Hawaii Lawmakers Meet With President Obama During National Summit

State Senators Will Espero (Senate Dist. 19 – ‘Ewa Beach, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages) and Jill Tokuda (Senate Dist. 24 – Kane‘ohe, Kane‘ohe MCAB, Kailua, He‘eia, ‘Ahuimanu), along with State Representative Chris Lee (House Dist. 51 – Kailua, Waimanalo) were among more than 50 Democratic lawmakers from around the country at the White House on Wednesday to meet with President Barack Obama.  The President encouraged them to push for domestic policy change at the state level because “you can act when Washington won’t.”
Lawmakers whitehouse

The Hawaii lawmakers were in Washington, D.C. to participate in discussions on how the states can address issues including raising the minimum wage, paid family leave and sick days for workers, expanding pre-Kindergarten education, college affordability, and reforming licensing laws to allow more people to get jobs.

Following the summit, the Hawaii delegation clearly understood the burden and opportunity for change that befalls legislators.

“The meetings with the White House staff were productive and informative. Hawai’i families are counting on us to make good policy and improve the quality of life where they live. I look forward to working with the President to pass legislation which supports working men and women and families in our state,” said Sen. Espero.

Sen. Tokuda said the meeting “was a good opportunity to connect with senior White House officials and lawmakers from other states to discuss how we can move forward on important issues like paid leave, early childhood education and criminal justice reform. These discussions were timely as we head towards our legislative session and prepare priorities and bills that will be introduced in concert with local and national efforts.”

Rep. Lee said, “Issues like paid family leave and medical leave aren’t red or blue issues. They will benefit everyone and are overwhelmingly supported by people around the country, but Congress has been unable to take action. Families in our community are hurting. I have friends just starting families who are being forced to choose between caring for their newborns or keeping their jobs. That isn’t right. The United States is the last developed nation in the world without meaningful paid family leave. If Congress won’t act to fix that, then it’s up to us at the state level.”

Ground Broken For Lalamilo Wind Farm

The County of Hawai‘i and the Department of Water Supply held a groundbreaking event for the construction of a wind farm in South Kohala earlier today.  Contributing to the State’s Clean Energy Initiative’s goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, this project will consist of 5 wind turbines that will altogether generate 3.3 MW.

New 3.3 MW wind farm will save Hawai'i Island water customers $1 million a year on energy.

New 3.3 MW wind farm will save Hawai’i Island water customers $1 million a year on energy.

A benefit to Water Supply customers, Hawai‘i County, and the state of Hawai‘i; construction of this new facility will create about 50 temporary construction jobs, and about three permanent positions to operate the wind farm.  Construction is estimated to be complete in approximately one year.  Commercial operation is expected to begin the latter part of 2016.

The completed wind farm will provide a less expensive renewable energy source for the DWS wells in the area which serve an average 5.1 million gallons per day to residential, resort, park, industrial and commercial areas from Mauna Lani Resort to Kawaihae.  To maximize the use of renewable energy, controls will be installed to coordinate DWS operations with the wind generated energy production.

The DWS awarded Lālāmilo Wind Company LLC the project and executed a Power Purchase Agreement that includes a contract energy amount of 7,620 megawatt-hours/year (MWh/yr) to be supplied to the DWS. The current energy demand is approximately 11,000 MWh/yr. with an annual electrical cost of $4.1M.  The Lālāmilo wind farm is expected to save $1.0 million per year in energy costs over the next 20 years.

Hawaii Wins $53.1 Million Settlement Against Online Travel Companies

The State of Hawaii has recovered $53.1 million in general excise taxes, penalties and interest from online travel companies (the “companies”) including Travelocity.Com, LLP, Expedia, Inc., Orbitz, LLC, and Priceline.Com, LLP from tax litigation that began in 2011.

Attorney General Clip

Attorney General Doug Chin said “Online travel companies derive substantial profits from the sale of hotel rooms, rental cars a nd other services in Hawaii. The importance of the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling is the precedent it establishes. People or companies who provide goods and services through the Internet that are used or consumed in Hawaii are subject to Hawaii taxation, despite being domiciled in other states.”

The Tax Appeal Court previously ruled that the companies owed general excise taxes but not the State’s transient accommodations tax that is assessed on operators of transient accommodations, like hotels. The State and the companies appealed to the Hawaii Supreme Court from these rulings.

On March 17, 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court upheld the Tax Appeal Court’s ruling that the companies are subject to Hawaii’s general excise tax, but concluded that they are taxable only on their net receipts from the sale of hotel rooms in Hawaii, not their gross receipts. The Court ruled that the companies receive the benefit of an income splitting provision that applies to travel agents in chapter 237, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

The Court rejected the companies’ argument that they were not doing business in Hawaii. The Court stated in its opinion, “the [companies] are not passive sellers of services to Hawai‘i consumers. The [companies] actively solicit customers for Hawai‘i hotel rooms and actively solicit hotels to contractually provide the right to sell on their website the right of occupancy of hotel rooms.”

The Court remanded the case to the Tax Appeal Courtto re-determine the amount of general excise taxes, penalties and interest the companies owe to the State of Hawaii. On September 22, 2015, the Tax Appeal Court entered final stipulated judgments setting forth the amounts owed by the companies and the amounts that the State needed to refund from the State’s litigated claims fund.

Litigation against the companies for their other State tax obligations for their other business activities in Hawaii during the period 2000 through 2013 is continuing.

Department of Health Cites Ken’s Towing for Vehicle Salvage and Solid Waste Inspection Violations

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has filed a Notice of Violation and Order against Ken’s Towing Service, Inc. The violations occurred at 55 Kukila Street in Hilo, Hawaii (TMK 2-2-058:027 and 2-2-047:061) and involved the operation of an unpermitted vehicle salvage facility and the obstruction of a DOH inspection.

Kens

Ken’s Towing Service, Inc. was previously operating under a solid waste management permit that expired in February 2012. DOH conducted an inspection of the facility on Mar. 13, 2013 and found approximately 40 junk vehicles, at least five cubic yards of scrap metal, at least 100 scrap tires, and approximately 3 pallets of shrink wrapped lead acid batteries.

The company submitted a permit application in June 2013, but the department was unable to issue the permit as the facility neglected to finish the permit process and the application remains incomplete. On Oct. 20, 2014, DOH attempted an inspection of the facility and was denied entry.

Based on these findings and events, DOH has imposed a penalty of $7,500, and ordered the facility to remove all solid waste and close the unpermitted salvage operation. Ken’s Towing Service, Inc. may request a hearing to contest the allegations or order.

The DOH, Solid Waste Section regulates standards governing the design, construction, installation, operation, and maintenance of solid waste disposal, recycling, reclamation, and transfer systems. Such standards are intended to prevent pollution of the drinking water supply or waters of the state; prevent air pollution; prevent the spread of disease and the creation of nuisances; protect public health and safety; conserve natural resources; and preserve and enhance the beauty and quality of the environment.

GVS Accelerator Lands YouTube Star & Award Winning Mentors for 2015 – 2016 Cohorts

Hawai’i Island’s own YouTube star Alex Farnham represented one of the seven companies chosen to join the 2015 – ­2016 GVS Accelerator.

fYouTube sensation Alex Farnham

YouTube sensation Alex Farnham

A number of award­ winning entertainment industry mentors, Senator Glenn Wakai, Representative Nicole Lowen, Mayor Billy Kenoi, and Council Member Karen Eoff were on hand for the announcement at Honua Studios.

The GVS Transmedia Accelerator Program (GTA Program) is a partnership between Global Virtual Studio (GVS), the Hawai’i Strategic Development Corporation (HSDC), the County of Hawai’i and the GTA Development Fund, empowers creative entrepreneurs to launch original transmedia franchises for commercial audiences with an investment of $50,000 seed capital and industry mentors for each selected start­up franchise.

Accelerator Winners

Accelerators on island for Kickoff week include screenwriters Janet and Lee Batchler (POMPEII, BATMAN FOREVER), Jim Kruger (former Creative Director at Marvel, NY Times Bestselling Author, DC Comic Writer: X­Men, Batman) Frank Tate (MTV, MindQuilt, Super Franks) Mike Frank (Disney, Pepsi, Co­founder of Level 3 Communications). The selected companies represent a diverse cross­section of media and entertainment, each incorporating multiple product platforms ranging from feature films and TV series to graphic novels and mobile apps.

The seven companies selected for the 2015­2016 cohort are:

  • CAPTIVE – Founder Team: John Shepherd, Patrick Hibler; Genre: Drama/Action­Adventure; Platforms: Feature Film, Graphic Novel, Video Game -CAPTIVE is an action adventure film about a former SAS Officer who sets off on a series of suicidal adventures, traveling the Pacific on his only worldly possession – a 50+ foot sailboat.
  • THE MEDICINE RUNNER – Founder Team: Edwin Marshall, David Cunningham; Genre: Drama; Platforms: Feature Film, Book, App – THE MEDICINE RUNNER is a story about a homeless orphan boy of mixed race and a “Haole” (white) village doctor fighting for their place in the small coffee farming community of 1920’s Hawai’i.
  • MOCKSTARS – Founder Team: Alex Farnham, Richard Farnham; Genre: Comedy/ Mockumentary; Platforms: YouTube Channel, Mockumentary – MOCKSTARS is a web­driven series starring YouTube star, Alex Farnham. Each video parodies a current celebrity, movie, song, concert or happening through original music.
  • OCEANNA – Founder Team: Laurie & Wayne Nunez; Genre: Children’s Animated Series; Platforms: TV Series, Branded Products/Merchandise, Soundtrack, Book, App/Game, DVD – OCEANNA is an animated children’s TV series about a young girl whose daydreams transform her into the underwater superhero “Oceanna: Protector of the Sea”.
  • WINGS – Founder: Kaveh Kardan; Genre: Science Fiction; Platforms: Graphic Novel (Web based), Graphic Novel (Print), Feature Film – Giant robots inhabit the wilderness in WINGS, a steampunk tale about a young female pilot who sets off to solve the mystery of her parents’ disappearance.
  • NATIVE – Founder Team: Joel Angyal, Mike Leahy; Genre: Drama; Platforms: Feature Film, Clothing Line, Music Album – NATIVE is a feature film about a troubled teenage boy given an opportunity to develop his inner­warrior by connecting to his Hawaiian roots and training in mixed martial arts (MMA).
  • SURF BREAK HOTEL – Founder Team: Stefan Schaefer, Jonathan Stern; Genre: Sitcom; Platforms: Web/TV Series – SURF BREAK HOTEL is an original comedic series about a washed­up surf pro, Byron “ALL BIZ” Waggie, who’s forced to take a job as a surf instructor at a Maui beach hotel.

The addition of YouTube star Alex Farnham to the accelerator’s ranks brings one of the fastest­growing segments of media to the Program’s mix. Farnham got his start on YouTube with “one dolla” and quickly became a sensation with 68 million views and 229,000 subscribers. His project MOCKSTARS will parody current celebrities, movies and songs. Farnham said, “I think it’s great to have something like this here ­ great for the community and for the kids growing up here.”

Kaveh Kardan, founder of graphic novel project WINGS, is a graduate of sister incubator/accelerator program, Creative Lab. Stefan Schaefer (SURF BREAK HOTEL) was also a recent alternate in the program. Creative Lab was founded in 2012 by the Hawai’i State Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism’s Creative Industries Division (CID) to accelerate the growth of Hawaii’s creative entrepreneurs through immersive, hands­on training in motion pictures, television, screenwriting, broadband, new media, interactive/technology, music and design/fashion.

In addition to the $50,000 in seed funding for development, successful graduates of the accelerator program can now tap up to $250,000 in matching funds if they raise at least 25 percent of their follow­on budget in private equity and secure product distribution. Senator Glenn Wakai stated, “This is really the recipe for economic development the State has been looking for… for a small (State) investment, we partner with private investors and good things can happen.”

ABOUT THE GVS TRANSMEDIA ACCELERATOR PROGRAM

The GTA Program is a partnership between the County of Hawai’i, the Hawai’i Strategic Development Corporation (HSDC), the GTA Development Fund, and the GVS Accelerator. The GTA Program is a two­time Small Business Administration award­winner as one of the top accelerators in the U.S. and is part of Hawaii’s “Startup Paradise” community. For more information visit www.gvsaccelerator.com