State of Hawaii Sues “Dog the Bounty Hunter”

Attorney General Doug Chin announced today that his office has filed petitions to enforce judgments against Da Kine Bail Bonds, Inc. (Da Kine) and Safety National Casualty Corporation (Safety) for forfeited bail bonds those companies failed to pay to the State of Hawaii (State).

Click to read legal filing

Click to read legal filing

Da Kine owes the State thirty-five thousand five hundred dollars ($35,500) from 21 separate criminal cases. Duane “Dog” Chapman is the president and director of Da Kine.

Safety is the surety that is obligated to pay if Da Kine defaults. Attorney General Doug Chin said “Bail bond companies promise to pay us when their clients skip court. Simply put, if they don’t pay we have to hunt down that money.”

Bail is a financial arrangement that a bail bonding agency makes on behalf of a criminal defendant. A bail bonding agency works with the court to have a defendant released from jail pending trial in exchange for money or collateral. This collateral can be in the form of cash, assets, or a bond. The bail agency is then responsible for ensuring that the defendant arrives in court on the day of trial. If the defendant does not appear in court, the court may forfeit the bond and the entire bail amount must be paid to the court by the bail bonding agency.

Today’s action against Da Kine and Safety resulted from a joint effort by the State Judiciary and the Department of the Attorney General to sue various bail bond companies in Hawaii for non-payment of forfeiture of bail bonds. Other bail bond companies are also being reviewed. Of the bail bond companies that the Judiciary and Attorney General have looked into, seven paid the Judiciary approximately seven-hundred thousand dollars ($700,000) upon receiving notice. Those companies are not subject to today’s action.

A hearing date of August 17, 2016 has been set by the Circuit Court. Hearing dates for the Family Court and District Court have not yet been determined.

FREE to First 120 Children – ‘Aha Pai’ea Keiki Sports Challenge at UH Hilo

The annual ‘Aha Pai’ea Keiki Sports Challenge is slated for Saturday, August 27 at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo Athletic complex.
Keiki Challenge at UHH
Hosted by the UH Hilo Vulcan Athletic Department and the Vulcan Booster Club, the challenge runs from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. It is FREE and limited to first 120 children 7-12 years old to register. Lunch, beverages and a t-shirt will be provided.

Registration forms are available by clicking on link below, emailing vulcansathletics@gmail.com or calling Vulcan Booster Club ‘Aha Pai’ea Coordinator Ed Torrison at 808-987-3215.

Through the course of the day, participants need to be prepared for vigorous physical activity and should bring a water bottle, running shoes and wear comfortable attire. Various activities are scheduled in baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball.

For more information call 808-987-3215.

Registration form

Commentary – Democratic Party Continues Support for Native Hawaiian Self-Governance

Democratic Party of Hawaii LogoAt 12:21 a.m. Sunday, July 10, 2016, Democrat Colleen Hanabusa, Hawai‘I Representative to the National Platform Committee, advised via email: “The Caucus’ proposed language, with the following amendment to your first sentence, ‘Democrats also support efforts for self-governance and self determination of Native Hawaiians.

Native Hawaiians are the indigenous, aboriginal people of Hawai‘i whose values and culture are the foundation of the Hawaiian Islands. We support proactive actions by the federal government to enhance Native Hawaiian culture, health, language, and education. We recognize and honor the contributions and sacrifices made in service to our country by Native Hawaiians,’ passed unanimously, just now.”

Quoting Leimomi Khan, Chair of the Hawaiian Affairs Caucus, “The adoption of our platform proposal by the National Democratic Party Platform Committee signifies the continuing support of the Democratic Party for Native Hawaiians since the formation of the Democratic Party of Hawaii on April 30, 1900 by supporters of Queen Lili’uokalani.”

We are proud of this accomplishment. Mahalo to Colleen Hanabusa for being our champion in advocating for passage by the Democratic Party Platform Committee, and the 182 members of the Platform Committee who voted unanimously in favor of it.

Next step: The Platform will be voted upon by all delegates at the Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia, July 25-28, 2016.

Hawaiian Affairs Caucus Democratic Party of Hawaii

“What NOT to Wear” When Visiting the Lava Flow – Don’t Poke or Prod Pele

Visitors are reminded that lava rock is extremely sharp and jagged, and will cause deep lacerations to your skin. If you decide to hike out to the coastal lava flows – or anywhere in the park – be sure to wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes or boots and of course bring plenty of water, and be prepared!

Not smart!

Not smart!

Lava update: the 61G flow front is still active on the coastal lava plains, and is accessible on foot from the park at the end of Chain of Craters Road. Hikers can expect a 5-to 6-mile trek one way to reach the flows.

The gravel Emergency Access Route can be used by hikers and bicyclists, but no motorized vehicles or motorized equipment is allowed, except by park staff working in the area. From the gravel road, it’s another ½ mile hike to reach the lava over very uneven and rough lava rock terrain, fraught with deep cracks and unstable rock.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Check with rangers at the Coastal Ranger Station before heading out, and keep a safe distance. (Due to the road surface and safety issues, only experienced cyclists should use the road, and bicycle use should be limited to daylight hours only).

Park rangers recommend day hikes vs. night hikes, but if you do stay after dark, ensure you have flashlights and extra batteries for every person in your group. Cell phone lights are inadequate for such a long hike. It is still closer to hike in from the Kalapana lava viewing area.

And please respect the Hawaiian culture. Do not poke or prod the lava flows with sticks, or roast food on the lava flows.

After dipping an egg beater and other objects into lava flow, a Pahoa woman was arrested on Thursday, October 30, for trespassing. Ruth Crawford ignored warnings about the lava flow and breached police-enforced barricades with her friends to gawk at the lava flow that had been threatening the town of Pahoa.

After dipping an egg beater and other objects into lava flow, a Pahoa woman was arrested on Thursday, October 30, 2014 for trespassing. Ruth Crawford ignored warnings about the lava flow and breached police-enforced barricades with her friends to gawk at the lava flow that had been threatening the town of Pahoa.

It’s also illegal to possess, destroy, injure, deface, remove, dig or disturb natural and cultural resources from their natural state.

Be prepared, stay safe, and have fun! And remember, Kīlauea volcano is also erupting from its summit at Halema‘uma‘u Crater. It is a very easy and beautiful experience to view the nighttime glow of the lava lake from the safety of the Jaggar Museum observation deck.

Lava Flow Front Activity Persists, But Advance Still Slow

Surface breakouts remained active on the pali and coastal plain, but the leading tip of the flow has advanced little since mapping on Sunday.

This morning, the flow front was about 940 m (0.6 miles) from the ocean. Activity upslope of the flow front was widening the flow margins. In this photo, the active flow is the lighter colored area.

This morning, the flow front was about 940 m (0.6 miles) from the ocean. Activity upslope of the flow front was widening the flow margins. In this photo, the active flow is the lighter colored area.

Above the pali there are no surface breakouts, and lava is carried downslope within the subsurface lava tube system. The trace of the lava tubes is evident by the line of fuming point sources along the flow.

hvo 713a

Puʻu ʻŌʻō, and the vent for the current flow, are in the upper left portion of the photo.

Former Big Island Councilwoman Joins Alaska Mayor’s Staff

On the last day of 2011, former Councilwoman Brittany Smart told me that she would not be seeking a second council term at this time, but is keeping her options open for the future. “Due to personal reasons, I am unable to commit to another two year term at this time. I am honored to serve District 6, but have to think of what’s best for the people,” she stated.

Former Councilwoman Brittany Smart has a new gig.

Former Councilwoman Brittany Smart has a new gig.

Eventually in March of 2012, she made an unsuccessful attempt at running for the Hawaii State House of Representative District 3 seat and after that, she pretty much slid off the political radar scene here on the Big Island.

Today, Newsminer.com (The Voice of Interior Alaska) announced that the former council lady had been hired as the new special assistant to a mayor in Alaska.

A former elected official from Hawaii starts Monday as the new special assistant to Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Karl Kassel.

Brittany Smart will work on special projects, including economic development, air quality, tourism, recycling and workforce development, according to a statement from the mayor’s office. Her salary is $89,290 per year.

The 33-year-old has lived in Fairbanks since spring 2015 after she and her husband decided to purchase his childhood home here…

You can read the full article here: Borough mayor hires new special assistant

I’d like to personally thank the former councilwoman for her time in office here on this island and wish her the best in her new position with Mayor Karl Kassel.

Sen. Schatz Urges FTC to Investigate Commercial Use of Short-Term Lodging Rental Services

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, today called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the commercial use of the rapidly expanding short-term lodging rental market.
airbnb
The letter, which was also signed by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), urges the FTC to study the commercial manner in which individuals or firms are using online services such as Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, and FlipKey to profit from short-term rentals, taking housing inventory off the market and driving up the cost of rent.

“We are concerned that short-term rentals may be exacerbating housing shortages and driving up the cost of housing in our communities.  We have also read troubling reports of racial discrimination on some short-term rental platforms. Furthermore, we are concerned that communities and consumers may be put at risk through violations of sensible health, safety, and zoning regulations under state and local law,” the senators wrote.  “In order to assess of the use and impact of the short-term rental market, we need reliable data on the commercial use of online platforms.  We believe the FTC is best positioned to address this data gap in an unbiased manner and we urge the Commission to conduct a review of commercial operators on short-term rental platforms.”

The letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez also raised concerns about recent data which revealed that commercial users in New York made up an outsized share of the revenue from short-term rentals and a vast majority of units violated state and local laws.  The subpoenaed data along with recent housing disputes with these companies in cities like Honolulu and San Francisco underscore the immediate need for further study of this issue.

The full text of the letter is below and is available for download in PDF format by clicking here.

Dear Chairwoman Ramirez,

We write today to urge the Federal Trade Commission to study and quantify the degree to which the rapidly expanding short-term lodging rental market consists of persons or firms acting in a commercial manner by renting out entire residences or multiple residences simultaneously.

This distinction is critical to Congress and state and local lawmakers as we seek to assess the wide-ranging impact of the short-term rental industry on the communities in which they operate.  In recent years, we have seen the emergence and rapid growth of companies like Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, and Flipkey.  On one hand, these firms have sparked innovation, increased competition, and have provided new means by which our constituents can earn extra income.  On the other hand, we are concerned that short-term rentals may be exacerbating housing shortages and driving up the cost of housing in our communities.  We have also read troubling reports of racial discrimination on some short-term rental platforms. Furthermore, we are concerned that communities and consumers may be put at risk through violations of sensible health, safety, and zoning regulations under state and local law.

For example, in a report based on data gathered from Airbnb pursuant to a subpoena, the New York Attorney General found that commercial users (those with 3 or more unique units) accounted for a disproportionate share of the revenue generated from short-term rentals.  The commercial users accounted for only 6% of the hosts in New York City, yet generated 37% of the revenue.  Furthermore, the report indicated that 72% of unique units rented in New York City appeared to violate state and local law.

At the FTC’s June 9, 2015, workshop entitled “The ‘Sharing’ Economy:  Issues Facing Platforms, Participants and Regulators” there was widespread agreement that more information and data was needed to properly assess the impacts of the short-term rental industry on communities.  Unfortunately, the platform companies, which are the best positioned to provide this type of information, seem reluctant to do so.  And even if platform companies do share their data, concerns have been raised about the reliability of this data.

We are also troubled by efforts of platform companies to negotiate agreements with state and local governments to collect and provide aggregate tax payments on rentals processed through their systems without providing more detailed information that would help officials to determine the legality of those rentals.  In other cases, online platforms appear to be complying with state and local tax laws inconsistently, collecting taxes in some jurisdictions and not others.

In order to assess of the use and impact of the short-term rental market, we need reliable data on the commercial use of online platforms.  We believe the FTC is best positioned to address this data gap in an unbiased manner and we urge the Commission to conduct a review of commercial operators on short-term rental platforms.  We hope the FTC would be able to release the results of such an investigation on a standalone basis or as part of any report issued on the “sharing economy.”

Hawaii Governor’s Veto List and Rationale Summary

Gov. David Ige announced the vetoes of seven bills that were on his Intent to Veto list submitted to the State Legislature on June 27.

Governor Ige Profile

The governor notified legislative leaders of the vetoes on Monday, July 11, a day before the July 12 deadline.

The following bills have been vetoed:

SB 2077 Relating to Separation Benefits: This bill would have offered benefits to Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) employees who are facing the abolishment of their positions or workforce restructuring at Maui Region hospitals due to the transition from a state operation to a private operation.

RATIONALE:  There are three primary reasons for this veto.

  • The Employees Retirement System (ERS) believes this bill jeopardizes its tax-qualified status because it allows the affected employees to choose between a lump-sum cash payment that is taxable as wages, and a special employer subsidized early retirement benefit.

Under the IRS code, sections governing the state’s ERS plan, this is not permitted and therefore it threatens the plan’s tax-exempt status.

  • Affected employees were given a lump-sum cash payment upon separation from state service. However, the bill does not appropriate funds for this purpose. Nor does it provide authority to Hawai‘i Health Systems to make the payments.
  • Finally – the bill adds an additional unfunded liability of about $17.2 million to the ERS and $18.4 million to the Employer Union Benefits Trust fund (EUTF) to cover Maui employees separated from state service.

This undermines the state’s moratorium on enhanced benefits and puts the state’s long-term financial plan in jeopardy because the state’s long-term financial position is judged by bond rating agencies based upon the state’s outstanding unfunded liabilities.

Adding to the unfunded liabilities raises concerns for these agencies, about the state’s commitment to financial sustainability.

“This transition to a new system of care has never been done before. It is complex, and there are multiple stakeholders and issues at play. I have exercised my Constitutional duty to veto the bill and submit a remedy so the transition can move forward. My proposed cure remedies legal, technical and fiscal issues while respecting public employees and the collective bargaining process as the employees separate from state service. It is a path forward,” said Gov. Ige.

Proposed Amended Bill:

Governor David Ige submitted a proposed amended bill to the legislature that balances the needs of the various stakeholders and constituents on Maui. The proposal addresses the three primary concerns and are summarized as follows:

  • The state of Hawai‘i and the Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation as the employer – will negotiate with the exclusive representatives — for separation benefits for affected employees who separate from state service.
  • Affected employees would be authorized to purchase retirement credits for the amount of time they would have received if they had remained in state service up to June 30, 2017.
  • An appropriation of $25 million in general funds for allocation by the Director of Finance to HHSC – for the payment of the separation benefits and related fringe costs.

HB 1850 Relating to Taxation: This bill would have allowed transient accommodations brokers to register as tax collection agents with the state.

RATIONALE: Looking at this bill from the single lens of taxes owed to the state, this measure did provide a mechanism to achieve that goal.

However– the use of an intermediary system — such as “tax accommodations brokers” as tax collection agents also provided a shield for owners who do NOT currently comply with county laws.

This could have also encouraged owner-occupants to choose “transient accommodation renters” at a time when affordable rental housing in our state is severely stressed and homelessness remains a critical concern statewide.

HB 1739 Relating to Employment: Would have prohibited employers from accessing or obtaining employees’ social media accounts and passwords by coercion or other means.

RATIONALE:  It remains unclear the extent to which this is occurring in workplaces at a level that requires state intervention at this time.

While the intent of this bill is commendable, it contains no provisions for enforcement or due process. The measure states that “an employer found in violation…  shall be subject to a fine of not less than $25 and not more than $100, to be collected by the director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.”

However, DLIR does not currently have the staff, resources or expertise to administer the measure, which would include taking complaints, determining violations, education of rights, determination and collection of fines and administrative review.

HB 1747 Relating to Motor Vehicles: Would have authorized police officers to request towing of motor vehicles if a driver is arrested for driving under the influence.

RATIONALE:  This measure would have authorized police to tow vehicles only for the offense of driving under the influence. This severely limits this bill, particularly for repeat offenders. The original intent of this bill was to allow police to tow for VARIOUS traffic offenses, including driving without a license, habitually driving under the influence and operating a vehicle while a license has been revoked.

This bill would have also undermined a law that permits towing of a vehicle when an operator has been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, without a valid driver’s license or with fraudulent license plates or registration emblems.

HB 2016 Relating to Public Employees: This measure would have required the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) to transfer contributions by retirees and beneficiaries to the Hawai‘i Employer Union Benefits Trust Fund (EUTF) for health insurance payments.

After January 1, 2017, the EUTF would have been required to authorize automatic electronic payments to EUTF in lieu of withholdings.

RATIONALE: This bill would have required “information system” modifications. The process development procedures will take longer to implement than the January 1, 2017 deadline will allow. Also – the ERS Board of Directors expressed concerns about the lack of authorization to expend funds from the ERS Trust Fund, to make the necessary modifications that would have been required to implement this bill.

HB 2277 Relating to the King Kamehameha Celebration Commission: This measure aimed to clarify the membership and mission of the King Kamehameha Celebration Commission.

RATIONALE: The specific number of commission members was deleted from the bill. This created a problem in determining quorum. This problem can be resolved by either restoring the maximum membership number or providing a specific number of members required for quorum.

SB 3102 Relating to the Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism: This measure would have required state agencies to implement inter-agency agreements without entering into a memorandum of agreement or memorandum of understanding.

The measure also aimed to diversify the economy by establishing the High-Growth Grant Program, and appropriate $1 million to the HGGP special fund to provide business grants.

RATIONALE: The concern is that this bill did not provide a clear rationale for requiring the implementation of inter-agency agreements without MOAs or MOUs. Also – the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) does not have the expertise and resources to develop inter-agency agreements for all programs statewide.

In addition – the purposes of the High-Growth Grant program were very broad. The program’s special fund would likely not have been self-sustaining without more clarity about the program’s purpose.

A complete list of vetoed and approved bills can be found here: http://governor.hawaii.gov/

Roadway Resurfacing Work on Kekuanaoa St. to Begin on July 25th

UPDATE: Our Highways Division has notified me that they are extending the resurfacing work from Hīnano St. to Kīlauea Ave. (originally from Mililani St. to Kīlauea St.)

The County Highway Maintenance Division will begin resurfacing work on Kekūanāo’a St. between Mililani St. and Kīlauea Ave. on Monday, July 25, 2016 and estimated to be completed on Monday, August 8, 2016.  Working hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, weather conditions permitting.

road work 713Motorists are advised to expect delays and to drive with caution as heavy vehicles and machinery will be in the work zone.  One lane closures, alternate lane closures, lane shifts will be in effect and at a minimum, one lane of travel (for two way traffic) will be provided at all times through the construction area.  The lane closures are necessary to complete the roadway resurfacing work in a timely manner and for the safety of the workers and the traveling public.

The County of Hawai‘i Department of Public Works apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause and thanks the community for their patience and understanding.

If there are any questions or concerns, please contact Barett Otani, Information and Education Specialist at 961-8787.