell rightly noted that in 2012 alone, the state's $21.2 million take was nearly as much as the state Tax Department's entire budget.

"Obviously I'm biased on this," Caldwell said, "but I really would like to see the 10 percent come back to the city."

read … Share revenues with counties

State of the State: Two Speeches, Two Disasters … Going on Three

Borreca: Today's speech by Gov. Neil Abercrombie will be one important sign of how well the veteran Democratic politician is handling his challenges….

Abercrombie's first State of the State address was a broad, brave and all-encompassing speech. Hawaii's new governor was decisive in recommending an "unflinching" attack on the state's deficit. (Translation: Big Fat Tax Increases) 

The fault with Abercrombie's first speech was not in his assessment of Hawaii's problems; the flaw was his belief that his recommended solutions were not subject to adjustment. (Translation Abercrombie was the flaw.)

Tying his administration to a pension tax was an unpopular idea, but then deriding his critics, including name-calling attacks on the AARP, ensured that Abercrombie would not get the Hawaii statesman of the year award.

It also meant he wouldn't get what he wanted.

Last year, Abercrombie's speech moved away from the pension tax and instead looked to the problems negotiating with the public school teachers union.  (And we all know how THAT has gone.)

"I have again requested that the Hawaii State Teachers Association provide us with a proposal as soon as possible," Abercrombie said in 2012.

Now, although Abercrombie and the teachers are engaged in negotiations, there are no indications that they will be successful.

The speech Abercrombie is to give this morning will have to address not just the state's financial picture, but the mounting problem of paying for whatever new agreements emerge. (Translation: Big Fat Tax Increases) 

There is a lot of political danger there. So far, Abercrombie and the public unions, except for the university professors, have not been a real team. The Abercrombie campaign may want the HSTA and the Hawaii Government Employees Association with him for further campaigns, but the cost will be high.  (Translation: Big Fat Tax Increases) 

It is assumed that the state's largest union, the HGEA, will ask for more than just the restoration of its 5 percent pay cuts — but the HGEA will have the added bargaining power of just waiting for binding arbitration to come down with a big pay raise. (Translation: Big Fat Tax Increases) 

read … Abercrombie's challenge is making nice with unions

Hilo Election Workers’ Suit Challenges Journalists’ ‘Shield Law’

WHT: Hilo attorney Ted Hong, who’s representing Elections Office Administrator Pat Nakamoto in her defamation lawsuit against former County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong and former County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi, filed the subpoena on Jan. 4 in 3rd Circuit Court. In it, he’s seeking the identities of individuals posting under the user-names “punatic,” “Taxedtodeath,” “punatic8,” “QQ,” “548991” and “rsjm.”

The document seeks “any and all account information, including but not limited to, name, birthdate, mailing address, telephone number(s), Internet protocol address, (and) name of Internet service provider.” The deadline for providing the information is today.

A legal disclaimer on the Tribune-Herald’s website contains the statement: “IP and email addresses of persons who post are not treated as confidential records and will be disclosed in response to valid legal process.”

“We are complying with the subpoena requests,” said David Bock, Tribune-Herald editor and news director for Stephens Media Hawaii. “We are very protective of our news sources and reporters’ work, but we have no control over what members of the public write in our website’s comments section.”

Hong also subpoenaed West Hawaii Today, seeking the notes of reporter Nancy Cook-Lauer regarding stories she wrote about the firing of Nakamoto and three other elections workers, and the flap that ensued.

Bock said Stephens Media is fighting that subpoena, noting that Hawaii has a “shield law” protecting journalists in most cases from having to turn over their notes or the identities of their sources unless all other avenues have been exhausted.

As a courtesy to the website posters, the Tribune-Herald notified them via email that the newspaper would be complying with the subpoenas, Bock said.

In response, one of the posters has filed a motion to quash Hong’s subpoena. The motion, filed by Hilo attorney Steve Strauss on behalf of “Doe Defendant Taxedtodeath,” states that his client’s “privacy and First Amendment rights, including the right to free speech and to petition the government, will be substantially impaired” by forced disclosure of the poster’s identity.

It also states that his client “fears retaliation for past speech using the pseudonym Taxedtodeath that has been critical of aspects of state and local government, including the Hawaii County Police Department and individual police officers.”

Nakamoto’s complaint alleges that Taxedtodeath used the posts to publish “information that was part of the ‘confidential’ investigative report authored and submitted by defendant CSII (Corporate Specialized Intelligence and Investigations).”

One of the posts, dated Jan. 30, 2012, states: “When we get to the depositions ask Ka‘u High School where they got the signs for their gym and ask Shikuma what other elected officials paid Shikuma for the signs he was making in our county facility.”

read … Making Campaign Signs on County Property

Wooley: PLDC Repeal ‘Going to be a Challenge’

WT: Rep. Wooley: Well I think a repeal is going to be a challenge simply because it’s unusual to repeal a bill. So a repeal will be difficult. But as I said I’m hopeful because do I think it has impeded public policy and I think will have a negative effect on agriculture. Right now DLNR is supposed to be going through their inventory of land and identifying land that’s supposed to shift over to the Department of Agriculture.

Now they have a new priority which is to identify land under the Public Land Development Corporation’s agenda for commercial development – as you said, building hotels – and those types of activities….

Regarding the solar tax credit, I know that we are going to be having a lot of bills introduced, I’ve already seen several. There will be a change proposed, so what will happen is anyone’s guess.

My perspective is that I’ve been excited to see the industry take off. I think it’s a great investment and using public-private funds to help us be more independent and remove some of that dependence on foreign oil. But I think that we have to be real careful with tax credits and making sure that we’re not giving shock treatment to the industry.

Industries need consistency and predictability, and so I have been emphasizing that whatever we do, it shouldn’t be flip-floppy. One of my criticisms of the past few sessions and some of the policies is that we have flip-flopped on whether we want to promote an industry, and that is so bad for every other industry because if you jump up and down and claim you’re going give everybody tax credits and you pass a law but then the next year you repeal it, it’s pretty confusing for everyone.

Daniel DeGracia: “That’s right, absolutely, you’re right….”

read … Wooley Interview

Kona: Solar Powered Electric Cars Equal to $3/gallon Gas

The five Chevrolet Volts, costing about $47,000 each, hit the road last April.

In total, they have traveled 41,313 miles, according to a report issued this month.

The cars are based at the West Hawaii Civic Center, which is equipped with solar panels.

Rolston said the county takes advantage of the solar energy when charging the vehicles, though the power isn’t free.

The panels are owned by SunRun, which installed them at no charge to the county, Rolston said. The move saved the county between $1.5 million and $2 million in installation costs, he said.

In exchange, the county buys the power the panels produce.

The rate is half of the local utility rate, Rolston said. (Still twice the highest rate on the mainland)

Still, the cost of electricity is cheaper than running a vehicle purely on gasoline, he said.

Rolston estimates the cost of running the cars on all-electric mode to be equitable to buying gas at $2 to $3 a gallon. (And if gas goes down, these cars will still cost more than gas-powered cars.)

read … Solar Economics

Senators Grill Greenwood Over Jerry Chang’s PR Gig

HNN: Senators also wanted to know about the position being filled by former Hilo State Rep. Jerry Chang, who will be paid $120,000 a year to handle public relations and lobbying for UH Hilo as its director of university relations, if the UH Board of Regents approves his hiring.

Kim asked Greenwood how many university relations positions exist throughout UH's ten campuses, a question that was not answered.

"I'll be happy to get a numerical number for you. I don't know how to count them on all the other campuses. Because they are not just public relations people. Many of them only ten percent or five percent of their time would be involved with public relations," Greenwood told Kim.

Jan 12 2013: No Joke: Former state Rep. Jerry Chang joins UH Hilo as director of university relations

read … Heated exchanges in Senate UH budget briefing

Act 221 Scammers to be Kicked out of Manoa HQ?

Fidell: The state's High Tech Development Corp. operates the Manoa Innovation Center on land leased from the University of Hawaii. The 20-year lease expires in 2015.

HTDC CEO Yuka Naga­shima wants to extend the lease, but UH President M.R.C. Greenwood wants to take the property back.

A startup at MIC can expect to pay about $2.50 per foot. From this, HTDC gets $1 million in rent every year.

UH says it needs MIC's 40,000-square-foot building for office and research space.

Last year, SB 4125 would have transferred the lease to HTDC. It was deferred. This year, SB 477 would do the same thing. HB 71 would extend the lease by 25 years. MIC supporters will support these bills.

read … Lost and Homeless, Scammers Wander the Earth looking for Credits

Is It Time To Beef Up Hawaii's Lax Lobbying Law?

CB: Unlike many other states, Hawaii requires very little information from those who lobby as well as those who get lobbied. Lobbyists' reports are limited to revealing total dollar amounts spent lobbying and specifying what issue is being lobbied.

And reports are not required to be filed in time for the public to clearly track who is pushing for — or against — particular bills. The legislative session is long over before the reports come in.

And when they do, it's often hard to get ahold of them. Many reports also are not available online, making it even more difficult for interested citizens to follow the process.

The agency that oversees the lobbying law also is financially hamstrung. The state Ethics Commission has tried — and failed — year after year to shore up the law….Chapter 97, the state’s lobbying law, sets out the rules governing lobbying by special interests trying to sway policymakers.

read … Lobbying Law

Pflueger faces more accusations

SA: Federal prosecutors have leveled more accusations against retired car dealer James Pflue­ger, who faces trial next month on conspiracy and tax evasion charges.

Pflueger, 86, is charged with conspiring to conceal from the IRS the payments his former company, Pflue­ger Inc., made to cover his personal expenses for 2003 through 2006, and his profit from the sale of the California investment property. He is also charged with filing false federal income tax returns and failing to report his holdings in the Swiss bank account.

Now the government says Pflue­ger had his personal expenses paid by Pflue­ger Inc. even before 2003, although a precise date is not mentioned in documents filed last week in preparation for the trial.

In the filings, the government also said the company paid for the health insurance of his Pflue­ger's daughters, a personal companion and two gardeners who worked for his estranged wife. Prosecutors also now say he filed false Hawaii and California income tax returns and signed his estranged wife's name on joint state and federal tax returns.

read … Still Running the Clock Down

19 Convictions in 23 Years and Out Stealing Motorcycles at UH Law School

SA: A 41-year-old parolee with a long string of convictions was arrested Monday night near the University of Hawaii Law School (full of soft-on-crime judges-in-waiting) for allegedly stealing a motorcycle.

Police said the suspect also faces a charge of parole violation. The suspect was convicted of 17 misdemeanors and two felonies, including second-degree assault, starting in 1991. (Plus juvenile record?)

Do the math: 17+2 = 19+2 more from today = 21 /(41-18) = 21 convictions/23 years almost one conviction every ‘adult’ year for 23 years. He’ll probably get another chance

read … Soft on Crime

Potheads Drop to 2.8% of Job Applicants

SA: A new statistical analysis by Diagnostic Laboratory Services Inc. found that marijuana use was down to 2.8 percent for all of 2012, from 3.1 percent in 2011. However, marijuana use inched upward on a quarterly basis, rising to 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter from 2.5 percent in the third quarter.

Use of crystal meth­am­pheta­mine was flat at 0.7 percent in each of the past two years, said Carl Linden, scientific director of toxicology at DLS.

However, meth use inched upward in each month of 2012 and was at 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter, up from 0.8 percent in the third quarter.

The DLS analysis showed relatively low cocaine and opiate use in the past two years. Cocaine use was down to 0.2 percent in 2012 from 0.3 percent in 2011, and down to 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter from 0.2 percent in the third quarter.

Opiate use was 0.2 percent in 2012, unchanged from 2011, and rose to 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter from 0.1 in the third quarter.

The use of synthetic urine to mask drug use dropped to 0.9 percent in 2012 from 1.5 percent the previous year. Use of fake urine was the same in the third and fourth quarters, at 0.8 percent.

read … Dopers are a Micro-Minority

Hawaii should prepare now for driverless vehicles

SA: Nissan’s new electric Leaf will now be able to park itself without a person being inside the vehicle.

Volvo, GM and Ford are soon to release a technology that senses the car in front of you and automatically adjusts your speed, and has lane-departure warning systems. The cars also will be able to autonomously steer and brake through stop-and-go traffic. And if you’re not paying attention at the wheel, Lexus is coming out with a technology that can tell if drivers are getting drowsy or don’t have their eyes on the road.

Even more advanced is the 2013 Mercedes S Class, which features a fully autonomous mode for sub-25 mph speeds when the vehicle will actually drive itself. But all these examples pale in view of what Google has accomplished over the past few years, in an experimental self-driving Prius that has driven itself through the streets of Nevada and California for more than 300,000 miles without a single accident. Google appears to be leading the way into the future of autonomous driving, but many wonder where this will all be taking us.

So far, Nevada, Florida and California have passed laws that explicitly make self-driving vehicles legal. And that is why a few of us in Hawaii’s Legislature will be introducing legislation this session to get Hawaii up to speed. We need to explore how we can save precious lives, time and money for the people of Hawaii.

read … Real Traffic Solutions

Preserve proposed to help 4 native plants

SA: A public hearing to create the proposed Kalua­nui Natural Area Reserve is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Queen Liliu­oka­lani Children's Center in Hau­ula.

The state has proposed designating 376 acres in Kalua­nui as the reserve.

Under the proposal, the administration of the land would be transferred from state parks to the Division of Forestry and Wildlife.

read … From one Hand to the Other

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