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Support for Proposed Merger of NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric Industries Grows

NextEra Energy, Inc. and Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. today announced that support for the companies’ proposed merger continues to grow at a steady pace, as evidenced by the more than 25 diverse groups that in recent weeks have voiced support for the transaction.

NextEra Logo

“As we continue to listen, learn and constructively engage with customers and communities throughout the state, we are extremely pleased to see so many diverse and important stakeholders – from organized labor such as the AFL-CIO and IBEW to business leaders and organizations including multiple chambers of commerce – all echo their support in recognition of the significant and tangible benefits this merger will bring to Hawaii,” said Eric Gleason, president of NextEra Energy Hawaii. “The support we have received from these organizations, alongside our recent agreements with the Department of Defense and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, further strengthens our belief that NextEra Energy is the right partner to help Hawaiian Electric achieve Hawaii’s 100 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2045, while integrating more rooftop solar, modernizing the electric grids and lowering customer bills.”

“We are thankful and pleased to see so many Hawaii residents and local groups across our state publicly lend their support for the merger of NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric,” said Alan Oshima, Hawaiian Electric’s president and chief executive officer. “With its comprehensive commitments to our customers and our communities, NextEra Energy stands ready to be a strong, long-term partner as we work together to build a more affordable, clean energy future for Hawaii.”

The following chambers of commerce, labor unions, local companies and community organizations have voiced support for the proposed merger in recent weeks:

  • Hawaii State AFL-CIO
  • Hawaii Construction Alliance
  • Building Industry Association (BIA) – Hawaii
  • International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1
  • Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters
  • Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ Local 630
  • Chamber of Commerce Hawaii
  • Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce
  • Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii
  • Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii
  • Hawaii Korean Chamber of Commerce
  • Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Hawaii
  • Kauai Chamber of Commerce
  • Kapolei Chamber of Commerce
  • Molokai Chamber of Commerce
  • Hunt Companies
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1186
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1260
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1357
  • KTA Superstores
  • L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
  • Makai Ocean Engineering
  • Nalo Farms
  • Navy League Honolulu Council
  • Pacific Resource Partnership
  • Partners in Development
  • Stanford Carr Development
  • United Public Workers Local 646
  • Waianae Coast Community Foundation

DCCA Consumer Alert: Starwood Data Breach – Hawaii Hotels Affected

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) is encouraging consumers who may have dined or shopped at any of the 54 locations identified by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. to protect themselves from potential credit card fraud.

Starwood made a list of the affected hotels, along with other information, available at www.starwoodhotels.com/paymentcardsecuritynotice. Affected Hawaii locations include: Moana Surfrider; Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa; Sheraton Waikiki; The Westin Ka‘anapali Ocean Resort Villas; The Westin Maui Resort & Spa; and, The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas.

Click to view letter from Starwood President

Click to view letter from Starwood President

“We strongly encourage anyone who has used a credit or debit card to purchase food, drinks, or souvenirs at a Starwood property to check the list of hotels and identified dates of the data breaches,” said DCCA Director Catherine Awakuni Colόn. “According to Starwood, the information compromised could be used to make fraudulent charges on credit and debit cards. Everyone should make it a habit to check your monthly statements and annual credit report.”

DCCA has information on how to protect yourself following a security breach at http://cca.hawaii.gov/identity-theft-information/. This website includes links to sample forms and letters for victims of identity theft to help with the recovery process.

DCCA also partnered with the Department of the Attorney General and the Department of Health to offer guidance on how to avoid fraud and common scams in the Hawaii’s Fraud Prevention & Resource Guide available at http://cca.hawaii.gov/sec/files/2015/10/Fraud-Guide-2.pdf. Tips from the guide on how to protect yourself from credit card fraud include:

  • Keep a record of your account numbers, expiration dates, and phone number and address of the card issuer in a secure place.
  • Save receipts to compare with billing statements. Destroy them when no longer needed.
  • Open bills promptly and reconcile accounts monthly. Report questionable charges immediately and preferably in writing to the card company.

If you think your credit or debit card information may have been compromised in the Starwood data breach call Starwood at 1-855-270-9179 Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST.

Enroll for Medical Coverage by Dec. 15 to Avoid a Break in Coverage

Hawaii State Health Department is encouraging residents to enroll for medical coverage by Dec. 15 to avoid a break in coverage.

Health Insurance

Open enrollment for applying for medical coverage through the HealthCare.gov began on Nov. 1, 2015. During open enrollment, individuals who need medical coverage for 2016 can enroll.

If you are currently enrolled for medical coverage through the Hawaii Health Connector, you will need to reenroll for the 2016 plan year. To avoid a break in coverage you must enroll by Dec. 15, 2015.

You can enroll through HealthCare.gov online or via phone (1-800-318-2596 or TTY 1-855-889-4325). Or if you need in-person assistance, you can work with Kokua through the Hawaii Health Connector.

If you believe you are Medicaid eligible, get started at MyBenefits first.

Hawaii Loses Ground on Business Tax Climate

In a nationwide survey of state tax structures, Hawaii continues its stagnant economic performance, ranking 31st out of 50 states in the 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index. The study, released today by the Tax Foundation, compares five different metrics in a state’s tax system to calculate the state rankings–Corporate Taxes, Individual Income Taxes, Sales Tax, Unemployment Insurance Tax, and Property Tax.
tax climate index
While other states have enacted reforms that have improved their rankings and encouraged investment in their state, Hawaii has done little to improve its tax climate. This year’s ranking represents a minor slide, down from a ranking of 30 in the 2015 Index. The worst performance came in the category of Individual Income Tax (#37), while the best was in Corporate Tax (#10). The dichotomy demonstrates that economic stimulus requires a broader approach than focusing solely on corporate taxes and tax credits.

Individual Income Tax is actually one of the best indicators for how business-friendly a state truly is. A number of businesses, including sole proprietorships, S corporations, and partnerships, report their business income via the individual income tax code. It can also affect the labor pool as high income taxes chase potential workers to friendlier states. In order to encourage small business and entrepreneurship, taxes like the individual income tax and the general excise tax need to be reexamined.

“This ranking simply demonstrates that the leadership in our state is running out of ideas when it comes to encouraging investment and growth,” stated Keli’i Akina, Ph.D., President of the Grasssroot Institute. “The current scheme does nothing to help small businesses, but only contributes to the high cost of living and the state’s brain drain. We need reforms that will make Hawaii more affordable–to live, to do business in, and to work in. That starts with real, effective tax reform that will help keep people and jobs in the state.”

The 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index can be found at http://taxfoundation.org/

Hawaii Electric Bills Fall to Lowest Levels in More than Five Years

Customers of Hawaiian Electric and Maui Electric this month are seeing the lowest monthly electric bills in more than five years, largely due to the continued drop in fuel prices. And on Hawaii Island, customers of Hawaii Electric Light are benefitting even further, with the lowest monthly bills in more than six years.

“Lower oil prices are helping our customers right now, but we know our state needs to stay committed to long-term solutions, which means developing a diverse portfolio of low-cost renewable energy resources. It’s critical that we keep working toward our state’s goal of a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard,” said Darren Pai, Hawaiian Electric spokesman.

Based on 500 kwh/month for Oahu, Hawaii Island, and Maui; 400 kWh/month for Molokai and Lanai

Based on 500 kwh/month for Oahu, Hawaii Island, and Maui; 400 kWh/month for Molokai and Lanai

Currently, 22 percent of the electricity needs of the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ customers are met using renewable resources and Hawaii is by far the national leader in the percentage of customers with rooftop solar. And the Hawaiian Electric Companies are continuing to increase renewable resources and develop new options for customers to manage their bills. Recent actions include:

  • Proposed time-of-use rates for residential customers, public schools and electric vehicle owners
  • Expansion of utility-owned electric vehicle fast chargers
  • Piloting intelligent energy storage systems
  • A proposed community-based renewable energy program that would benefit customers who cannot or chose not to take advantage of rooftop solar to receive the benefits of renewable energy
  • Plans to install 137 megawatts of solar power from grid-scale projects to be completed in 2016

Hawaii Is the State with the 3rd Lowest Uninsured Rate Post-Obamacare

With the third open-enrollment period for health insurance upon us and 11.7 percent of the U.S. population still lacking coverage, the personal finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2015’s States with the Highest & Lowest Uninsured Rates.

Click to view entire list

Click to view entire list

For the second year in a row, WalletHub’s analysts drew upon the most reliable data to estimate the rates of uninsured pre- and post-Obamacare for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. For a broad perspective of those rates, we broke the national figures down to the state level and other categories, including age, race and income level.

Health Insurance Coverage in Hawaii:

  • Obamacare reduced the children’s uninsured rate by 15.29 percent between 2010 and 2014.
  • Obamacare reduced the adult uninsured rate by 35.52 percent between 2010 and 2014.
  • The uninsured rate for whites is 1.51 percent lower than that for Hispanics.
  • The uninsured rate for higher-income households is 57.03 percent lower than that for lower-income households.
  • The rate of publicly insured is 30.61 percent.
  • The rate of privately insured is 69.39 percent.
  • The rate of employer-based health insurance coverage increased by 8.03 percent between 2010 and 2014.
  • The uninsured rate pre-Obamacare was 7.89 percent and has fallen to a current rate of 5.27 percent, with 31,653 persons gaining health insurance coverage.

For the full report, please visit:

Lawmakers Visit Big Island – Focus on Agriculture, Medical Care and Economic Development

Members of the House Finance Committee, chaired by Representative Sylvia Luke, toured various sites on Hawaii Island to view first hand several projects and programs supported by the Legislature. The site visits provided committee members first hand insight into the status of ongoing projects and on other needs of the district.

House Finance Committee visits Waimea.  Photos Courtesy of House Majority Communications

House Finance Committee visits Waimea. Photos Courtesy of House Majority Communications

Representatives Richard Onishi and Nicole Lowen who serve on the Finance Committee were joined by fellow Big Island lawmakers Clift Tsuji, Mark Nakashima, Cindy Evans and Richard Creagan on a wide range of activities that included a status update and site visit of Hilo Medical Center.

Committee members visit Ookala Dairy Farm.  Photos Courtesy of House Majority Communications

Committee members visit Ookala Dairy Farm. Photos Courtesy of House Majority Communications

The committee visited Hamakua Mushrooms, Ookala Dairy Farm, Big Island Beef and met with Kamuela farmers to discuss and learn about their issues and concerns.  The legislators also received a briefing by Hawaiian Homestead farmers participating in the Waimea Regional Community and Economic Development Program.

In Kona the committee toured projects at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii including the Taylor Shell Fish Farm and Cyanotech.

Half a Million Dollars of Public Pension Money Paid to Dead People in Hawaii

In a shocking example of outmoded systems leading to government waste, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has learned that $538,519.25 of public pension money was paid to dead people in Hawaii between 2010 and 2015.

Click to view full list

Click to view full list

According to the state’s own records, at least 134 deceased persons received over-payments from the Employee Retirement System, with some over-payments in excess of $50,000.  So far, reimbursements are pending.

Dr. Keli’i Akina, President of the Grassroot Institute, said, “Our report shows that we are taking money from the living to pay for the dead.  Shining a light on wasteful spending is in the best interest of public pension members and Hawaii’s taxpayers.”

The Grassroot Institute obtained the information through an open records request to the Employee Retirement system.  The report, which can be found on OpenHawaii.org, showed that in 2013, $207,656 was overpaid to the deceased beneficiaries; and in 2014, the number was $138,221.  However, the real number is likely to be much higher, as the Employee Retirement System acknowledges that it hasn’t yet caught all of the errors.

Dr. Akina said, “It may be difficult for the State of Hawaii to know if a member of the pension fund has passed away, especially if the individual has left the state, or moved to another country.  Hawaii’s taxpayers continue to pay this enormous cost as we close the gap on the public pension unfunded liability crisis.”

Hawaii’s unfunded pension liability is $8.5 billion, which puts taxpayers on the hook for $21,272 per household.

Wesley Machida, State Finance Director responded in a written statement to the Grassroot Institute, “The half a million dollars of pension overpayments are due entirely to the untimely reporting of a retirant’s or beneficiary’s passing.  Within the past year, the State of Hawai‘i Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) has improved its efforts to identify overpaid pensions by working with the Department of Health, State of Hawai‘i.  A national company is also used to identify retirees and beneficiaries who are deceased.  The ERS also reviews daily obituaries and receives communications from family members and friends.  While there could be others not reported, the likelihood of these occurrences are minimized with the increased efforts of the ERS.”

Wesley Machida continued, “It can be difficult to identify pensioners or beneficiaries who passed away when there are no surviving family members and /or if the retirant or beneficiary lives out of state or out of the country.  In addition, family members and friends may not report the passing for several months, following the discovery of retirement documents while closing out the decedent’s estate.”

Wesley Machida concluded, “The ERS currently pays out more than $1.1 billion per year in pension benefits to more than 44,000 retirees and beneficiaries.”

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii will continue to research public pension abuse, and publish transparency data on OpenHawaii.org as this story unfolds.  Hawaii’s citizens should also keep in mind that record-keeping in this area wouldn’t be such an issue if government employees were enrolled in 401(k)-style retirement plans rather than the antiquated defined-benefit plans provided to government workers currently.

Hawaii Division of Financial Institutions Offers Guidance on Banking and Marijuana

The Commissioner of Financial Institutions, Iris Ikeda, presented considerations for banks and other financial institutions when dealing with marijuana related businesses at the Hawaii State Bar Association Convention on Oct. 23, 2015.

Click to view files

Click to view files

“The approval for licensing of medical marijuana dispensaries presents an upcoming challenge for banks,” said Commissioner Ikeda. “Before authorized dispensaries begin doing business, which could be as early as July 2016, banks and other financial institutions dealing with these businesses should take into account regulatory risks posed by the Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering Act.”

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Division of Financial Institutions (DFI), which regulates state-chartered and state-licensed financial institutions, is in communication with Federal Reserve Bank and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) regulators on the implementation of Hawaii’s law for medical marijuana.

Outreach to financial institutions with guidance on opening accounts for marijuana related businesses has been conducted by DFI. DFI also hosts a collection of guidance from various federal agencies called “Banking and Marijuana” on its website http://cca.hawaii.gov/dfi/.

New High-Speed Private Fiber Link to Link Hawaii Film, Television & Creative Media Industry with Hollywood

With brand new private fiber technology, competitive tax incentives, state-of-the-art studios, postproduction facilities and a development fund…it’s time to rethink Hawai’i’s Film, Television & Creative Media Industry.

A new Hawai’i-based digital technology is connecting the filmscape of paradise with a secure, high-speed Private Fiber back to the heart of Hollywood and more than 400 studios across three continents.

History was just made for Hawaii-in-Hollywood as GVS Connect (http://www.globalvirtualstudio.com), together with Hawai`i's Creative Industry DBEDT Officials, State Film Office and technology experts presented a dynamic, "LIVE" multimedia demonstration that connected Honua Studios in Kailua-Kona on the Island of Hawaii, with more than 100 Hollywood influencers who gathered at Jack L. Warner's personal Screening Room #5 at Warner Brothers Studios in California.

History was just made for Hawaii-in-Hollywood as GVS Connect (http://www.globalvirtualstudio.com), together with Hawai`i’s Creative Industry DBEDT Officials, State Film Office and technology experts presented a dynamic, “LIVE” multimedia demonstration that connected Honua Studios in Kailua-Kona on the Island of Hawaii, with more than 100 Hollywood influencers who gathered at Jack L. Warner’s personal Screening Room #5 at Warner Brothers Studios in California.

This new, high-speed, private fiber technology by GVS Connect is a game-changer for Hawai’i’s creative industry. This advanced connectivity, along with Hawaii’s post and VFX incentives, will enable filmmakers to conduct POST, AUDIO and VFX via remote collaboration, as well as transfer and simultaneously edit burstable gigabytes of raw, high-definition dailies to producers and studios around the world. This private fiber technology is the industry’s leader in content sharing with a commitment to security, cost efficiency and smart-device capability.

On Wednesday, October 14, 2015, representatives from the Hawai’i State Film Office, Creative Industries; GVS Connect; tech advisors and industry influencers gathered at Warner Bros. Studio to present “Hollywood – Hawai`i Film & Media Connect,” a live, point-to-point demonstration, of real-time, high-speed data transfer between Kailua-Kona (on the Island of Hawai`i at Honua Studios) and Los Angeles.  Hawai’i’s Film, Television & Creative Media industry is now well positioned to support state-of-the-art global production, as well as export creative content developed in Hawai`i.

 This never-before-seen interactive demonstration was made possible by a NEW private fiber technology that is now available in the islands which allows burstable gigabytes of HD data to be shared in real-time with global producing entities (more than 400 studios across three continents). This new, advanced technology is a GAME-CHANGER for Hawaii's creative industries allowing filmmakers to conduct POST, AUDIO and VFX via remote collaboration.  This breakthrough invites the world to rethink Hawaii's vast multimedia and broadband entrepreneurial potential and capability.

This never-before-seen interactive demonstration was made possible by a NEW private fiber technology that is now available in the islands which allows burstable gigabytes of HD data to be shared in real-time with global producing entities (more than 400 studios across three continents). This new, advanced technology is a GAME-CHANGER for Hawaii’s creative industries allowing filmmakers to conduct POST, AUDIO and VFX via remote collaboration. This breakthrough invites the world to rethink Hawaii’s vast multimedia and broadband entrepreneurial potential and capability.

“With a strong commitment from government and private investors, Hawai’i is creating a compelling environment for filmmakers and media professionals to capitalize on the state’s growing production, post, and VFX infrastructure,” says David Cunningham, founder of GVS Connect.

Hawai’i’s competitive tax incentives, are considered among the most reliable credit programs in the country:

  • 20-25% film, digital and television rebate
  • No overall spending ceiling
  • Per production credit cap of $15 million – POST, VFX, ANIMATION, GAME DEV included
  • Above-and-below-the-line/resident and non-resident salaries/wage qualification

Hawai`i is now part of a global, collaborative media network. With Hawai’i’s first private fiber technology, a production can maximize its economic potential with global reach to its producing entities. In addition, Hawai`i has an award-winning accelerator program, called the GVS Transmedia Accelerator (http://www.gvsaccelerator.com), which fast-tracks and funds development for content creation in Hawai`i, the Creative Lab which is a feeder content development program, and a follow-on development fund available for accelerator content produced in these programs.

With a long-term vision and commitment, the State of Hawai’i has allocated millions to develop a cable-landing infrastructure that will further increase Hawai’i’s global broadband connectivity and capacity.

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.

Hawaii’s Health Insurance Premiums on the Rise, Burden to Employers

Hawaii’s health insurance premiums for small businesses have risen an average of seven percent annually since 2003. That’s according to “The Challenges Facing Hawaii 40 Years After the Prepaid Health Care Act (PHCA),” a study conducted by Hawaii Health Information Corporation, the state’s premier healthcare data collector and analyzer.

Healthcare dataPassed in 1974, the State’s PHCA has contributed to one of the lowest uninsured rates as well as the lowest and slowest growing health insurance premiums in the nation. Still, the cost of health care—physician, hospital and insurance services, prescription drugs, equipment and supplies—is steadily increasing.

ACA is Impacting Rising Costs
On top of increasing health care costs, premiums are expected to rise further as a result of various Affordable Care Act-related fees. For example, HMSA’s fees in 2014 totaled $65.4 million, and as was done across the country, fees were passed directly on to consumers. Four out of nine percent of HMSA’s premium increases for small business was attributed to ACA-related fees in that same year.

The most significant ACA-related fee is the insurance provider fee, imposed on all insurers to subsidize health insurance for eligible individuals who purchase a plan on a health exchange. In implementation year 2014, $8 billion was collected nationwide. Nearly 60 percent of HMSA’s 2014 ACA-related fees—$39 million—represented the insurance provider fee. The insurance provider fee is permanent and expected to increase two to three percent per year to cover the subsidies for health care premiums. The fee is projected to reach $14.3 billion in 2018.

The second fee helps finance the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. Initially set at $1 per insured person during FY 2013, the fee increased to $2 per insured person on all plans during FY 2014. Going forward, the fee will be adjusted based on the U.S. average rate of health care inflation, which was nearly three percent per year from 2010 to 2013.

Since the ACA prohibits denying individuals health insurance based on pre-existing conditions, the third fee involves subsidizing high-risk enrollees through the transitional reinsurance and risk-adjustment programs. Scheduled to last only three years, the transitional reinsurance program collected and distributed $10 billion in 2014 (translates to a $63 fee per covered life); $6 billion is anticipated in 2015 and $4 billion in 2016. The risk adjustment program is permanent; insurers with lower-risk enrollees will pay insurers with higher risk enrollees within the same state.

The final fee is a sustainability fee to finance health insurance exchanges since federal funds have been exhausted. By the end of 2014, Hawaii imposed a two percent sustainability fee on premiums purchased that year on the then state-run exchange. Since Hawaii no longer has a state-based exchange, sustainability fees collected will go to funding the federal marketplace, HealthCare.gov.

The employee-employer cost share structure laid out in the PHCA, rising health care costs and in recent years, these ACA-related fees, has led to employers in Hawaii paying an increase of more than 3,000 percent to cover their portion of employer-based healthcare coverage since 1974.

“The Affordable Care Act, while a real advance for the rest of the country, is placing a special burden upon Hawaii, which has already achieved much of what the ACA has set as health goals for the nation,” said Peter Sybinsky, CEO of HHIC. “These burdens—payment reductions, high insurance taxes, additional health benefits—all make it more difficult to maintain the historical commitment to universal coverage that has made Hawaii a leader in health reform.  As a community, we need to work together to respond appropriately to this major challenge.”

“Same Canoe Local Food Challenge” Launches Next Week

Nutritious, flavorful Hawai‘i-grown food is in the spotlight during the “Same Canoe Local Food Challenge,” an ongoing project of One Island, a Big Island 501c3 nonprofit. The Same Canoe campaign launches at two Local Food Celebrations this month: Sept. 13 at South Kona Green Market, and Sept. 19 at Hawi Farmers’ Market. Bringing together island food products and food-lovers with nutrition experts to share the practical wisdom of supporting sustainable agriculture, these interactive and flavorful food events will be fun and educational for all ages.

Photo courtesy One Island

Photo courtesy One Island

The Same Canoe local food initiative encourages Hawai‘i residents to “Double It” by purchasing, growing and requesting local-grown foods when dining out. The name “Same Canoe” pays tribute to Hawai‘i’s original canoe crops, plants brought to the islands by Polynesian voyagers, and holds the lesson of the empowerment achieved when paddling together cooperatively. All in the ‘same canoe’ is also a potent reminder of our mutual interdependence as an island community and as members of the global community.

EBT/SNAP Benefits

With a commitment to build sustainable communities, Same Canoe is hosting innovative community action projects with film night, workshops and farm tour events. Current efforts include a pilot project that also provides matching local food coupons to 600 EBT/SNAP households in specific rural communities through sponsorship from the USDA.

For each $30 in grocery receipts showing EBT purchases of fresh produce, pre-enrolled households can receive a one-to-one match in local food coupons that will be redeemable at approved local food vendors, culinary and gardening classes, and farm tours for up to $120 in value. Signups are available for a limited time at the farmers’ market in Hawi, South Kona Green Market in Captain Cook and North Kona’s Sunset Market.

Local Food Coupon Book

Same Canoe is also producing a new Local Food Coupon Book offering dining, gardening and wellness discounts for any island resident or visitor. A rewarding new way to buy more local and save on food, health and gardening costs this fall, the Coupon Book is a fundraiser for local school gardens and food, ag and wellness organizations. Savings include local grocery stores, cafes, restaurants, gift stores, wellness practitioners, farm/garden centers and farm tour discounts. The book will be available at the Farmers’ Markets and through local groups (Learn more at the Local Food Celebrations.)

Many voices support local foods

The September 13 and 19 Local Food Celebration launch parties invite the public to enjoy local foods and meet the farmers who provide them, listen to great music, and learn from Hawai‘i Island’s food, wellness and agriculture leaders.

At South Kona Green Market on the 13th music will be by the Hawaiian trio Mauka Soul, and presenters include Councilwoman Maile David, Ken Love of Hawai‘i Tropical Fruit Growers, Sonia Martinez, cookbook author, Dr. Corinne de Soto, ND, and representatives from Adaptations CSA and the Ho‘opomaika’i Community Health Initiative.

In Hawi on the 19th, Councilwoman Margaret Wille, Chef Stephen Rouelle of Under the Bodhi Tree, Slow Foods, Dr. Hana Roberts, ND, Sonia Martinez cook and author, and representatives from Lokahi Garden Sanctuary are among the presenters, with music provided by David Gomes.

The Island’s Food Basket is also a participant at both events and will feature their Da Box community supported agriculture (CSA) produce subscription box being delivered island wide. The many voices of food and wellness presenters demonstrate how local foods strengthen our community, personal health, and families’ overall well-being.

“Choosing local food, I get the freshest flavors and optimal nutritional value available, with the fewest miles on it,” said Maureen Data of Adaptations farm and food hub in Kona. “I know my farmer and the farm’s methods and location, and sometimes the family being raised there. I realize that every dollar that I spend locally returns 3 times more money to our island economy.”

“Local food production is vital to the North Kohala community,” said Lokahi Garden Sanctuary owner Richard Liebmann. “North Kohala historically has been providing healthy clean food to its community for many generations. Today more than ever local food production can play a pivotal role in connecting people, and providing healthy food choices.”

“Food tastes so much better when you know the person who grew your vegetables or raised your meat or fed the chickens who laid your eggs. The food is fresher because it hasn’t been shipped here in a container and you’ll be supporting our local economy rather than huge corporations somewhere thousands of miles away.” said Clare Bobo, President of Slow Food Hawai‘i, a food advocacy group that will participate in the Local Food Celebrations.

The Local Food Celebrations Sept. 13 and 19 welcome the entire community and people of all ages to come and enjoy the music, buy farmer-direct, sit down for tasty breakfast or lunch selections, take home a locally crafted food, and learn more about the Same Canoe Local Food Challenge and the many values offered through the new Local Food Coupon Book.

For more information on the Same Canoe Local Food Challenge, see www.oneisland.org.

Hawaiian Electric Companies Propose New Electronic Vehicle Charging Rates

The Hawaiian Electric Companies have asked the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to approve discount electric vehicle charging rates in a new time-of-use program.

The new rates aim to promote plug-in electric vehicle use by offering simpler terms and sign-up procedures compared to the existing EV discount charging pilot and to foster more use of excess electricity generated by rooftop solar systems during the middle of the day.

Hawaiian Electric is recommending that customers enrolled in the present EV time-of-use pilot program have the option to continue at their existing rates when the current pilot expires at the end of September, 2015.

“EV numbers continue to increase and automakers are bringing more advanced plug-in electric vehicles to market. And with over 70,000 customers statewide who have or will soon have rooftop solar, we see increasing amounts of excess solar electricity available at mid-day,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president for customer service.

“The proposed new rates will help make greater use of that solar electricity and accelerate EV adoption in Hawaii,” Alberts said.

In addition to upgraded discount charging rates, the Hawaiian Electric Companies are installing up to 25 DC fast chargers across Oahu, Maui County and Hawaii Island to alleviate EV drivers’ “range anxiety” and working with stakeholders on other endeavors as new ideas and technologies enter the market.

The proposed rates will have only two time-of-use schedules over 24 hours instead of three. Charging an EV at home using electricity from the grid will be most expensive during peak electricity demand from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. All other hours will be at the less expensive off-peak rate. EV owners may still choose to add a separate meter just for EV charging or keep a single meter for all household and charging use.

Signing up for EV rates will also be simpler. Customers need only certify ownership of a plug-in electric vehicle. As with the discount charging pilot in place for the last five years, customers on Hawaii Island, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Oahu would be eligible to participate, upon PUC approval.

For commercial customers, the proposed new EV rates will waive “demand charges” during off-peak periods and eliminate demand charge minimums. This will make it less expensive for commercial customers who wish to provide charging for EV fleets or their customers with EVs.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies are asking the PUC to approve this proposal by the end of September when the present pilot ends. The companies suggest the new program last until June 30, 2020, when all EV rates would be re-considered for the future.

The new rate is designed to provide more off-peak hours for home EV charging with a 6.1¢ per kWh savings for a typical residential customer on Oahu. By charging off-peak, that driver is estimated to save half the cost to “fuel” an electric vehicle (compared to a mid-sized gasoline-fueled sedan) by buying no gasoline but paying a slightly higher monthly electric bill. The proposed per kWh savings for off-peak EV charging for a typical residential customer on Hawaii Island is 9.2¢; on Maui is 7.3¢; on Lanai is 7.1¢; and on Molokai is 9.4¢.

Here are comparative sample driving costs under the proposed rates based on Oahu electricity and gasoline costs:

energy costs

Hemp Harvested Legally in Hawaii for First Time

The first stalk of legal hemp in Hawaii was harvested today.
Hemp in HawaiiHawaii Representative Chris Lee tweeted, “Harvesting the very first stalk of hemp in Hawaii. Uses less water, 100% organic, tremendous economic commodity

Seven Hawaii Schools to Offer Free Meals to All Students

This school year, the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) will implement a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pilot program this school year at seven public schools, which will allow all students at those schools to receive free meal service.

Free Lunch

The program, called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), allows a school district, a group of schools or a single school to serve free meals to everyone even if they do not qualify for the free or reduced lunch reimbursement.

The CEP program has been adopted by jurisdictions around the country. “One major factor in the future of the program is the high cost of a meal in Hawaii compared with the much lower rates around the country,” stated Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “We’re grateful for this opportunity to participate in this pilot to benefit families in need.”

The schools participating in the pilot program are:

To qualify for CEP, a district, grouping or school must have a minimum of 40 percent or more of its students eligible for free or reduced meals through the National School Lunch Program.

Currently HIDOE pays an average of $5.50 a meal (including food costs, labor, utilities, etc.). The USDA reimburses the state $3.85 for students who qualify for a free meal and $0.40 for those paying for a meal. HIDOE charges $2.50 for elementary school lunch for a total of $2.90 in recouped cost for the state.​

Under the program, all students in a CEP school would qualify for the higher $3.85 reimbursement. While the seven pilot schools will no longer be collecting meal monies and ensuring accounts have sufficient funds, families will be required to provide information for data collection.

“The schools were chosen so that the Department can analyze how families and students in a single island community such as Molokai, respond to the program while also giving officials the chance to study the impact of individual schools in separate and distinct districts on Oahu and Hawaii Island,” Office of School Facilities and Support Services Assistant Superintendent Dann Carlson said.

For more information about CEP visit: http://bit.ly/HawaiiCEP


Innovative Wave Power Device Starts Producing Clean Power in Hawaii

With support from the Energy Department and the U.S. Navy, a prototype wave energy device has advanced successfully from initial concept to grid-connected, open-sea pilot testing.

The device, called Azura, was recently launched and installed in a 30-meter test berth at the Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) in Kaneohe Bay, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

Azura, was recently launched and installed in a 30-meter test berth at the Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) in Kaneohe Bay, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

Azura, was recently launched and installed in a 30-meter test berth at the Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) in Kaneohe Bay, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

This pilot testing is now giving U.S. researchers the opportunity to monitor and evaluate the long-term performance of the nation’s first grid-connected wave energy converter (WEC) device to be independently tested by a third party—the University of Hawaii—in the open ocean.

The project supports the Energy Department’s mission to research, test, and develop innovative technologies capable of generating renewable, environmentally responsible, and cost-effective electricity from clean energy resources, including water. Marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technologies, which generate power from waves, tides, or currents, are at an early but promising stage of development. Many coastal areas in the United States have strong wave and tidal resources, and more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of a coastline, making transmission from these resources more economical.

With further progress towards commercialization, MHK technologies could make substantial contributions to our nation’s electricity needs. To accelerate commercialization of wave energy devices, the Energy Department funds research and development—from laboratory and field-testing of individual components, up to demonstration and deployment of complete utility-scale systems.

The first phase of Azura’s development involved testing a smaller prototype in a wave tank and later deploying a prototype—at the same scale as the new deployment—in a controlled, open-sea area off the coast of Oregon in 2014. Those successful tests helped Azura’s developer, Northwest Energy Innovations (NWEI) of Portland, Oregon, verify the functionality of the device while collecting comprehensive performance data that could lower the cost of wave energy technologies in the future.

To further advance Azura towards commercialization, NWEI recently launched its grid-connected 20-kilowatt demonstration project at WETS. The current phase of in-water testing at the WETS’s 30-meter test berth has already proven valuable in gathering performance and reliability data from the device in deepwater, open-ocean conditions. The data will be used to further optimize Azura’s performance and refine existing wave energy computer simulations, ultimately supporting commercialization of this technology.

NWEI, with $5 million in additional funding from the Energy Department, will apply lessons learned from this current phase of development to modify the device design in order to improve its efficiency and reliability. NWEI plans to then test the improved design with a full-scale device rated between 500 kilowatts and one megawatt at WETS at even deeper test berths of 60 meters to 80 meters over the next several years, further supporting efforts to build a robust and competitive MHK industry in the United States.

The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. EERE supports innovative approaches that reduce both the risk and costs of bringing MHK technologies online. Watch our Energy 101: Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy video, and learn more about the Department’s efforts to support MHK research and development.

Hawaii Farm Bureau Launches Publication

The Hawai‘i Farm Bureau Federation (HFBF) announces the launch of a new four-color, glossy magazine, Hawai‘i Farm & Food. The print and online publication is a media partnership between the statewide Farm Bureau and Pacific Basin Communications-the renowned publisher of Hawai‘i’s largest magazine group, whose portfolio includes Hawaii Business, HONOLULU Magazine and HAWAII Magazine.

Catherine Toth Fox will serve as the editor

Catherine Toth Fox will serve as the editor

“Hawai‘i Farm & Food will delve into issues facing Hawai‘i’s agricultural industries, unique specialty crops and commodity groups”, says HFBF president Chris Manfredi of Ka’u Farm and Ranch on the Big Island. “This new magazine will bring the challenges of Hawai‘i’s farmers, ranchers and aquaculturists to the forefront to help people better understand how food is produced and brought to store shelves. Think of it as a farm tour you can hold in your hand. We’re particularly excited that the publication’s app will be available for free on iTunes – and we’re thrilled to be working with the professionals at Pacific Basin Communications,” notes Manfredi.

Hawai‘i Farm and Food will feature farmers and their stories from across the state, updates on legislative issues, chef highlights of Hawai‘i-grown products, recipes and events supporting local agriculture.

Freelance journalist and blogger Catherine Toth Fox of O‘ahu will serve as Editor. The inaugural issue will premiere with a circulation of 5,000 printed copies and unlimited digital access for the mainstream audience.

The magazine will be direct-mailed to all HFBF members, available for free pick-up at the Farm Bureau Farmers’ Markets and various other outlets, and digital download on iTunes. Visit hfbf.org for a current listing. For advertising and sponsorship opportunities please contact Sharon Spear, publisher at 808-534-7528 or sharons@pacificbasin.net.

The Hawaii Farm Bureau is comprised of nearly 2,000 member families in 11 county chapters located across the state: East O’ahu, Hamakua, Hilo, Ka‘u, Kaua’i, Kohala, Kona, Maui, Moloka‘i, South O‘ahu and West O‘ahu. HFB serves as Hawai‘i’s “Voice of Agriculture,” to protect, advocate and advance the social, economic and educational interest of the state’s diverse agricultural community. To learn more, visit www.hfbf.org or phone 808-848-2074.

Island Naturals Implements $10 Per Hour Minimum Wages

As of July 2015 Island Naturals Markets has established a $10 per hour minimum wage for all employees.

Island Naturals

While most staff are already above $10/hour, some entry level employees got an unexpected raise in their paycheck this month as the company adopted the voluntary higher minimum wage standard.

Russell Ruderman, President of Island Naturals, who was recently awarded the State of Hawaii Small Business Administration, Businessperson of the Year, believes strongly in investing in his staff for motivational and retention purposes.

“In recent months we have seen some national companies raise their minimum wage voluntarily, and we want to be in the forefront of this movement locally.  But it’s also the right thing to do. Treating employees well, and paying them well, is good business!” said Ruderman.  “Island Naturals values our staff and strives to provide a good work environment, higher wages than local standards, and treats staff with respect.”

“While $10/hour is not a true living wage in Hawaii, this is a step in the right direction, as raising our minimum also results in higher wages for mid-level staff.  Doing so approaches a living wage for more and more workers. We are happy to share our success with our staff, and we all work together to make our company successful, said Ruderman.”

Island Naturals is the leading group of naturals food stores on the Big Island with three locations in Hilo, Pahoa and Kailua-Kona.  Island Naturals has more than 200 employees.

Hawaii Cannabis Business Expo and Kou Calabash Challenge

The state of Hawaii’s first and only medical cannabis magazine – Kaulana Na Pua, is pleased to announce that the Hawaii Convention Center will serve as the site for the inaugural Hawaii Cannabis Business Expo and Kou Calabash Challenge on July 17, 18, and 19, 2015.

See more here:

Hawaiian Cannabis Expo

Click to enlarge