House Transportation and Finance Committees Pass Rail Funding Bill

The House of Representatives committees on Transportation and Finance today passed SB4, a critical step in moving the bill forward to provide the funds needed to complete the City’s rail project.

Senate Bill 4 Report Title:  County Surcharge on State Tax; Extension; Transient Accommodations Tax; Appropriations:

Authorizes a county that has adopted a surcharge on state tax to extend the surcharge to 12/31/2030. Authorizes a county to adopt a surcharge on state tax before 3/31/2018, under certain conditions. Decreases from 10% to 1% the surcharge gross proceeds retained by the State. Allows the director of finance to pay revenues derived from the county surcharge under certain conditions. Clarifies uses of surcharge revenues. Establishes a mass transit… (See bill for full description.)

Stakeholders and the public testified at the State Capitol today including City, State and HART officials before both committees voted to pass the bill. Transportation voted 4 to 2 in favor with one excused, and Finance voted 8 to 6 in favor of the bill with one excused.

Transportation members voting yes were: Henry Aquino, Nadine Nakamura, Joy San Buenaventura (with reservations), and Bob McDermott. Voting no were: Sean Quinlan and Tom Brower. Mark Hashem was excused.

Finance members voting yes were: Sylvia Luke, Ty J.K. Cullen, Cedric Asuega Gates, Daniel Holt, Jarrett Keohokalole, Matt LoPresti, Nadine Nakamura and Kyle Yamashita. Voting no were: Romy Cachola, Bertrand Kobayashi, Lynn DeCoite, Nicole Lowen, Andria Tupola and Gene Ward. Beth Fukumoto was excused.

The bill contains two funding mechanisms: a three-year extension of the 0.5 % GET surcharge on Oahu and a 13-year 1% increase in the TAT statewide. This bill ensures that the City’s rail project will be sufficiently funded and reaches Ala Moana.

Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke said the bill also mandates accountability for hard-earned taxpayer money.

“This bill will provide enough money to fund the City’s rail project to Ala Moana and require the City to be transparent about how they are spending that taxpayer money,” Rep. Luke said.

The bill provides accountability by requiring a state-run audit and annual financial reviews of the rail project, and requires the State Comptroller to certify HART’s invoices for capital costs. The bill also requires the Senate President and the House Speaker to each appoint two non-voting, ex-officio members to the HART board of directors.

Transportation Committee Chair Henry Aquino said not depending solely on the GET to fund rail will save taxpayer money.

“By adding the hotel room tax to the mix, which provides and immediate cash flow to the project, we are saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars that would be spend on financing fees,” Rep. Aquino said.

The bill now moves to the full House for a vote on second reading tomorrow.

Senate Roll Call – Who Voted for What When It Came Down to the Rail

Today at the Hawaii State Capitol Building in Honolulu, the Senate voted 16-9 in favor of moving Senate Bill 4 over to the House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 4 Report Title:  County Surcharge on State Tax; Extension; Transient Accommodations Tax; Appropriations:

Authorizes a county that has adopted a surcharge on state tax to extend the surcharge to 12/31/2030. Authorizes a county to adopt a surcharge on state tax before 3/31/2018, under certain conditions. Decreases from 10% to 1% the surcharge gross proceeds retained by the State. Allows the director of finance to pay revenues derived from the county surcharge under certain conditions. Clarifies uses of surcharge revenues. Establishes a mass transit… (See bill for full description.)

Many folks were wondering who voted yes and no on moving this bill forward and I was able to obtain the following roll call sheet from today’s hearing and for what it’s worth… all four Big Island Senators voted against moving this bill forward:

Big Island Police Searcing for Missing 15-Year-Old Puna Girl

Hawaiʻi Island police are searching for a 15-year-old Puna girl reported as missing.

Tanika Nihipali-Franchey

Tanika Nihipali-Franchey was last seen at her residence (July 18). She is described as 4-feet-9-inches, 115 pounds, with brown eyes and shoulder-length brown hair.

Police ask anyone with information on her whereabouts to call Officer Kenneth Ishii at the Puna Police Station (808) 965-2716 or the Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the island-wide Crime Stoppers number at (808) 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.00. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Governor Ige Appoints Two Third Circuit Court (Island of Hawaiʻi) Judges

Gov. David Ige today announced two appointments to the Third Circuit Court (Island of Hawaiʻi) as follows:

Henry Taro Nakamoto, 53, District Family Court Judge, Third Circuit, is appointed to the Third Circuit Court (Hilo) to fill the vacancy created by the December 2016 retirement of The Honorable Glenn S. Hara.

Henry Taro Nakamoto

Judge Nakamoto has served as a Family Court Judge and a District Court Judge beginning in June 2014. Prior to his service on the bench, he practiced law at Nakamoto, Okamoto & Yamamoto where he was a partner and director, and Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel, where he was an associate. He was born and raised on Hawaiʻi Island and practiced law there for 23 years, focusing on family and civil law. Nakamoto completed a B.A. in economics at Cornell University before earning his J.D. at Hastings College of Law.

“I would like to thank Gov. Ige for giving me the opportunity to serve as a circuit court judge. I appreciate all the support I have gotten from friends and family and will strive to continue to serve the community,” said Nakamoto.

Attorney Robert D.S. Kim, 63, is appointed to the Third Circuit Court (Kona) to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of The Honorable Judge Ronald Ibarra in June 2017.

Robert D.S. Kim

Kim, who is in private practice, is a litigator who concentrates in the areas of criminal defense, family law, civil litigation, personal injury litigation, and administrative proceedings. Kim has served as the West Hawaii Bar President for many years. He has extensive civil, family and criminal trial experience. Kim graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi – Hilo with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and earned his law degree at the William S. Richardson School of Law.

“I am honored and humbled to be nominated to fill the position of retired Judge Ronald Ibarra. I am committed to work diligently and respectfully if I am confirmed by the Senate,” said Kim.

“Judge Nakamoto and Mr. Kim both understand the law and the role of a judge in ensuring fair and impartial decisions in our judicial system. They will serve the people of Hawaiʻi well,” said Gov. Ige.

The process used to select these appointees is the same process used in prior selections and will be used whenever Gov. Ige makes judicial appointments.

Gov. Ige personally interviewed each candidate, received input from retired Hawai‘i State Supreme Court Associate Justice James Duffy, who reviewed the qualifications of the nominees and solicited feedback on each from the law community, and reviewed testimony submitted by the public. The Senate confirmation also allows opportunities for the general public to weigh in.

Both appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

UH Hilo Offering American Sign Language Classes

The College of Continuing Education and Community Service (CCECS) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo offers non-credit American Sign Language (ASL) classes open to anyone age 15 and older.American Sign Language Level 1A will introduce the basics of ASL, including grammar and vocabulary for simple social conversation. Participants will also learn about deaf culture and rules of social interaction. Instructor Vicki Linter has been an ASL interpreter for 25 years and has taught ASL in California and Hawaiʻi. Classes will be held in UH Hilo’s Kanaka`ole Hall Room 106 on Wednesdays from 5 – 6:30 p.m., September 20 – November 22. The cost is $150.

American Sign Language Level 1B is for anyone who has some experience with ASL. Participants will focus on advancing expressive and receptive conversational skills. The course will be taught by Pam Bond, a deaf instructor and native in ASL with 12 years of teaching experience at Brigham Young University and at the high school level in Utah. Classes will be held in UH Hilo’s Kanaka`ole Hall Room 106 on Thursdays from 5 – 6:30 p.m., September 14 – November 16. The cost is $150.

Both classes require the Signing Naturally Student Workbook, Level 1, Units 1-6.

For more information and to register, call CCECS at 932-7830 or visit http://hilo.hawaii.edu/ccecs/.

Hawaii Senate Passes Rail Bill

Members of the Hawai‘i State Senate today passed Senate Bill 4 on third reading by a vote of 16-9 to provide funding to complete construction on the City and County of Honolulu’s rail transit project.

SB4 addresses the City and County of Honolulu’s rail construction shortfall of $2.378 billion by extending the General Excise Tax on Oahu for three additional years through December 31, 2030 which will provide $1.046 billion. It also raises the Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT) by one percent to 10.25 percent for 13 years, to December 31, 2030. This will provide $1.326 billion. SB4 permanently increases the counties’ share of the TAT from $93 million to $103 million. The measure reduces the State Department of Taxation’s administrative fee on the GET surcharge from 10 percent to one percent. The measure creates a Mass Transit Special Fund to review and disburse funds to the city for its costs on the rail project. It also requires a state run audit of the rail project and annual financial reviews.

SB4 now crosses over to the House for their consideration.

A complete schedule of the hearings can be viewed at www.capitol.hawaii.gov

State Civil Rights Commission Settles Disability Discrimination Case with the County of Maui

The Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission (HCRC) and the County of Maui today announced the settlement of a complaint alleging the denial of a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability.The no-fault settlement provides for review of the County of Maui’s non-discrimination policy by the HCRC, with revisions as deemed necessary, non-discrimination training for County of Maui employees, with a specific focus on disability discrimination, and monetary relief to the complainant.  All parties may now move forward and avoid the time and expense of extensive litigation.

HCRC Executive Director William Hoshijo stated, “The County of Maui should be commended for agreeing to review its current policies and training to prevent and eliminate discrimination and promote equal opportunity for all in county employment, regardless of disability.”

County of Maui Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist Ralph Thomas agreed, “It has always been the County of Maui’s policy to provide reasonable accommodations training to employees and managers so they have the information needed to address any physical or mental disabilities they may encounter while employed with the County of Maui.  This settlement reaffirms that commitment.”

The case involved a long-time employee of the County of Maui who claimed that she was denied a reasonable accommodation in the workplace.  The employee’s doctor requested the elimination or reassignment of a job function and the requested accommodation was initially granted to the employee.  However, the employee’s request for an accommodation was eventually denied.  The case was settled during conciliation after an HCRC finding of reasonable cause, but before a final decision was issued by the Commission and with no admission by the County of Maui of any wrongdoing.

Under Hawaiʻi law, an employee with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation, which is an adjustment or change needed to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.  Managers and supervisors should be trained to distinguish between the essential and marginal functions of the job when considering a request for a reasonable accommodation.

If a request for accommodation has been made, the employer must initiate an interactive process with the employee to determine what, if any, accommodation can be provided.  Communication between the employer and employee during the interactive process is essential.  The parties should identify the precise limitations resulting from the disability that impact job performance, whether an adjustment or change is needed to allow the employee with a disability to perform the essential job functions, and if any alternative accommodations may be effective in meeting the employee’s needs.

Reasonable accommodation in the workplace is not preferential treatment, rather, it allows an individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the position.  The employee with a disability is not entitled to his/her preferred accommodation if the employer has identified an alternative reasonable accommodation that also effectively allows the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.  Further, an employer may deny a proposed accommodation by showing that it would impose an undue hardship on the operation of its business.  The goal of the interactive process is to identify a reasonable accommodation for both sides.

“What should an employer do when an employee with a disability requests a reasonable accommodation?” Hoshijo says, “both the employer and the employee have an obligation to engage in an interactive process, or simply a discussion to see if there is a reasonable accommodation.  Both state law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require this, and it may seem complex, but at its core it is based on common sense and good faith.”

The Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission is responsible for enforcing state civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and state-funded services.  If you feel you have been subjected to discrimination on any basis protected under state law, contact the HCRC at:  telephone (808) 586-8636, or email DLIR.HCRC.INFOR@hawaii.gov.

For more information on employment discrimination, go to the HCRC webpage at: labor.hawaii.gov/hcrc.

Big Island Charter School Awarded $1 Million School Improvement Grant

The U.S. Department of Education announced that Ka ‘Umeke Ka’eo Public Charter School is the recipient of a $1 million School Improvement Grant (SIG) for school years 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Ka ‘Umeke Ka’eo Public Charter School

The federal grant is designed to support Title I schools that demonstrate the greatest need for the funds and the strongest commitment to use them to substantially raise the achievement of students. State Education Agencies administer the SIG program by creating competitive subgrants.

Ka ‘Umeke Ka’eo will be supported by Hawai’i DOE staff to ensure grant requirements are fulfilled.

The Hawai’i Island public charter school will receive the funds for school years 2017-18 and 2018-19 to boost student achievement. School Improvement Grants (SIGs) are awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to states to create competitive subgrants.

The SIG program has invested more than $7 billion to transform some of the country’s lowest performing schools. Nationwide, the efforts have been credited with the decline in dropout rates and an increase in graduation rates.

Key documents

USS John Paul Jones Intercepts Target Missile Off Coast of Hawaii

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and U.S. Navy sailors aboard USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) successfully conducted a complex missile defense flight test, resulting in the intercept of a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) target using Standard Missile (SM) 6 guided missiles during a test off the coast of Hawaii, Aug. 29.

A medium-range ballistic missile target is launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, Aug. 29. (U.S. Navy/Latonja Martin)

John Paul Jones detected and tracked a target missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, with its onboard AN/SPY-1 radar and onboard SM-6 missiles executed the intercept.

“We are working closely with the fleet to develop this important new capability, and this was a key milestone in giving our Aegis BMD (Ballistic Missile Defense) ships an enhanced capability to defeat ballistic missiles in their terminal phase,” said MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves. “We will continue developing ballistic missile defense technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves.”

This test, designated Flight Test Standard Missile (FTM) 27 Event 2, marks the second time that an SM-6 missile has successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile target.

Aegis BMD is the naval component of the Ballistic Missile Defense System. MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD program.

Hawaiian Electric Companies Submit Plan to Modernize Island Grids

The Hawaiian Electric Companies filed their Grid Modernization Strategy with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) yesterday, providing a roadmap for building more resilient and renewable-ready island grids.

Yesterday’s filing follows the submission of the companies’ draft report in late June. The draft was posted online and presented at four public meetings on Maui, Hawaii Island and Oahu to review the strategy with customers, answer their questions and receive their comments. Dozens of written comments and transcripts of the public meetings are included in a separate document that accompanied the filing.

The plan, “Modernizing Hawaii’s Grid for Our Customers,” outlines near-term initiatives that strengthen the grid through investments in technology to enable more renewable energy resources to be safely and efficiently integrated with the grid, including private rooftop solar.

Longer term, the strategy is to continue to evolve the grid as a platform to enable greater customer choice and support statewide economic development and “smart communities” efforts that rely on robust data and energy management systems.

The Companies estimate it will cost $205 million to update the energy networks of Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light over the next six years. The plan aims to help bring on more renewable resources – customer-sited and grid-sourced – increase reliability, and give customers new choices to manage their energy use.

Highlights of this near-term work include:

  • Distribution of smart meters strategically rather than system-wide, i.e., to customers with private rooftop solar on saturated circuits and customers interested in demand response programs, variable rates or electricity usage data
  • Reliance on advanced inverter technology to enable greater rooftop solar adoption
  • Expanded use of voltage management tools, especially on circuits with heavy solar penetration to maximize circuit capacities for private rooftop solar and other customer resources
  • Enhanced outage management and notification technology

To read the filing, please use the following links:

www.hawaiianelectric.com/gridmod

www.hawaiielectriclight.com/gridmod

www.mauielectric.com/gridmod

Celebration of Life and Silent Auction Planned for Ernest Jackson

Ernest James Jackson was killed tragically in a motorcycle accident August 24, 2017 in Pahoa HI. He leaves behind his wife Jenn and his 3 children: Jamar, Tristan, and Amora.

His Celebration of Life will be Saturday September 2, 2017, 1pm until 4pm, at the E-Max building, Kalani Honua Resort, 12-6860 Kalapana-Kapoho road, Pahoa.

There will be a silent auction in conjunction with the Celebration of Life, with the proceeds going to Ernest’s children. We are accepting all manner of donations for the auction; massages, watsu, art, meals, vacation packages, jewelry, personal services, etc.

If you would like to donate something for the auction, please contact the organizers Kevin Horton and Misti Johnson.

Contact:
Kevin Horton/Misti Johnson
Kalapana100@yahoo.com
PH: 808-965-1084
FaceBook: Kevin Horton

Community Forum to Discuss Puna Roads

Representative Joy San Buenaventura will host a Community Forum on Saturday, September 9, at the Hawaiian Paradise Park Activity Center. The panel will include representatives from the Department of Transportation, Hawaii County Council, and the Hawaii County Department of Public Works.

  • WHEN: Saturday, September 9, 1:30 – 4:00 p.m.
  • WHERE: Hawaiian Paradise Park Activity Center, 15-1570 Makuu Dr, Keaau, HI 96749

Panelists will speak about the condition of roads in Puna and provide progress updates for highway 130 and other roads. The event is free and open to the public with seating space assigned on a first come basis.