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Hawaii Senate Confirms DHS Director, Appeals Court and First Circuit Court Judges

The Hawai‘i State Senate today gave their consent on Governor Ige’s nominees to the Department of Human Services, Intermediate Court of Appeals Court, and three Judges to the First Circuit Court – O‘ahu.

In a unanimous decision, Senators confirmed Pankaj Bhanot as the Director of the Department of Human Services (DHS). Bhanot received a BA in political science and a law degree from the University of Delhi.  He graduated in 1991 with an LL.M. degree from Cornell University, School of Law.

Photo courtesy: Senate Communications

His career in human and social services began in August 1998 as the Family Development Director with the Kaua‘i Economic Opportunity.  Bhanot went on the serve as a program specialist with the state DHS Employment and Child Care Program Office of the Benefit, Employment and Support Services Division and the Employment and Child Care Program Administrator.  He most recently served as DHS Deputy Director before being appointed to lead the department.

The Senate also voted to consent to Derrick H.M. Chan as an Associate Judge to the Intermediate Court of Appeals. Chan was appointed as a Circuit Court Judge in August 2000.  Prior to this, he was the First Deputy Prosecutor for the County of Kaua‘i. He also served as an attorney for the Hawai‘i Carpenters Union, as Deputy Public Defender for the state, law clerk to Judge Wilfred Watanabe, and Deputy Attorney General for the state. Chan is a 1985 graduate of California Western School of Law. Chan will fill the vacancy created by the retirement in December 2016 of former Associate Judge Daniel R. Foley.

“Throughout his tenure, Judge Chan has cemented a reputation for diligence, hard work and integrity, as well as decisiveness, courage, and street smarts which allows him to “cut to the chase,’” said Sen. Gilbert Keith-Agaran (Dist. 5- Wailuku, Waihe‘e, Kahului), chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor.  “With Judge Chan’s background, character, quiet passion, and even-keeled demeanor, he will be a very good addition to Hawai‘i’s appellate courts.”

Senators gave their unanimous consent to Catherine H. Remigio to the First Circuit Court.  Remigio most recently served as Family Court judge after being appointed in 2011.  Prior to that, she served in the Judiciary as a Per Diem District Court Judge and Circuit Court Grand Jury Counsel.  Remigio has also practiced law in several private firms, including as a partner at Bryant & Remigio, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Senate Communications

She served as a deputy public defender for the State of Hawai‘i and as a law clerk to Judges Thomas K. Kaulukukui, Jr. and Eden Elizabeth Hifo in the First Circuit Court.  Remigio is a Kamehameha Schools graduate and received her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and earned her juris doctorate at the William S. Richardson School of Law in 1992.  Remigio replaces former Circuit Judge Steven S. Alm who retired in August 2016.

“Thoughtful, considerate, smart and well-prepared is how others have described Judge Remigio,” said Sen. Keith-Agaran. “Judge Remigio’s strong background and character, steady demeanor, and determination promise that she will be a solid addition to the First Circuit Court,” said Sen. Keith-Agaran.

The State Senate also unanimously approved the appointment of Keith K. Hiraoka to the First Circuit Court.  Hiraoka has practiced law for the last 34 years, focusing on insurance coverage and defense. He has tried cases before juries, judges and arbitrators, participated in many mediations and briefed and argued appeals before the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, the Intermediate Court of Appeals and the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Photo courtesy: Senate Communications

Hiraoka is a graduate of the University Hawai‘i at Mānoa and earned his juris doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law in 1983.  Hiraoka fills the vacancy created by the retirement in June 2016 of former Circuit Judge Karen S.S. Ahn.

“Mr. Hiraoka’s background, character, professionalism, and demeanor promise that he will be a very good addition to the circuit court, the busiest circuit in Hawai‘i’s legal system,” said Sen. Keith-Agaran.

The State Senate unanimously voted to consent to Todd Eddins joining the First Circuit Court. Eddins graduated from the College of William & Mary and the William S. Richardson School of Law, where he was the executive editor of the University of Hawai‘i Law Review.  He served as a law clerk to Justice Yoshimi Hayashi of the Hawai‘i Supreme Court. Eddins worked as a trial lawyer at the Office of the Public Defender for more than ten years. In private practice he has concentrated on complex civil, criminal, and appellate litigation. Eddins fills the vacancy created by the retirement of former Circuit Judge Richard K. Perkins in June 2016.

Photo courtesy: Senate Communications

“Mr. Eddins brings to the bench nearly 25 years of experience from the criminal bar and as a trial lawyer, where he has distinguished himself as one of the top defense lawyers in our state,” said Sen. Keith-Agaran. “Clearly, he has the background, character and demeanor to be a very good addition to the first Circuit Court.”

The term of office for the judgeships is for ten years.

Commentary: Mayor Harry Kim… I Wasn’t Being Overly Vexatious

Dear Mayor Harry Kim,

I received your response to my letter dated February 8th, 2017 regarding the Department of Public Works directive issued against me. I have a very good memory of what happened over the past two months since you began your term. Most of my inquiries went through the DPW public affairs officer, but I did e-mail the highway and traffic division heads about highway and traffic signal issues. Both individuals have repeatedly told me how appreciative they’re of my efforts. In addition, I e-mailed Ben Ishii about an issue with the Mamalahoa Highway Bypass.

Click to read newspaper article

The only other communications involved e-mailing Frank DeMarco and Allan Simeon. I e-mailed Frank twice; once with a list of of eight projects I’d like to see happen in North Kona, the other was a letter to the editor I submitted regarding Highway 11 issues (This was the same day he issued that directive against me). I also tried to get in touch with Allan Simeon regarding Ane K. Highway Phase III since I didn’t get a favorable response from Frank DeMarco.

This is why I called up Roy Takemoto, your executive assistant. I expressed my desire to help your administration to get roadway projects completed, along with my desire to get Ane K. Highway Phase III started. The latter is why I also e-mailed the county planning director since the Kona CDP Action Committee had omitted this project from a list of desired North Kona CIP projects.

As you can see I wasn’t being overly vexatious with my inquiries with DPW, so it was really hurtful what you said in that newspaper article. I felt like the bus ran over me several times after reading what you said. Its like your administration doesn’t want feedback from community, especially from me.

I’ve developed a strong rapport with several public works employees over the years. As a result of this directive, I can’t talk to them any further. They were equally shocked this directive was issued against me, especially in light of my positive track record. As it stands now, all my inquiries have to go through the DPW public affairs officer going forward.

The offer I made to Roy Takemoto to assist your administration with various highway projects in North Kona still stands, despite the events of the past month. I want to work with your administration to make these projects a reality.

Sincerely,

Aaron Stene

Call for Entries: 47th Kona Coffee Cultural Festival Seeks Signature Art

Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, Hawaii’s oldest food festival, announces its Call for Art Entries for the official image of the 2017 Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. Local artists are invited to submit original Kona coffee art in all art forms including fine art, graphic design and photography. Artwork should reflect the Festival’s mission to preserve, perpetuate and promote Kona’s unique nearly 200-year coffee heritage.

The winning design will become the official image of the 2017 Kona Coffee Cultural Festival and will be featured on all official Festival merchandise including the Festival button, event poster and retail merchandise. The winning design will also be featured on the Festival’s magazine cover, website and other promotional materials.

Artists of traditional media including oil, acrylic, tempera, watercolor, illustrations as well as computer graphics and photographers are invited to participate. Artists are encouraged to be inspired by Kona’s nearly 200-year coffee heritage. Typography should not be included within the art. There is no entry fee to participate and the competition is open to all Hawaii Island residents 18 and older.

Ownership of entry copyright: By submitting artwork into this contest, the winning artist agrees to assign all ownership rights and copyright of the art to the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival for the 2017 Festival.

Artwork submissions are due by Friday, April 14, 2017 and should be delivered to Malia Bolton at the Kona Coffee & Tea Company located at 74-5588 Palani Rd, or entries can be submitted electronically via email to maliabolton@gmail.com. Be sure to include “Festival Submission” in the subject line with electronic entries.

Hawaii House Sends 137 Bills to Senate

The Hawaii House or Representatives today passed 137 bills including measures relating to helping homeless people, fighting invasive species, protecting health care and flood insurance coverage, and reducing the blood quantum requirement in the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.

HB83 HD1 Homelessness: Allows the Department of Human Services to establish puuhonua safe zones where homeless persons may reside.

HB453 HD1 Agriculture Grant: Requires the Department of Agriculture to provide grants to farmers to assist them in paying for the costs of compliance with the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and state food safety laws.

HB527 HD1 Homelessness: Appropriates funds to purchase, staff, and operate two mobile clinics to serve the homeless population.

HB552 HD1 Health Insurance: Ensures that benefits of the Affordable Care Act are preserved under state law in the case of repeal of the ACA by Congress.

HB1418 Flood Insurance: Amends the county exemptions from building permit and building code requirements to ensure that Hawaii’s communities are not suspended from participation in the National Flood Insurance Program.

HB1339 HD1 Invasive Species: Restructures the Hawaii Invasive Species Council as the Hawaii Invasive Species Authority to coordinate implementation of the Hawaii Interagency Biosecurity Plan and related duties.

HB904 HD1 Invasive Species: Establishes the invasive species rapid response special fund within DLNR. Establishes procedures for emergency declarations and expenditures.

HB1300 HD1 Coral Reefs: Requires UH Environmental Center to conduct ongoing studies of the environmental impacts of sewage spills on affected coral reefs.

HB450 HD1 Coral Reefs: Requires UH to conduct a study on the effects of sunscreen on Hawaii’s coral reefs and report to the Legislature. Appropriates funds.

HB451 HD1 Blood Quantum: Reduces the minimum Hawaiian blood quantum requirement of certain successors to lessees of Hawaiian home lands from one-quarter to one thirty-second.

Other bills that passed third reading by the House today include measures that relate to identification for prisoners, heat abatement in our public schools, biosecurity in agriculture, vehicle tax, and pesticides.

HB386 HD1 Environment: Appropriates funds for the two-year extension of the Post-Bypass Beach Monitoring Program of the Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor Sand Bypass Operation at Waimea, Kauai.

HB844 HD1 At-Risk Youth: Requires the Office of Youth Services to coordinate a two-year Safe Places for Youth Pilot Program in partnership with private organizations to coordinate a network that youth can access for safety and where youth can obtain advice, guidance, programs, and services.

HB845 HD2 Prisoner ID: Requires the Department of Public Safety in collaboration with county and state agencies and, upon request of the inmate, to issue civil identification cards to inmates and to assist inmate in obtaining the inmate’s birth certificate, social security card, and other relevant identification necessary for successful reentry into society.

HB848 HD2 Microgrids: Exempt microgrids that promote and serve public higher education institutions from regulation as a public utility by the Public Utilities Commission.

HB889 HD1 Pesticides: Increases the pesticide licensing fee and requires annual renewal of the license.

HB916 HD1 Loan Repayment: Makes an appropriation for the health care professionals loan repayment program administered through the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

HB957 HD1 Heat Abatement: Authorizes the Department of Education and Budget and Finance to borrow moneys from the Hawaii green infrastructure loan program for heat abatement measures at public schools.

HB1244 HD1 Cesspool Tax Credit: Amends the cesspool upgrade, conversion, or connection income tax credit to make it assignable and refundable, applicable to more cesspools, and applicable through 12/31/2022.

HB1325 HD1 Biosecurity: Requires the Department of Agriculture to establish parameters and construction requirements for biosecurity facilities that provide for and ensure the safety of agricultural and food commodities.

HB1378 HD1 Access Road: Requires the Department of Transportation to develop plans for the construction of secondary access roads for the Waianae district of leeward Oahu. Appropriates funds.

HB1587 HD1 Vehicle Tax: Replaces the state vehicle weight tax with a tax based on the assessed value of a vehicle.

Today marks the first decking deadline in the legislative process, when all measures must pass out of its final committee to be considered for a vote by the full House or Senate.  Each chamber has until next Thursday, March 9, to vote on all remaining measures that have made it out of their respective committees.

Following next Thursday’s crossover deadline, the House will focus its attention on HB100 relating to the state budget, which must be passed out of the committee on Finance by March 13 and voted on by the full body by March 15.

A complete list of bills passed by the House to date is available on the Capitol website at: http://capitol.hawaii.gov/advreports/advreport.aspx?year=2017&report=deadline&active=true&rpt_type=firstCross&measuretype=HB&title=House%20Bills%20Crossed%20Over%20to%20the%20Senate

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Roadway & Parking Lot Striping Work Begins Monday

Visitors and tour operators to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park are advised that a project to re-stripe roadways and parking lots at Kīlauea Visitor Center and Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube) begins Monday, March 6 and will cause traffic delays up to 15 minutes.

Thurston Lava Tube

Work begins Monday at the Kīlauea Visitor Center’s (KVC) parking lot. When the KVC striping is complete, the project at Nāhuku will begin. Work should be complete by early May.

An NPS report shows that 1,832,660 visitors to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park in 2015 spent $151,246,200 in communities near the park. That spending supported 1,834 jobs on island, and had a cumulative benefit to the local community of $189,391,100.