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Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Calls On Administration & Congress to Pass Aid Package for Puerto Rico Now

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today spoke on the House floor calling on the Trump administration & Congress to pass an aid package for Puerto Rico now in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard demanded that the administration immediately send all available resources to help with recovery efforts.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said:

“Right now 3.5 million Americans, our fellow citizens, are facing a humanitarian crisis. In Puerto Rico, the majority of people still lack basic electricity, clean drinking water and medicine — the basic necessities just to stay alive. What to speak of the basic resources they need to begin the great task of rebuilding their lives and their communities. It has been days since the hurricane passed over Puerto Rico, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

“The people of Puerto Rico are literally crying out for help. There are far too many, especially those in rural communities, who still have not been reached by those bringing aid. As a representative from the island state of Hawaii, I can only imagine their frustration and desperation. I urge the administration to dedicate all available resources for recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and work with Congress to pass an emergency aid package to ensure that those delivering aid have what they need to help the people of Puerto Rico and save lives.”

Governor Ige Marks Family Assessment Center’s First Anniversary, Outlines Progress on Homelessness

Gov. David Ige today highlighted the state’s overall progress in addressing homelessness while recognizing the first anniversary of the state’s Family Assessment Center (FAC).

The FAC temporarily houses homeless families while they are being connected to services and long-term housing with the assistance of specialists from Catholic Charities Hawai‘i. More than 90 percent of families who have stayed at the FAC and have left the facility over the past year, have been housed, or 35 families out of 38 families serviced. In addition, the average time from intake to placement is 82 days ­– eight days fewer than the 90-day goal the state previously set.

Gov. Ige also said the FAC reflects the state’s overall gains on homelessness, pointing to a nine percent overall decrease in homelessness between 2016-17 – the first decrease in eight years – and a 19 percent reduction in family homelessness.

“The Family Assessment Center is a game-changer that is making a difference in the lives of unsheltered families and helping to provide the stability they need to improve their lives,” Gov. Ige said.

The success of the FAC illustrates the ʻOhana Nui approach, which includes a focus on the whole family; a priority on children, particularly those between infancy and age 5; and collaboration to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

“The Department of Human Services is proud to work hand-in-hand with the Governor’s Coordinator and Catholic Charities on long-term solutions to end homelessness,” said DHS Director Pankaj Bhanot. “The Family Assessment Center is a testament to the power of generative partnerships and a focus on connecting families to an array of services suited to their needs. We see that when we can work together to meet families where they are, families can thrive and not just survive.”

The FAC, which is operated by Catholic Charities Hawai‘i, is modeled after housing navigation centers in San Francisco.  Its small population – no more than 50 people, or 12-15 households at a time – enables more individualized care. Guests are not required to have identification, which is a key obstacle for many people experiencing homelessness.  Families are quickly transitioned to permanent housing or other appropriate services in 90 days or less. The facility opened on September 26, 2016.

County, State, Faith-Based Groups and Community Join Hands to Help Homeless

The County of Hawai’i is joining hands with the State of Hawai’i, the faith-based community, non-profits, businesses and other concerned citizens to address the island’s homelessness crisis, Mayor Harry Kim said.  The County is working collaboratively on a comprehensive program with the ultimate goal of transitioning homeless people of our island from temporary shelters to affordable housing and jobs.

“These are our people,” Mayor Kim said in a statement. “We cannot in good conscience let homelessness for families and individuals spiral upward; we must do something definitive to address it. I truly feel a growing support from the community.”

His remarks followed the 2nd Annual West Hawai’i Faith-Based Summit to End Family Homelessness in Kona on September 27.  The event was a day-long gathering involving more than 20 West Hawai’i church congregations, numerous social service agencies, healthcare professionals, businesses, as well as State and County officials.

“The faith-based community is really pitching in, offering to adopt homeless families and providing all kinds of material and spiritual support; we cannot thank these good people enough,” he said. “Their spirit is spreading far and wide in the community.”

Mayor Kim expressed deep gratitude for the commitment of assistance from the State of Hawai’i’s Homeless Coordinator, Scott Morishige, who attended the summit and stressed the need to maximize space and accelerate placement into shelters or transitional housing.

Governor David Ige conveyed a special message of support for the event, stressing the need for collaboration to tackle the complicated issue of homelessness.

“We appreciate so much the support that the State is giving us; they know this is crucial and that we need everybody’s help,” Mayor Kim said.

According to Lance Niimi, the County’s Homeless Coordinator there are approximately 913 homeless people islandwide, with about 379 individuals in families living without a home.  Niimi helped spearhead Camp Kikaha, a temporary Safe Zone encampment in Kona which houses about 30 people since its opening in May.

Community Informational Meetings on the County of Hawaii, Mass Transit Agency Island-Wide Transit Master Plan

The public is invited to Community Informational Meetings on the County of Hawaii, Mass Transit Agency Island-Wide Transit Master Plan that the county has contracted SSFM to conduct these for $500,000.

Kailua-Kona
Monday, October 9, 2017 • 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
West Hawaii Civic Center, Council Building A, Council Chambers
74-5044 Ana Keohokalole Highway

Kea‘au
Wednesday, October 11, 2017 • 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Kea‘au Community Center, 16-186 Pili Mua Street

Pāhoa
Thursday, October 12, 2017 • 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Pāhoa Neighborhood Facility, 15-2910 Kauhale Street

Waimea
Thursday, October 19, 2017 • 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Waimea Elementary School, 67-1225 Māmalahoa Highway

Hilo
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 • 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Aunty Sally Kaleohano’s Luau Hale, 799 Pi‘ilani Street

If you require language translation, an auxiliary aid or service (e.g., sign language interpreter, accessible parking or materials in alternative format), please contact
Jo-Anna Herkes, SSFM International at (808) 356-1260 at least five (5) days prior to the meeting date. TTY users may use TRS to contact our office.

Hawaii Receives $2.7 Million to Improve Veterans Cemeteries on Maui, Hawaii Island, and Lanai

On Friday Senator Mazie K. Hirono announced that the State of Hawaii will receive over $2.7 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration to improve veterans’ cemeteries on Maui, Hawaii Island, and Lanai.

“Our veterans’ cemeteries honor the commitment we’ve made to our service members and their eligible loved ones at the end of their lives,” said Senator Hirono, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Hawaii’s veterans have long advocated for needed repairs and improvements at cemeteries across the state, and the funding announced today meaningfully recognizes the sacrifice Hawaii veterans made for their country.”

“We’re very appreciative of the support for these important cemetery improvement projects from our Congressional and State Leaders and especially from the VA’s National Cemetery Administration,” said Ronald Han, Director of the Hawaii Office of Veterans’ Services. “These significant enhancements will continue to improve the quality of our cemeteries for those Veterans and their eligible loved ones who served a grateful nation.”

As part of the grant funding, Maui Veteran Cemetery will receive $1.3 million to support the raising, realigning, and cleaning of 1,225 headstones, as well as the restoration of 25,600 square feet of turf.

East Hawaii Veterans Cemetery II-Hilo will receive $870,000 for the construction of a new maintenance building, entry gate with fencing, a flag assembly area, landscape, and supporting infrastructure.

Lanai Veterans Cemetery will also receive $582,000 for the construction of a new water system, as assembly area, 800 linear feet of fence, landscaping, and supporting infrastructure.

Collectively, the projects will serve 54,300 veterans and their families.

Hawaii Joins State Coalition Demanding U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Stop Attacking Student Borrowers

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin and Executive Director of the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection Steve Levins today joined a coalition of states demanding U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) Secretary Betsy DeVos stop her systematic rollback of critical protections for student loan borrowers.

Click to read full letter

Attorney General Chin and Executive Director Levins said, “The United States Department of Education is supposed to be helping American students obtain a legitimate education that won’t financially cripple them. Instead, inexplicably, its actions are punishing students and benefiting predatory lenders. This must stop.”

The letter to Secretary DeVos, led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and joined by 19 other states and the District of Columbia, finds three main faults with an August decision by the USDOE to end two memoranda of understanding it had with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):

  • USDOE falsely asserted it has exclusive jurisdiction over companies that service federal student loans. In fact, student loan servicers are under the joint jurisdiction of the CFPB, Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice, attorneys general and other law enforcement agencies;
  • The letter is the latest in a series of actions by USDOE to strip critical protections for millions of students and families repaying student loans; and
  • USDOE misrepresents the strong work done by the CFPB on behalf of students and families across the country.

As the letter details: “Contrary to the Department’s assertion, Congress did not exempt the $1.3 trillion federal student loan market from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s jurisdiction – or from the jurisdiction of any other law enforcement agencies. … Not only is the Department’s assertion demonstrably false, but such an exemption would make no sense – the market for federal student loan servicers is bigger than any other consumer finance market except mortgages. Moreover, student loan borrowers, who in most cases cannot discharge their student loans through bankruptcy, are among the most vulnerable borrowers.”

USDOE’s August 31st letter to the CFPB terminating two memoranda of understanding ended critical protections designed to streamline the supervision of student loan servicers. Today’s letter from the states makes clear this step harms American families and makes it more difficult for the CFPB to assist and protect student borrowers.

As today’s letter states, “[t]he only beneficiaries of the Department’s sweeping rollbacks of consumer protections are the loan servicers and for-profit colleges, and their executives and investors. We suggest the Department of Education focus its efforts on removing the ability of schools selling worthless educational programs to obtain federally guaranteed student loans.”

Today’s letter highlights the strong work the CFPB has done to protect students and families, often in partnership with the USDOE and state attorneys general, including:

  • Processing complaints from over 40,000 student loan borrowers;
  • With Washington State and Illinois, suing Navient, the nation’s largest student loan servicer, for steering borrowers into costly repayment plans that benefit the servicer, not the borrower;
  • Cracking down on abusive for-profit colleges ITT Tech and Corinthian;
  • Halting illegal loan servicing practices at Wells Fargo; and
  • Working with state attorneys general to create an online tool that helps students plan for college by comparing financial aid offers, loan commitments and earnings potential.

Joining Hawaii and Pennsylvania on today’s letter were California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Free Medicare Basics Seminar

Helping the community stay informed about the “what,” “when,” and “how” of Medicare is important to the members of Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union (HCFCU) and on Saturday, October 7, 9:30am – 11:30am the credit union will present a free Medicare 101 seminar. Held at HCFCU’s Kaloko facility in the John Y. Iwane Credit Union Center Training Room (73-5611 Olowalu St., Kailua Kona), this informative seminar is free to the public but with limited seating.

Please register by contacting 808-930-7700 or marketing@hicommfcu.com. The seminar is for educational and informational purposes only. No plan specific benefits or details will be shared.

“We want to help our members with essential Medicare information so that they’re as prepared as possible when they’re ready to enroll,” said HCFCU President and CEO Tricia Buskirk.

Peter Amelotte, Health Benefits Manager with Aloha Insurance Services, Inc. will answer such questions as:

  • How old do I have to be to enroll in Medicare?
  • What are my Medicare health plan options?
  • Can I have other insurance and still have Medicare?
  • What’s the difference between Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B?
  • Is prescription drug coverage required?

Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit credit union owned by its over 39,000 member/owners with branches in Honokaa, Kailua-Kona, Kaloko, Kealakekua and Kohala. In addition to complete checking and savings services, the credit union offers credit cards, auto, mortgage, construction, small business, educational and personal loans; online and mobile banking; investment services; youth programs, and supports numerous Hawaii Islandprograms and events. Membership in HCFCU is open to all Hawaii Island residents. For more information visit www.hicommfcu.com.

73 Hawaii Companies Represented at the 2017 Tokyo International Gift Show

Seventy-three companies represented Hawaii at the 2017 Tokyo International Gift Show (TIGS).

This year marks the sixth consecutive year that the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) organized a Hawaii Pavilion at TIGS, which was held September 6-8, 2017, at the Tokyo International Exhibition Center (Tokyo Big Sight).

This year, the Hawaii pavilion filled 32 booths, and featured a café section. Last year’s gift show resulted in $11 million in export sales by Hawaii’s participating vendors. This year’s exhibitors are expected to top $13 million in export sales.

“The Tokyo International Gift Show is huge and it’s the perfect opportunity to showcase small and medium-sized businesses from Hawaii to the rest of the world,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria.  “Each exhibitor walks away with new exposure to the international market and a global perspective on how to do business outside of Hawaii.”

“The Hawaii Pavilion grows each year in size and number of local companies exhibiting,” said Dennis T. Ling, administrator for DBEDT’s Business Development and Support Division.  “The Hawaii brand is established and recognized for quality and authenticity, which is reflected in the dramatic increase in our sales in the Japan market.”

As a result of dollar amount of exports achieved at TIGS, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced this week an award of $400,000 to continue the Hawaii State Trade Export Program.  Under the tag “Buy Hawaii, Give Aloha”, this program provides training, grants and tradeshows for companies looking to start exporting or increase their exports.

Angie Higa, owner of Sky Dreams LLC explained: “The Tokyo International Gift Fair is an important show that I look forward to each year.  As a designer and having the opportunity to expand my collection to Japan, where they love Hawaii and Hawaii-made products, is absolutely amazing.”

Keoki Tavares, owner of Aloha Elixir said: “This was a great experience. The Tokyo International Gift Show has really opened the door for us to make important business connections in Japan. Our products were well-received and it was exciting to participate for the first time this year.”
Erin Kanno Uehara, owner of Choco lea noted: “Our mission is ‘bringing peace to our world one chocolate at a time’ – so this is the perfect opportunity for us to fulfill that mission and spread our love and aloha from Hawaii.”

TIGS is the largest international trade show in Japan, drawing 200,000 buyers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers to meet exhibitors at more than 4,500 booths spread out over Tokyo Big Sight exhibition area.

Waianuhea Bed and Breakfast Auction and Property Sale

Aloha to all our wonderful guests and friends over the years!

I am writing you today to tell you that Waianuhea is auctioning off all of its furnishings. The property itself is still up for sale, although the Manager’s Quarters (the small house at the bottom of the drive) was portioned off with 1.5 acres and sold last year. It is time for me to move on from Hawaii and all I have here, so I am taking the next step in this process and am clearing out the house of all furnishings.

My ohana stayed here in 2010.

I have engaged the services of Oahu Auctions, a highly reputable auction company that is conducting the auction online. Thus, if you are interested in bidding on an item from Waianuhea, even if you are far away, you can! For those of you on-island, you can see all the auction items in person during the preview period, which will be September 29th and 30th (10am to 5pm). The auction is scheduled to close Saturday, September 30th, starting at 6pm. Here is a link to the website for Oahu Auctions:

http://bid.oahuauctions.com/UPSCALE-BED-BREAKFAST-HAWAII-ISLAND-BIG-ISLAND_as48908

There you will see the catalog of all the items up for auction from Waianuhea. At this point, the catalog is still being “built”, so you may notice missing photos and descriptions which will be filled in soon. There are over 300 lots! You can browse through all these items, and if you decide to bid, click on “Get Approved to Bid” towards the top right corner of the page. There is no fee to bid.

There are items large and small up for sale! Maybe you will find your own perfect memento of Waianuhea.

Many thanks for your patronage over our lifetime,

Carol Salisbury, Owner – Waianuhea

PS-Here is the link to Waianuhea’s property listing, including a wonderful video tour which you may wish to take to remind yourself of the beauty of Waianuhea:

Waianuhea Real Estate Listing

If you know someone who is interested in the property itself, my brokers are now with MacArthur Sotheby’s:

Brodie Callender: brodie@macarthurhawaii.com ; 808-885-5538 office; 808-987-4218 mobile

Alethea Lai: alethea@macarthurhawaii.com ; 808-885-8885 office; 808-989-7861 mobile

Clarification – Cash Will Be Accepted at Hawaii Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

This was shared w/ Governor Ige’s followers on Facebook yesterday.

I received the following Press Release from Richard Ha this afternoon clarifying the shared Facebook post that Governor Ige shared from Civil Beat yesterday:

HONOLULU – Hawaiʻi Educational Association for Licensed Therapeutic Healthcare (HEALTH) has long been involved in seeking banking options for Hawaiʻi’s nascent medical cannabis dispensaries. We deeply appreciate the leadership and creativity demonstrated by Governor David Ige and Hawaiʻi Financial institutions Commissioner Iris Ikeda that culminated in yesterday’s announcement that the state had secured a banking solution for its legal cannabis industry.

Partner Colorado Credit Union’s Safe Harbor Private Banking Program is a pioneering program that takes on the regulatory burden required for our industry to be in compliance with federal guidelines so that state-licensed cannabis dispensaries can access banking services. Because these services are unavailable in Hawaiʻi, we are grateful that Colorado has stepped up to help.

The CanPay debit payment application is an alternative to cash payments that will be a welcome option for patients and dispensaries alike. Unlike a credit or debit card, payment will be instantly transferred from the patient’s existing bank account to the dispensary’s account in Colorado to facilitate a cashless purchase.

We recognize that the success of Hawaiʻi’s medical cannabis dispensary program is directly linked to the ability of patients to have safe access to cannabis products to help manage their medical conditions. As employers, we also want to ensure our employees enjoy a safe work environment. These options take us in the right direction at the right time.

Hawaiʻi’s aspiration to have a predominantly “cashless system” for all medical cannabis dispensaries is admirable. However, it is important to clarify that progress toward this goal will take considerable time. We will work with all stakeholders to successfully implement the proposed system. Patients who choose not to participate in a program that requires checking account transfers will still be able to make cash purchases in all Hawaiʻi-Licensed Medical Cannabis Dispensaries. Qualified patient access and compassion are two key tenets to any successful medical program.

Mayor Kim’s Letter to HICOP Board – RE: Helicopter Tours

Dear Mr. Ernst & HICOP Board:
RE: Helicopter Tours

In our meeting, I clearly indicated how I will proceed.

  • Request a meeting with Helicopter Tour Industry to begin dialogue with industry.
  • Request organization of a program by industry to address concerns.
  • Plan working group meeting of community and industry to see if any anything can be addressed together.

Meeting of first two bullets have been completed and waiting for report.

I was not aware that at this time a definitive position was established by HICOP and believed that the desire was to see if the whole issue can be discussed to work out acceptable solutions. Your correspondence indicate otherwise. If I am incorrect, please correct me.

I truly feel that at this time an effort should be made to address the problem by coming together for open dialogue, regardless of past attempts. As you know, the authority of this issues is with the FAA.

Sincerely,
Harry Kim
Mayor

Hawai‘i Unveils First Cashless Payment System for Medical Cannabis

Gov. David Ige and state Financial Institutions Commissioner Iris Ikeda announced a “banking solution” that allows Hawai‘i’s medical cannabis dispensaries to access financial services and use a cashless payment system.

The solution makes Hawai‘i the first in the nation to have a cashless dispensary system.

The state has secured the services of Colorado-based Safe Harbor Private Banking that will provide limited and temporary financial services for Hawai‘i’s cannabis dispensaries. CanPay, a debit payment mobile application, will process sales transactions at retail dispensaries. Hawaii’s eight dispensary license holders have agreed to implement cashless operations by October 1, 2017.Financial services are currently unavailable in Hawai‘i because cannabis remains a federally prohibited substance.

“This new cashless system enables the state to focus on patient, public and product safety while we allow commerce to take place. This solution makes sense. It makes dispensary finances transparent and it makes it easier and safer for dispensaries to serve their patients and pay their employees and vendors,” said Gov. Ige.

While determining a banking solution, the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Division of Financial Institutions focused on safety—for patients, employees, dispensaries, as well as the wider community. The department sought a cashless solution to address concerns about increased crimes committed against cash-based operations.

“This solution for the dispensaries to conduct banking services in an entirely cashless method would directly address many concerns we have and problems encountered by the dispensaries,” said Iris Ikeda, Hawai‘i Financial Institutions Commissioner. “This will establish a safe environment for medical cannabis-using patients and businesses to operate. It is our hope that a Hawai‘i-based financial institution opens accounts in the future. For now, we are appreciative of the mainland credit union for stepping in,” added Ikeda.

Hawai‘i’s cashless system will allow cannabis dispensaries to use traditional financial services to legally conduct financial transactions. In addition, dispensaries will be capable of setting up direct deposit for employee payroll, collect and remit taxes, and make payments to vendors.

All transactions will be transparent, as purchases at retail dispensaries occur through the mobile application and other transactions would be recorded by the financial institution.

Maui Wellness Group, LLC dba Maui Grown Therapies and Aloha Green LLC, the state’s two operational dispensaries, have opened accounts with the mainland credit union and have begun using the mobile debit payment application. The remaining six dispensaries are now at different stages of development and varying stages of the approval process.

More information on the Medical Cannabis Registry Program and the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program is available at http://health.hawaii.gov/medicalmarijuana.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the banking solution can be found at https://cca.hawaii.gov/dfi/files/2017/09/MCD-FAQs.pdf.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Votes to Send Federal Aid to Hurricane Victims, and Ensure the Government Remains Open

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today voted for H.R. 601, which provides over $15 billion in emergency federal aid to assist the victims of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and other extreme weather events throughout the country. This funding ensures FEMA can provide immediate emergency response and relief as well as longer-term recovery efforts. The bill also extends the federal debt limit and ensures that the government remains open and able to deliver services until December 8, 2017.

“National tragedies like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma test our country’s resolve. With today’s funding bill, Congress came together, putting the American people before partisanship and politics, to support the emergency response and recovery efforts serving the people most affected by these disasters.  Since Hurricane Harvey hit, we have seen the aloha spirit coming from people all across the country who have turned out to support those struggling in the wake of this disaster.  We are reminded that when one part of the country faces adversity, our nation comes together and perseveres. In the last week, we have witnessed compassion from neighbors, bravery from first responders, and responsiveness from public institutions. As communities in Texas and Louisiana begin the process of recovery and renewal, the entire country sends its thoughts, prayers, and support to the people of the Caribbean and Florida who are dealing with Hurricane Irma,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

Big Island Police Warning Public About Increase in Counterfeit Money

Hawaiʻi Island police are warning the public about an increase in counterfeit money in circulation. Kaʻū police officers have been responding to numerous calls about fake $100 bills. The phony money looks, feels, and appears to be real, with the exception of pink Chinese writing characters on the front and back. These are training bills that Chinese banks use to train their tellers in counting foreign currency. The Chinese characters translate to read “For Training Purposes Only.”

A counterfeit detection pen will leave a mark on these bills.

Police advised merchants to be cautious, and to use the following methods in detecting counterfeit money:

  • Locate and read the plastic embedded security thread. It should say “USA” and the bill’s denomination.
  • Use an ultraviolet light to detect the thread glow color. The $5 bill should glow blue, the $10 bill should glow orange, the $20 bill should glow green, and the $50 bill should glow yellow. In older versions, the $100 bill should glow pink, while the current $100 bill has a 3-D ribbon.
  • Hold the bill up to the light to check for a watermark.
  • Tilt the bill to examine the color-shifting ink.
  • With a magnifying glass, locate and examine the micro-printing.

Citizens and businesses are reminded to treat the fake bill as evidence by placing it into an envelope and to call the police immediately.

Anyone with information on individuals involved in the making or circulating of counterfeit bills are urged to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide 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 does not record calls or subscribe to any Caller ID service. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Hawaii Representative Responds on Why She Voted Yes With Reservations During Special Legislative Session


Hawaii Island Representative Joy SanBuenventura posted the following response on her Facebook page as to why she voted Yes (with reservations) on the recent controversial rail bill:

Representative Joy SanBuenaventura

“Why I voted Yes with Reservations: For the reason I voted no in 2015 because I did not like the rail fiasco, I don’t trust Caldwell’s numbers & the amendment to exempt neighbor island from TAT surcharge (which I voted for and spoke up for) overwhelmingly failed. The 2015 rail bill passed which led to the rock & hard place we are in now: If this current bill failed by 9/15, we would be stuck with an $800 million bill to fed govt (That’s why Hanabusa and Schatz stepped in when they stayed away previously – they saw that the leg was willing to let rail fail by our lack of agreement when 2017 session ended & our unwillingness to schedule a special session- the special session was scheduled at the last possible minute prior to 9/15 fed deadline & only after Hanabusa & Schatz stepped in). We no longer have Dan Inouye nor President Obama and our fed legislators keep speaking out against trump- so fed relationships needed to be retained with the day-to-day non-appointees who actually administer the fed grant $. Hanabusa & Schatz were concerned that if rail died, ALL our fed grants are subject to re-review. Half our highways our funded by feds, including Hwy 130. Someone needs to keep nagging DoT so that Hwy 130 doesn’t lose its place in the STIP and I didn’t want to give DoT another excuse not to fund 4-lanes (they already allowed the $15 mil for the alternate access to lapse & they already blame me for the failure of the gas tax they wanted in 2016 session). DoT was in every rail hearing even if sometimes they don’t testify.

The TAT was always a state tax created in 1986 to help the tourist industry create a convention center and to advertise Hawaii as a destination. In 1991 various grants were given to the counties so that they can promote their own tourism on their island. The big island gets 18.6% of the county share (at least 4% more than we are entitled to because Harvey Tajiri who was once finance chair juiced it) – with this county vs. state debate, a tracking-down of where the money is generated is going to occur and I suspect the big island will lose this advantage because our visitor count shows only 14% of visitor arrivals vs. statewide. The huge pressure to vote “no” has already cost the Big Island to lose statewide power when Cindy Evans lost her majority leadership position – so this huge pressure to vote “no” when the “yes” votes were going to win only led the big island to a worse bargaining position when state monies are used for grants and capital improvements. Most neighbor island reps supported the amendment making this an Oahu-only TAT but we were overwhelmingly outvoted – so the “yes” votes were going to win regardless.

The current bill was a compromise between the 2 chambers & the hotel/tourist industry – It was originally 2-3% of TAT. It was meant to export the tax to tourists after Caldwell’s testimony that tourists paid for most of it and Hanneman stating that 90-99% of hotels are rented to out-of -state residents. The original neighbor island tax referred to in Civil Beat was a statewide GE surcharge which option was soundly rejected by all. TAT is deductible by residents but GE is mostly deductible based upon income. Moreover, I felt this bill was a move towards a more equitable tax away from the regressive GE which is a tax on everything and is paid by everyone including those who cannot afford a hotelroom. Everyone was already paying the Oahu GE surcharge without knowing it because the GE is a tax on wholesale items and even on the tax itself that’s why its 4.1666666 not just 4%.

As to lack of notice: Unless there is a constitutional amendment for a year-long legislative session, this lack of notice will always be a problem because we have 60 days to parse through hundreds of bills and every year we asked for funding for neighbor island residents to testify, we lose. The rail bill like all bills had the 48-hour notice and in this case because there was a special session, it got even more notice than the other bills; and frankly, I called a certain councilperson when this bill was going through the transportation committee in the original session as to the county position before it got to the yes or no stage – but got no response back (I suspect she did not want to violate the sunshine law by just polling members & the mayor on interim positions before getting back to me). Again I remain committed to lessen the burden on local B-n-B’s caused by this bill by introducing a bill next session and I invite the local b-n-b’s to give me a proposed draft of such a bill.”

 

Hawaii House Passes Rail Funding Bill in Special Session

The Hawaii House of Representatives voted in Special Session today to pass Senate Bill 4 to fund the City’s $8.2 billion rail project. The vote was 31 yes, 15 no and five excused.

The Senate passed the measure on Wednesday. The bill now goes to Governor David Ige for his consideration.

The bill will provide about $2.39 billion to complete construction of the rail project to Ala Moana and provide a secure funding source to ensure continued federal support.

House Speaker Scott K. Saiki (Kakaako, Downtown) said after passing this funding bill, it is now up to the City to manage the project in a way that is both accountable to the taxpayers and completed within its budget.

“The legislature has taken on the responsibility of finding a way to fund rail and to secure federal funding,” Saiki said. “I want to thank our lawmakers for working together to reach this compromise.”

The bill will:

  • Extend the general excise tax surcharge on Oahu for three additional years, from December 31, 2027 through December 31, 2030. This will provide $1.25 billion.
  • Raise the hotel room tax charged to visitors (Transient Accommodation Tax) by one percent from 9.25 percent to 10.25 percent for 13 years, from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2030. This also applies to timeshares. This will provide $1.25 billion.
  • The hotel room tax is collected statewide and goes directly into the general fund, not to the island where it is collected. Each county receives an allocated proportional share of the tax regardless of total amounts collected. Raising the tax does not change that amount.
  • Permanently increase the counties share of the TAT from its current $93 million base to $103 million.
  • Reduce the State Department of Taxation’s administrative fee on the GET surcharge from 10 percent to one percent.
  • Require a state run forensic audit of the rail project and annual financial reviews.

The bill also provides that funds collected for rail go into a new Mass Transit Special Fund and rather than simply give the money to the City, and requires the State Comptroller to certify HART’s invoices for capital costs as the project moves forward. This will allow the state to keep track of both spending and construction progress.

This bill addresses the immediate rail construction shortfall by collecting funds upfront through a small TAT increase instead of adding additional years of GET surcharge on the back end. This will reduce the financing costs of the project by hundreds of millions of dollars.

A rail bill that relies solely on GET will continue to tax the poor and increase the cost to taxpayers in the long term. By substantially relying on the TAT, visitors will now bare a significant portion of the financing burden.

Rep. Sylvia Luke (Pauoa, Punchbowl, Nuuanu), Chair of the House Finance Committee, said careful thought and consideration went into this bill.

“After hearing testimony from city officials, neighbor island residents and the public, we looked in detail at how to fund rail while creating the least amount of increase on our taxpayers,” Rep. Luke said.

Rep. Henry Aquino (Waipahu) said it is important to support the rail project to relieve traffic congestion for West Oahu residents.

“This bill is a compromise that provides the funds to get rail built. When completed, rail will be a great relief for the thousands of people stuck in traffic every day,” Rep. Aquino said. “This bill not only provides much needed oversight on spending by the State Comptroller, it also mandates accountability though audits and financial reviews.”

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:

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

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