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Hawaii AG Joins in Call for Expansion of Medicaid Fraud Authority

Attorney General Doug Chin yesterday joined the attorneys general of 37 states and the District of Columbia urging the federal government to change its policy so state attorneys general can use federal funds to investigate and prosecute a wider range of Medicaid abuse and neglect cases.

The letter was sent to Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services, by the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).

Click to read letter

Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides free or low-cost medical benefits to millions of Americans. More than 6.4 million people enrolled in the Medicaid program are age 65 or older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 persons age 65 and older who live at home will become a victim of abuse.

Attorney General Chin said, “The Hawaii Medicaid Fraud Control Unit receives thousands of complaints relating to fraud and abuse and neglect every year. We will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute these cases. We hope that the federal government will hear our concerns and support our efforts to protect Hawaii’s most vulnerable residents.”

Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs) investigate and prosecute state Medicaid provider fraud and resident abuse and neglect complaints in board and care facilities. In Hawaii, MFCU operates in the Department of the Attorney General.

According to the bipartisan letter signed by Attorney General Chin:

“[T]he current strict federal limitations on states’ ability to use MFCU assets to investigate abuse and neglect are outdated, arbitrarily restrict our ability to protect Medicaid beneficiaries from abuse and neglect as Congress intended, and should be replaced or eliminated.

We respectfully request you take swift action to eliminate federal regulations that needlessly narrow our use of these valuable assets. Instead, we request to be freed to use federal MFCU funds to detect, investigate and prosecute abuse and neglect committed against Medicaid beneficiaries or in connection with Medicaid-funded services to the fullest extent permitted by federal statute.”

The letter from NAAG offered two specific recommendations:

  • Allow MFCU federals funds to be used to investigate and prosecute abuse and neglect of Medicaid beneficiaries in non-institutional settings (i.e. home health care).
  • Allow use of MFCU federal funds to freely screen or review any and all complaints or reports of whatever type, in whatever setting.

A copy of the letter is attached.

New Portable Testing Tool Speeds Detection of Suspected Rapid `Ōhi`a Death Pathogens

Researchers have developed a new, more efficient tool for detecting the pathogens believed to be the cause of Rapid `Ōhi`a Death (ROD), according to a recently published study by the Hawaiʻi Cooperative Studies Unit at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, the USGS Pacific Islands Ecosystem Research Center (PIERC), and USDA Agriculture Research Service (ARS).
The authors of the report have developed a portable lab for diagnostic field testing for the two species of fungal pathogens that infect `ōhi`a (Metrosideros polymorpha). The portable lab, which provides quick results and reduces instrumentation costs, is currently being used by the Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC) to detect infected trees and identify the distribution of the pathogens.

“Having this portable lab gives us the capability to do our own diagnostics and get a quicker answer about whether or not a tree is positive for ROD. The result then allows us to take management actions right away or do more targeted testing,” said Bill Buckley, Forest Response coordinator for BIISC and leader of their ROD Early Detection and Rapid Response Team.

The Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture is also planning to use the portable lab to help screen shipments of `ōhi`a logs for the pathogens.

ROD was first identified in the lower Puna District in 2014, and now infects more than 50,000 acres of private and state forest lands on Hawaiʻi Island. ROD is a serious threat and imperils long-term sustainability of watersheds managed by Department of Interior agencies, the State of Hawaiʻi, and State Watershed Partnerships.

For more information on the study and its findings, visit https://dspace.lib.hawaii.edu/handle/10790/3025.

Governor Ige Announces 32 Percent Decrease in Hawai‘i County’s Homeless Count

Gov. David Ige announced today that the homeless population across the state decreased for the first time in eight years. The annual Point in Time count—a census of people experiencing homelessness—showed a nine percent overall decrease in the number of homeless individuals across the state.

Click to see brochure

This year’s count found 7,220 homeless individuals across Hawai‘i compared to 7,921 in 2016.

Hawai‘i County saw the largest decline in homeless individuals – a 32 percent decrease.

“We have partnered with every mayor in every county, along with the private sector and service providers. We’ve had housing summits to identify the benefits of renting to the homeless. We have service providers to provide supportive care so that we can place families in permanent housing. It’s terrific news that homelessness is down 32 percent on Hawai‘i Island,” Gov. Ige said.

Maui County saw a 22 percent decline in homeless individuals and Kaua‘i County experienced a seven percent drop compared to 2016. O‘ahu saw a half percent increase in homeless individuals.

“I commend the many partners who have gotten out of their silos, come to the table and rolled up their sleeves. Together, we are finding more efficient ways to move people off the streets and into homes. This report is proof that our collective efforts are working,” said Gov. Ige. “While today’s news indicates that the tide has turned, there is more to do. My administration remains focused on increasing affordable housing and reducing homelessness in the State of Hawai‘i.”

A link to the overview of Point in Time’s full report, compiled by Hawai‘i’s two Continuums of Care—Bridging the Gap and Partners in Care—can be found on the governor’s website at governor.hawaii.gov.

Hope Cermelj Issued Citation for Mauna Kea Graffiti

Assistance provided by the Native Hawaiian community allowed officers from the Hawai‘i Branch of the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) to make contact with a suspect in the recent case of graffiti damage found at the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve (NAR).

As a result of this contact and investigation, Hope Cermelj of Kalapana, Hawai‘i was issued a citation for violating Rule 13-209-4 (3), Prohibited Activities within a Natural Area Reserve. Cermelj will be required to appear in Hilo District Court.

Graffiti was discovered on several rocks in the NAR on April 28th, as well as on structures belonging to the Office of Mauna Kea Management.

DLNR/DOCARE thanks community members who stepped forward to provide information and assistance. This was instrumental in locating and identifying the suspect.

Hawaii Department of Education Announces New Partnership with Tahiti Schools

The Hawaii State Department of Education brought together education leaders, teachers and students to celebrate the homecoming of Hōkūleʻa announce a newly signed agreement between the Department and Tahiti’s Ministry of Education that will carry on the mission of Mālama Honua.

Nainoa Thompson shared a message to educators about the importance of the “Promise to Children,” and the journey it took to get to the launch of the worldwide voyage. Photo Credit: Department of Education

After implementing nearly four years of lessons connected to the Worldwide Voyage of Hōkūleʻa, the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) will engage in a formalized partnership with Tahiti schools. Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi today made the announcement to education leaders, teachers and students who have incorporated Mālama Honua into their learning.

The shared agreement was established last month during a meeting that coincided with Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia’s arrival in Tahiti. Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson also attended the meeting.

“Tahiti and Hawai’i currently enjoy student exchanges through our respective network of schools,” said Superintendent Matayoshi. “Tahiti’s Education Minister and I signed a commitment to help facilitate these exchanges through a teacher exchange program; to share strategies and curriculum, and lastly start to develop a digital network of resource sharing between schools.”

Superintendent Matayoshi stressed that the work done by educators is the “Education Wa’a” of the Mālama Honua journey. She addressed educational leaders, teachers, and partners this morning at Chaminade University’s Clarence T.C. Ching Conference Center.

The program included a recap of highlights from Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia’s port visits to school projects that incorporated Mālama Honua such as school gardens, community clean ups, environmental research and revitalization and video projects.

King William Lunalilo Elementary Principal Amy Kantrowitz noted, “There has been a change in the mindset of our students, they are much more aware of their responsibility to care for our Island Earth, to care for our culture and each other. That’s what we’ve been instilling these past few years – it’s not just an activity, it’s a way of thinking.”

During the gathering, Thompson shared a message to educators about the importance of the “Promise to Children,” and the journey it took to get to the launch of the worldwide voyage.

“It must’ve been five years ago that I had a meeting with Superintendent Matayoshi, and we talked about an idea about sailing around connecting it to education – strengthening education,” shared Thompson. “I want to thank her for her vision and her trust. We would never have taken the risk of the voyage unless we knew it would be worth it.”

Thompson stated once Hōkūleʻa returns home, the mission will continue with a statewide sail to visit 100 schools.

The “Promise to Children” was established in November 2013 and signed by educational leaders and hundreds of individuals in support of the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s worldwide voyage and the mission of Mālama Honua. The agreement emphasized that lessons passed along to students will inspire them to explore, discover and learn about the Island Earth.

For more information about HIDOE’s integration of the Promise to Children and Mālama Honua into its schools and curriculum, click here.

Hilo Legislative Update

Hawai‘i lawmakers passed the State’s two-year biennium budget on Tuesday along with numerous House and Senate bills that now move to Governor David Ige for his signature. The budget includes more than $70 million in capital improvement project funds for the Hilo area.

The approved budget includes $4.5 million for improvements to Hilo and Keawe Health Centers, as well as $2 million for the creation of a telehealth unit for Hilo Medical Center.

“The telehealth services at Hilo Hospital was a top priority of the Hilo Hospital Foundation in order to increase the level of health care services to residents of Hawaii Island. These budget items as well as the creation of a new line item for the Hawaii Island Family Residency Program will help to insure that we are able to better address the medical needs of our residents into the future,” said Representative Mark M. Nakashima.

State funds are earmarked for both the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and Hilo International Airport.

“The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo will receive $3 million to provide air conditioning for the Hale ‘Alahonua student dormitory building. The budget also includes $19.2 million for renovations and improvements to the Hilo International Airport, as well as $2.6 million for noise-reduction efforts for nearby communities,” said Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele.

Waiakeawāena Elementary will receive $2.5 million for either renovations of their existing cafeteria or the construction of a new facility and $13 million will go toward replacing the single lane 4 Mile Creek Bridge at the intersection of Kilauea Avenue and Haihai Street.

HB478 HD1 SD1 CD1 enables the expansion of the successful inmate-operated farms at the Kulani (Hawaii Island) correctional facilities. The bill provides $50,000 for hiring a farm manager and $50,000 for farming equipment.

“The rejuvenation of the Kulani Correctional Facilities agriculture programs will be greatly enhanced with the addition of a full-time farm manager and funding for the purchase of equipment and supplies. This will allow inmates to participate in a broader range of technical skills and trades in horticulture. Along with the $13 million in funding for the 4-mile bridge, $2 million in funds were also secured for motor vehicle deceleration and acceleration lanes to increase the traffic safety to the Panaewa stretch at the Mamaki and Lama Street intersections,” said Representative Richard Onishi.

Hilo High School will receive $2.4 million to assist with renovations of their school auditorium building, as well as $1.25 million toward a much-needed upgrade to the school’s track and field facilities. Across the street, Hilo Intermediate School will benefit from a $950,000 appropriation for renovations of the school’s boys’ and girls’ locker rooms.

“We are very grateful for the funding we received for East Hawaii schools. On a personal level, I am very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of our legislative team and I’m looking forward to continuing our work together,” said Representative Chris Todd.

Department of Education to Expand Free Meal Program to 52 Public Schools on Six Islands

This upcoming school year, HIDOE will expand a USDA free meal program, called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), from 30 public schools to a total of 52 across the state. The CEP program allows a school district, a group of schools or a single school to serve free meals to all students even if they do not qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch reimbursements.

The CEP program allows a school district, a group of schools or a single school to serve free meals to all students even if they do not qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch reimbursements. Photo Credit: Department of Education

This upcoming school year, the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) will expand a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) free meal program, called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), from 30 public schools to a total of 52 across the state.

The CEP program allows a school district, a group of schools or a single school to serve free meals to all students even if they do not qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch reimbursements.

“We are very pleased to be able to expand this program to 22 additional schools statewide to provide free meals for over 8,500 more students,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.  “The program helped over 18,000 students to receive free meals over the past two years and provided significant relief for many families.”

The 22 additional schools being added to the program in school year 2017-18 are:

  • Oahu – Aiea El., Central Middle, Governor Sanford B. Dole Middle, Kaala El., Kaewai El., Kahaluu El., Kaiulani El., Kalihi El., Kauluwela El., Mayor Joseph J. Fern El., Palolo El., Puuhale El., Waipahu El. and William P. Jarrett Middle
  • Hawaii Island – Chiefess Kapiolani El., Hilo Union El., Honaunau El., Hookena El., Keaukaha El., Ke Kula O Ehunuikaimalino, Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole El. & Inter. and Waimea El.

The 30 schools already participating in the program in school year 2016-17 are:

  • Kauai – Kekaha El.
  • Oahu – Blanche Pope El., Leihoku El., Linapuni El., Maili El., Makaha El., Nanaikapono El., Nanakuli El., Nanakuli High & Intermediate, Olomana School, Waianae El., Waianae High, Waianae Middle and Waimanalo El. & Intermediate
  • Maui – Hana High & El.
  • Molokai – Kaunakakai El., Kilohana El., Maunaloa El., Molokai Middle and Molokai High
  • Lanai –Lanai High & El.
  • Hawaii Island – Kau High & Pahala El., Keaau El., Keaau High, Keaau Middle, Keonepoko El., Mountain View El., Naalehu El., Pahoa El. and Pahoa High

To qualify for the CEP program, a district, grouping or school must have a minimum of 40 percent or more of its students eligible for free or reduced-price 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 $3.89 for students who qualify for a free meal and $0.44 for those paying for a meal. HIDOE charges $2.50 for elementary school meals for a total of $2.94 in recouped cost for the state.

Under the program all students in the CEP school would qualify for the higher $3.89 reimbursement. While participating schools may no longer be collecting meal monies and ensuring accounts have sufficient funds, families will be required to provide information for data collection.

For more information about the USDA CEP program visit: http://1.usa.gov/1iP9FQI.  For details on HIDOE’s CEP pilot program, visit http://bit.ly/1Kh8SL1.

HIDOE’s School Food Services Branch has a website that will provide families at schools that are not in the CEP program with the option to submit applications for Free and Reduced-Price Meal Benefits online. For more information visit http://bit.ly/1VX1OID.

Mau‘i’s Most Popular Trail Gets Safety and Conservation Upgrades

On one side of the Waihe‘e Ridge Trail, hikers look deep into the Waihe‘e Gorge.  On the other, they look across Makamakaole Gulch and out into the shimmering Pacific Ocean.  On a clear day, yet another view is across the entire central plain of Maui all the way to the top of Haleakala.  This challenging, but scenic trail is considered the most popular path on Maui in the State’s Nā Ala Hele Trail and Access Program.

Now the thousands of people who make the 2.5-mile trek to the top can do it safer and probably with a heck of a lot less mud attached to their boots.  An almost completed $122,000 trail improvement program provides two viewing platforms, drainage features in particularly boggy areas, and better trail tread to reduce slickness.  Torrie Nohara, the Nā Ala Hele trails specialist on Maui commented, “On every trail, water control is the number one consideration. We’ve built “sheet drains” that will divert water off the trail and not only make it more enjoyable for users, but help prevent erosion. On the lower portions of the trail we did significant excavation of large boulders and rocks to improve the contour of the trail.”

The Nā Ala Hele program falls under the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW). It hired Cam Lockwood of Trails Unlimited to help design the new features and supervise trail improvement and construction work.  His California-based company has built and improved trails nationwide.  He says the Waihe’e Ridge Trail incorporates some of the best thinking and best practices around for trail improvements.  “For instance,” Lockwood explained, “The large viewing platform on top and the one about a mile up the trail are constructed with pressure treated lumber raised off the ground to provide a longer useful life. Composite decking was used on the viewing platforms to also extend their life spans and to provide improved traction in the often, wet conditions at the terminus of the trail.”  He said the primary consideration for all the improvements was to make the entire trail more sustainable, more enjoyable, and safer.  He describes the views from the top as “breathtaking” and hopes people will focus on those, rather than the challenge involved in making the 1,500-foot elevation gain hike.

While most of the major construction is now complete, crews continue to put finishing touches on some of the features and certain sections of the trail.  The Waihe’e Ridge Trail is open for hiking, but people are asked to exercise caution and respect when traversing through construction zones. For complete information on this trail please visit:https://hawaiitrails.org/trails/#/trail/waihee-ridge-trail/111

Waihee Ridge Trail Improvements VNR from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.

Big Island Dairy Fined for Fecal Pollution

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has issued a Notice of Violation and Order to Big Island Dairy, LLC for the unlawful discharge of wastewater from the dairy’s Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations (CAFO), located in O’okala on Hawaii Island, to Kaohaoha Gulch.

Big Island Dairy Facebook picture

The DOH has ordered Big Island Dairy, LLC to immediately cease discharging wastewater to state waters, pay a penalty of $25,000 to the state, and take corrective actions to prevent future unlawful discharges from the dairy to state waters. Further, the dairy is required to apply to DOH for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit required under the Federal Clean Water Act, and State of Hawaii water pollution laws. Additional DOH oversight of other past and current dairy issues is continuing.

“Big Island Dairy will immediately cease illegal discharges and pay a penalty fee for violating environmental laws,” said Keith Kawaoka, DOH deputy director of Environmental Health. “Food production and environmental protection are not competing interests, and through this enforcement action and future permitting efforts, DOH will seek mutually beneficial results for the dairy, O’okala community, and greater State of Hawaii.”

On March 28-29, 2017, the DOH conducted an inspection of the dairy and Kaohaoha Gulch based on information provided by community leaders. During the inspection, DOH found clear evidence of an unlawful discharge of wastewater from the dairy’s field irrigation practices. The discharge was composed of animal wastewater, biosolids and dirt.

Requirement for an NPDES Permit Authorizing the Discharge to State waters

Under the federal Clean Water Act and state water pollution laws, a dairy with 700 or more mature milking cows which operates as a CAFO and discharges is required to obtain and comply with an NPDES permit. NPDES permits regulate the discharges from the dairy to state and federal waters by requiring implementation of pollution reducing practices and compliance reporting. Big Island Dairy has 30 days to submit an application for NPDES permit coverage to DOH.

Requirement for the Development and Implementation of a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan

Big Island Dairy is ordered to develop or revise a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) that defines how the dairy treats, uses, and distributes its wastewater for crop production purposes. The CNMP must follow Federal guidelines and be approved of by the DOH before implementation. The CNMP will be an enforceable provision of the NPDES permit.

Surveys of State waters within Dairy Property

Big Island Dairy is required to conduct surveys and inspections of state waters located within the dairy property to identify all points of discharge from the dairy. The dairy must develop corrective action plans if the dairy finds any evidence of waste or wastewater within state waters due to dairy operations. DOH will review the final reports and conduct due diligence to authenticate conclusions made in the dairy’s report.

Big Island Dairy, LLC may contest the Notice of Violation and Order and has 20 days to request a hearing.

The Hawaii Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch protects the health of residents and visitors who enjoy Hawaii’s coastal and inland water resources. The Branch also protects and restores inland and coastal waters for marine life and wildlife. This is accomplished through statewide coastal water surveillance and watershed-based environmental management using a combination of permit issuance, water quality monitoring and investigation, water quality violation enforcement, polluted runoff control, and public education.

Hawaii House of Representatives Adjourns 2017 Legislative Session

The House of Representatives today adjourned the 2017 regular legislative session sine die.

The Legislature passed a total of 233 bills this session including measures to support for affordable housing and homelessness, reduce taxes low-income families, provide college tuition for qualifying students, support kupuna care, and fund new schools and heat abatement in classrooms.

The House today deferred action on SB1183 HD2 HD2 HCD2 to fund the City & County of Honolulu’s financially troubled rail project until the next session.

This session the House passed a State Budget that appropriates $14.1 billion in total operating funds for fiscal year 2018 and $14.3 billion for fiscal year 2019. The budget includes $2.9 billion for critical capital improvement projects in every county across the state.

More than $30 million is designated in the budget for grants-in-aid for nonprofit organizations who reach out to the community with invaluable services.

To support our low-income families the House passed HB 209 which establishes a state earned income tax credit. This will help low-income workers to keep more of what they earn.

The House passed legislation to keep Hawaii property owners protected under FEMA’s National Flood Insurance. The bill saves more than 60,000 flood insurance policies totaling over $13.4 billion throughout the state at risk of being cancelled without this bill.

Another bill established the Kupuna Caregivers Program to assist community members in obtaining care for elders while remaining in the workforce. Hawaii is the only state to offer this program.

The House funded the Hawaii Promise Program which will help qualified students with financial needs pay for in-state college tuition.

Two new schools, East Kapolei Middle School and Kihei High School on Maui, were also funded along with a new classroom building for over-crowded Campbell High School.

In response to the increasingly unmet need for rental housing, the House passed HB 1179 to provide incentives to rental housing developers by expanding the types of projects that can be exempt from general excise taxes, with the permission of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation.

Lawmakers also voted to support the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation’s Downpayment Loan Program to relieve the increasing burden of housing prices on first-time home buyers, and added $25 million to the Rental Housing Revolving Fund and $25 million to the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund to promote affordable rental housing.

On the environment, the House voted to expand strategies and mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide in alignment with the principles and goals adopted in the Paris Agreement.

To fight the continuing threat of invasive species, bills were passed to monitor the Rose-ringed Parakeet on Kauai, to eliminate the Little Fire Ant, and continued funding for the battle against Rapid Ohia Death.

In agriculture, lawmakers acted quickly to prevent the Rat Lungworm Disease from spreading.  They passed HB 1475 to broaden commercial operations permitted on agricultural land and allow farmers’ markets and food hubs on ag land. This bill also allows on-farm sales of produce and value-added products, a critical source of additional income for small farms.

The House voted to maintain the hemp pilot program and allow applicants to apply for permits all year long. The counties will be required to recognize industrial hemp as an agricultural product, use or activity. Certain facility and transportation requirements will be eased up to make this industry more feasible and to become a thriving industry.

For homeless people the House funded outreach and health care services and earmarked $3 million for the Housing First program. Housing First is an approach to homelessness that provides rapid housing placement, followed by support services and has proven successful in helping people to improve their lives.

The House also voted to select Representative Scott Saiki as the new House Speaker following the resignation of Speaker Joe Souki.

“Rep. Souki has been a mentor and friend for many of us in the House. He taught us what it means to serve the people of Hawaii with honor, passion and pride,” said Speaker Saiki. “He has left his mark on the State and in these Halls that will never be erased.  I want to thank him for his service, for his words of wisdom and his guidance.”

Click on this link for all bills passed during the 2017 session.

Hawaii Senate Adjourns 2017 Session

The Hawai‘i State Senate adjourned the 2017 regular session today taking action on a number of priority areas including homelessness, healthcare, education, and the environment.  These priorities align with the Senate’s commitment to the Legislative Program set forth at the start of the 2017 session.

Members of the Senate, along with their House counterparts, approved the allocation of about $40 million over the next two years on homeless programs, a top priority of the Legislative Program, including $500,000 each year for services for homeless individuals with serious and persistent mental health challenges; $800,000 for outreach and counseling services for chronically homeless individual families with severe substance use disorders and $300,000 each year for clean and sober housing for chronically homeless individuals.

Investing in our children, from preschool to college, reflects the Senate’s priority in education.  $90 million was allocated to address conditions for school facilities statewide. The Legislature passed SB423 which ensures that public school students will receive a school meal, even if the student’s meal fund account balance is zero. $1 million in general funds was appropriated in each fiscal year for the Early College High School Initiative.

Lawmakers passed measures to address our environment including funding to fight invasive species such as the Coffee Berry Borer and to provide support in the Rapid Ohia Death response.  They also passed SB559 which ensures statewide support for Hawai‘i’s green initiatives and measure the efforts being made to mitigate the effects of climate change throughout the state.

By passing HB607, Hawai‘i becomes the first state in the nation to pass legislation which authorizes a program to support those who provide care for the elderly.  In addressing a disease making headlines locally and nationally, $1 million was appropriated to address Rat Lungworm disease.

In his closing remarks, Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (Dist. 8 -Kaua’i, Ni’ihau) said despite trying and difficult times during the Session, he was grateful and proud of his colleagues and Senate staff for “working as professionals each and every day.”

“I’m pleased with the work done over the last 60 days,” said Senate Majority Leader, Sen. J. Kalani English (Dist. 7 – Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lana‘i, Kaho‘olawe).  “There were certainly challenges throughout this session, particularly in the area of the budget, where tough choices had to be made.  However, my Senate colleagues always kept in mind the best interest of the people of Hawai‘i. I’m hopeful that what issues remain unresolved at the end of this session, we can work together to find solutions and move forward.”

On the stalemate over funding for the rail project, the Senate remains open to negotiate an agreement with the House to ensure adequate financing to complete the project, yet minimize the impact on the most vulnerable citizens of the community.

Under Senate Rules and Senate Resolution 96, during the interim, the membership of each Standing Committee can be appointed by the President subject to action by the Senate. Should there be changes to a Standing Committee, the new assignments will be announced.

To view all the bills passed in the 2017 Legislative Session, visit www.capitol.hawaii.gov

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Votes Against Republican Healthcare Bill

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) released the following statement after voting against the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The bill is opposed by the AARP, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association, the National Disability Rights Network, the AFL-CIO, the National Farmers Union, the National Education Association, among others. The bill passed the House by a vote of 217-213 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“The bill that passed today is not a healthcare bill—it’s a big handout to insurance and pharmaceutical companies. This bill slashes $880 billion from Medicaid, strips away health benefits like maternity care, substance abuse treatment, and mental health services, expands a crippling age tax on our seniors, eliminates healthcare tax credits for over 7 million veterans, and breaks the bank for those with pre-existing conditions. While corporations rake in over $600 billion in tax breaks, many low-income Americans will see their coverage drop completely. This partisan bill was rushed through, resulting in corporate benefits on the backs of the people.

“We need real healthcare reform that brings down costs, increases access to quality care, and ensures basic health services are available to all Americans. As a cosponsor of H.R.676, the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act, I’m working towards a system that will provide universal healthcare to all Americans—a standard met by nearly every other industrialized nation.”

Earlier this week, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard spoke against the American Health Care Act on the House floor and urged Congress to vote no.

Rep. Souki Resigns as Speaker of Hawaii House of Representatives

Representative Joseph M. Souki has resigned as Speaker of the Hawaii House of Representatives effective immediately.

Souki was re-elected as Speaker of the House in January 2013. He previously served as Speaker from 1993 to 1999, and Speaker Emeritus from 2000 to 2013. He also served as Chair of the Committee on Finance, and most recently as Chair of the Committee on Transportation.

Souki, a Democrat, has served in the Hawaii State House since 1982. He represents the 8th district, Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku and Waikapu on the island of Maui where he was born and raised.

See attached letter from Rep. Souki to all House Members.

Hawaii Firearm Permits and Registrations Increase in 2016

The Department of the Attorney General released its annual report today detailing statewide and county firearm registration statistics for calendar year 2016.

Click to view report

A total of 21,408 personal firearm permit applications were processed statewide during 2016, marking an 8.4% increase from the tally in 2015. Of the applications processed in 2016, 95.7% (20,488) were approved and resulted in issued permits; 2.8% (592) were approved but subsequently voided after the applicants failed to return for their permits within the specified time period; and 1.5% (328) were denied due to one or more disqualifying factors.

The 20,488 permits issued statewide in 2016 cover a total of 53,400 firearms registered during the year, resulting in a 14.1% increase from the tally of firearms registered throughout 2015. About half (26,616, or 49.8%) of the firearms registered during 2016 were imported from out-of-state, with the remainder accounted for by transfers of firearms that were previously registered in Hawaii.

Firearm registration activity increased dramatically over the course of the 17 years for which these data have been systematically compiled and reported. Statewide from 2000 through 2016, the annual number of statewide permit applications processed climbed 341.1%, the annual number of firearms registered soared 392.2%, and the annual number of firearms imported surged 368.2%. For 2016, Kauai County reported record high tallies for all three categories.

It is a misdemeanor in the State of Hawaii to provide falsified information on firearm permit applications, unless the falsified information pertains to criminal or mental health histories, in which case it is a felony offense. In 2016, falsified criminal or mental health information or both were provided in 60.1% (197) of the 328 denial cases; falsified information pertaining to anything other than criminal or mental health histories was provided in 1.5% (5) of the cases; and no falsified information was provided in 38.4% (126) of the cases.

Persons with documented mental health histories; those who within one year of their applications were medical marijuana patients; and those with documented alcohol and/or substance abuse treatment histories were, respectively, the top three types of applicants whose permit applications were denied in 2016.

Firearm Registrations in Hawaii, 2016 provides a range of additional statistics and analyses focused on firearm permits/licenses, registrations, and denials in the State of Hawaii and its four counties. The full report can be downloaded from the Department of the Attorney General’s Research and Statistics Branch web site at http://ag.hawaii.gov/cpja/rs.

HDOT Cuts Energy Usage in Half at Hawaii, Maui, Oahu & Kauai Airports with Improved Lighting at Photovoltaic Systems

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) has entered the second phase of its Energy Savings Performance Contract with Johnson Controls (JCI) to provide high-efficiency lighting at 11 Hawaii airports and solar photovoltaic systems at Honolulu International Airport. The total guaranteed energy savings at Hawaii’s airports is more than $606 million over a 15-year period with the addition of Phase 2.

Phase 2 of the contract guarantees $65.5 million in energy savings through the replacement and retrofit of 47,747 existing florescent lamps to Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps, the application of high-end trim to 8,256 LED fixtures (which customizes the light level for an area in order to prevent using more energy than is necessary), and the installation of 15,683 photovoltaic roof-mounted panels including parking lot canopy systems at the Honolulu International Airport capable of producing 5.3 Megawatts of power. Phase 1 and Phase 2 will install a total of over 98,000 light fixtures and over 24,400 photovoltaic panels for a total of nearly 8 megawatts of energy savings and power generation.

“This initiative’s unprecedented energy and cost savings confirms that going green is good for our local economy. The cost-effective investments are cutting energy demand and increasing efficiency, which contributes to the reduction of the state’s dependence on fossil fuels. This is an important part of reaching our long-term energy sustainability goals,” said Gov. David Ige.

“Installing photovoltaic to help meet the energy needs at the state’s largest airport makes sense,” said Ford Fuchigami, Hawaii Department of Transportation Director. “We are continuing to transform our transportation infrastructure to advance the state’s sustainability and energy efficiency goals.”

This initiative aligns with Gov. Ige’s Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative sustainability goals and makes a significant contribution to energy efficiency and economic value by further reducing energy usage at state airports by nearly 63 million kilowatt hours per year over the 15-year performance period. That energy savings is equivalent to powering 9,264 homes a year. Over the life of the project the energy saved could power more than 175,000 homes.

Construction to implement Phase 2 is scheduled to take place over the next 24 months and is financed by realized energy savings, not taxpayer money. The construction will not impact flight schedules or operations.

JCI is also working on Energy Savings Performance Contracts to improve efficiency for the highways and harbors divisions within HDOT. The total amount of guaranteed savings for airports, highways and harbors divisions projects is more than $776 million over the life of the contracts.

Hawaii’s commitment to sustainability is evident in recognition by the Energy Services Coalition (ESC) that the Department of Transportation, Airports Division, performance contract for nearly $209.8 million, is the largest single state contract for energy performance in the nation. ESC is a national nonprofit organization of experts working together to increase energy efficiency and building upgrades through energy performance contracting.

The Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism estimates that over the life of the contract, which ends in 2034, the economic impacts will be $27.3 million in tax revenues (in 2016 dollars), $186.6 million in income to households (in 2016 dollars), and 867 jobs generated or supported each year during the first two years of construction in Phase I with 257 jobs supported each year during Phase II construction and installation and an average of 63 jobs generated or supported each year during the performance period.

In addition, the contract supports Hawaii’s commitment to the Performance Contracting Accelerator Program, part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Initiative.

Performance contracting implements energy and water efficiency projects using guaranteed energy savings to pay for the projects. State and county agencies face increasing energy costs and the need to replace or upgrade aging, inefficient, and obsolete energy and water consuming equipment. Capital improvement and operating budgets have been unable to keep up with the needed upgrades for energy and water efficiency. Performance contracting allows agencies to fund some of these needs and to install energy efficiency retrofits in a timely manner. Performance contracting retrofits can take less than one year to up to three years to install. Therefore, energy savings occur sooner than later. Capital improvement projects can take from six to 10 years, resulting missed opportunities for annual energy savings.

Hawaii House Bills Passed on Final Reading

On the eve of the close of the 2017 legislative session, the House today approved 194 bills that address a wide range of issues, including the state budget, affordable housing, homelessness, kupuna care, taxation, agriculture, invasive species, and the environment. 

The House also approved the State Budget which now goes to Governor David Ige for his signature.

HB100 HD1SD1 CD1, the State Budget appropriates $14.1 billion in total operating funds for fiscal year 2018 and $14.3 billion for fiscal year 2019. The budget includes $2.9 billion for capital improvement projects (CIP) over the biennium which starts July 1.

The budget funds all state department’s programs and services; CIP includes renovations, repairs, and major maintenance to existing facilities and infrastructure; and grants in aid support worthy nonprofit organizations.

Major items include $77 million for a new East Kapolei Middle School and $63 million for a new Kihei High School; $1.8 million for the Hawaii Promise Program to help cover the unmet financial needs of community college students; and $23 million to acquire 500 acres of agriculture land in Central Oahu.

Among the bills passed to support our low-income families is HB209 HC1 SD1 CD1, which establishes a state earned income tax credit mirroring the federal earned income tax credit. This will help low-income workers to keep more of what they earn.

The bill permanently extends the higher rates of the refundable food/excise tax credit which makes it less costly for those in need to afford necessities like food. The bill balances the increase in tax credits by restoring a higher income tax rate on those making more than $300,000 per year.

Highlights of the measures passed today include:

AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS

HB1179 HD2 SD2 CD1, allows the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation to exempt certain affordable rental housing projects from general excise tax and use tax costs.

HB83 HD1 SD2 CD1, requires the Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness, in conjunction with the Department of Human Services and Department of Land and Natural Resources to establish a working group to examine and develop recommendations to the establish safe zones for persons experiencing homelessness.

HB375 HD1 SD1 CD1, appropriates a $1 million matching fund for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, working in conjunction with the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association for projects to address homelessness in tourist and resort areas.

EDUCATION

HB916 HD1 SD2 CD1, makes an appropriation for the health care provider loan repayment program administered through the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

SB423 SD1 HD1 CD1, prohibits denying a student a meal for failure to pay within: (1) The first 21 days of the first semester of a school year while the student’s application for free or reduced lunch is being processed; or (2) seven days after the student’s meal fund account balance is zero or negative.

THE ENVIRONMENT AND INVASIVE SPECIES

HB655 HD1 SD1 CD1, appropriates funds to the Department of Land and Natural Resources to assist and provide supplemental funds to the National Wildlife Research Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to research the adverse effects of the rose-ringed parakeet on Kauai and develop and begin implementation of a control plan to reduce the negative impacts.

HB606 HD1 SD2 CD1, authorizes the counties, through their employees or authorized agents, to enter private property to control or eradicate invasive species and pests.

SB1240 SD2 HD1 CD1, requires the Department of Land and Natural Resources to submit proposed legislation with a definition of sustainable collection practices of near shore aquatic life, a process for determining limits on collection practices of near shore aquatic life, and any additional resources required by the department. Prohibits issuance of new aquarium permits. Prohibits transfer of current permits subject to certain provisions. Prohibits renewal of permits that have not been renewed for five or more years.

PUBLIC SAFETY

HB 459 HD1 SD1 CD1, in the event an application for a firearm is rejected because the applicant is prohibited from owning a firearm or subject to a restraining order, the police department is required to notify the court, prosecutor and director of public safety.

HB478 HD1 SD1 CD1, enables the expansion of successful inmate-operated farms at the Kulani (Hawaii Island) and Waiawa (Oahu) correctional facilities.  Provides $50,000 for hiring a farm manager and $50,000 for farming equipment at each facility.

HB845 HD2 SD2 CD1, requires the Department of Public Safety to offer inmates the opportunity to obtain identification information, such as Social Security cards and birth certificates, at least 90 days prior to their release on furlough. This will enable them to more easily apply for employment.  Allots $25,000 for costs.

HB1135 HD1 SD2 CD1, enables crime victims to more easily obtain court-ordered restitution from offenders by allowing judges to order the forfeiture of cash deposited for bail or bonds, or the withholding of state income tax refunds. The measure also makes permanent several Justice Reinvestment Act initiatives to reduce recidivism and promote public safety.

SB718 SD1 HD1 CD1, enacts the Community Court Outreach Project to help deal with nonviolent, non-felony offenders by sentencing them to community service or directing them to drug abuse or mental health programs.

SB655 SD2 HD1 CD1, allows news media access into emergency zones with approval of emergency management authorities.

HB1501 HD2 SD1 CD1, reclassifies drug paraphernalia possession and delivery offenses from felonies to violations subject to a fine of no more than $500.

HB1246 HD2SD2 CD1, authorizes electronic monitoring and surveillance of offenders in programs that offer alternatives to incarceration.

SB895 SD1 HD2 CD1, establishes the offense of criminal trespass onto state lands to the penal code. Amends the offense of criminal trespass in the second degree to apply to government agricultural property regardless of whether it is fenced, enclosed, or otherwise secure.

HB554 HD1 SD2 CD1, authorizes and establishes criteria for administrative orders to provide inpatient psychiatric treatment to an involuntarily committed patient over the patient’s objection. Requires Department of Health and Department of Public Safety to make recommendations for an administrative process applicable to persons subject to DPS jurisdiction.

HB306 HD2 SD2 CD1, authorizes the fitting of a continuous alcohol monitoring device on persons charged for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant or habitually operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant if the person: (1) Is a repeat intoxicated driver; or (2) Is currently awaiting a pending criminal investigation or prosecution for one or more prior charges of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant or habitually operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant.

KUPUNA

HB1396 HD2 SD2 CD1, known as the “Kawamoto Bill,” authorizes the Department of Health, working in consultation with the Department of Human Services, to allow two private-pay individuals to be cared for in the same community care foster family home after consideration of specified relevant factor.

HB615 HD1 SD1 CD1, appropriates funds for the Healthy Aging Partnership Program to further the program’s important role in improving the health and well-being of Hawaii’s kupuna

HB607 HD1 SD2 CD1, authorizes the Executive Office on Aging to establish the Kupuna Caregivers Program to assist community members in obtaining care for elders while remaining in the workforce. Hawaii is the only state to offer this program.

HEALTH

HB213 HD1 SD1 CD1, permits an employee to take family leave in order to care for the employee’s sibling with a serious health condition.

HB561 HD2 SD1 CD1, known as “Finley’s Law,” this bill requires dentists who administer anesthesia or sedation to post contact information to verify licensure and authorization to administer anesthesia and sedation. Specifies requirements, including inspections, for written authorization or permit to administer anesthesia or sedation.

SB505 SD1 HD2 CD1, requires prescribing healthcare providers to adopt and maintain policies for informed consent to opioid therapy in circumstances that carry elevated risk of dependency. Establishes limits for concurrent opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions. Clarifies Board of Nursing authority to enforce compliance with Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

SB513 SD1 HD2 CD1, authorizes pharmacists to prescribe and dispense self-administered hormonal contraceptive supplies to patients regardless of a previous prescription, subject to specified education and procedural requirements. Enables pharmacists to be reimbursed for prescribing and dispensing contraceptive supplies.

HB552 HD1 SD2 CD2, establishes the Affordable Health Insurance Working Group to plan for and mitigate adverse effects of the potential repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act by Congress.

SB501 SD1 HD2 CD1, requires all limited service pregnancy centers to disclose the availability of and enrollment information for reproductive health services.

HB1488 HD1 SD1 CD1, adds additional qualifying medical conditions for medical marijuana patients and permits possession of additional plants. Amends requirements for and access to testing. Extends deadlines related to implementation of the dispensary system. Amends security, information tracking, and access requirements for licensed facilities. Clarifies DOH regulatory authority. Authorizes additional retail dispensing locations and plants for existing licensees. Requires DOH to report to Legislative Oversight Working Group.

AGRICULTURE

HB2 HD2 SD1 CD1, authorizes tiny homes of less than 500 square feet for farm workers in agricultural districts in a county with a population of more than 180,000 but less than 250,000. County councils may adopt ordinances for the oversight of tiny homes, as defined in this act.

HB453 HD1 SD1 CD1, requires the Department of Agriculture to provide grants to farmers to assist them in paying for the costs of compliance with the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, FDA regulations, and state food safety laws.

HB186 HD1 SD2 CD1, extends the subsidy offered to coffee farmers who purchase Beauveria bassiana products to combat the Coffee Berry Borer Beetle. This will support greater yields and a higher-quality, more valuable product.

HB1475 HD2 SD2 CD1, will broaden commercial operations permitted on agricultural land and allow farmers markets and food hubs on ag land. The bill will allow on-farm sales of produce and value-added products, a critical source of additional income for farmers.

SB773 SD2 HD1 CD1, amends the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program by restricting cultivation of industrial hemp under the pilot project to agricultural lands and requires counties to recognize it as an agricultural product, use, or activity. Allows license applications year-round.

TRANSPORTATION

HB727 HD1 SD2 CD1, authorizes the Department of Transportation to allow motorcycles and motor scooters on shoulder lanes, as determined by the department, in times of traffic congestion.

HB115 HD1 SD1 CD1, Requires each county with a population of more than 500,000 to take ownership and jurisdiction over all disputed roads under certain circumstances. Defines disputed roads.

HAWAIIAN AFFAIRS

HB451 HD1 SD2 CD1, reduces the minimum Hawaiian blood quantum requirement of certain successors to lessees of Hawaiian home lands from one-quarter to one thirty-second. Requires Congressional approval.

ENERGY

HB957 HD1 SD2 CD1, authorizes the Department of Education to borrow moneys interest-free from the Hawaii Green Infrastructure Loan Program for heat abatement measures at public schools.

MILITARY AND VETERANS AFFAIRS

HB942 HD1 SD1 CD1, authorizes the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts to commission an artist to design and build a monument to honor and commemorate Filipino veterans of World War II, with all costs to be expended from the Works of Art Special Fund.

HB1420 HD1 SD1 CD1, appropriates funds for burial grants for qualifying Filipino-American veterans to provide funeral and burial services and transportation of their remains to the Philippines.

OTHERS

HB1516 HD1 SD1 CD1, permits duly incorporated humane societies and duly incorporated societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals to petition for full custody of an impounded pet animal or equine animal prior to the filing of certain criminal charges against the owner or custodian of the animal. Allows a pet or equine animal to be destroyed by the petitioner prior to final disposition of certain criminal charges if the pet or equine animal is a danger to itself or others. Clarifies that an acquittal or dismissal in a criminal proceeding does not preclude civil proceedings under animal cruelty offenses.

SB119 SD1 HD1 CD1, establishes a cap of 8 percent on late rent payment fees, applicable to all new rental agreements and rental agreement renewals entered into on or after the effective date of this measure. Effective November 1, 2017.

SB369 SD1 HD1 CD1, prohibits associations of apartment owners, boards of directors, managing agents, resident managers, unit owners, and persons acting on behalf of associations or unit owners from retaliating against a unit owner, board member, managing agent, resident manager, or association employee who files a complaint; acts in furtherance of a complaint, report, or investigation of an alleged violation of the state’s condominium laws or a condominium’s governing documents; or exercises or attempts to exercise any right as a unit owner.

SB207 SD2 HD2 CD1, authorizes the expenditure of general funds for a one-time lump sum cash bonus severance benefit to affected Maui region hospital employees.

Here are all bills passed by the Legislature this session (this report will be complete after all bills are sent to the governor).

Funding for Rail on Life Support – House and Senate Disagree on How to Pay for City’s Financially Troubled Project

The House of Representatives and the Senate could not agree today on amending Senate Bill 1183, the vehicle for funding the city’s financially troubled rail project.

Click to read bill

The House version of the rail funding bill takes the tax burden off Hawaii residents by increasing the Transient Accommodation Tax paid primarily by tourists. The proposal would provide nearly all of the money needed to complete the project, estimated to cost $8.1 billion, from Kapolei to Ala Moana.

The Senate also amended the bill, by extending the state’s 0.5 percent surcharge levied on Oahu’s general excise tax for an additional 10 years from 2027 until 2037.

“GET is one of the most regressive tax. It taxes the working poor and the elderly. It is our responsibility to stand up for those individuals,” said Representative Sylvia Luke (Makiki, Punchbowl, Nuuanu, Dowsett Highlands, Pacific Heights, Pauoa).

After consulting with members of the hotel industry, the House amended the bill to provide $1.7 billion for the rail project.

“We clearly support rail and the House plan provides more funding than any other conference draft we have seen,” said Representative Henry Aquino (Waipahu). “This is a responsible amendment that would provide funding in the quickest way possible.”

The House proposal for SB 1183 SD2 HD2 HCD2 includes:

Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT)

  • Increases TAT from 9.25 percent to 10.25 percent for 11 years through 2028
  • Prohibits the use of the TAT funds for rail operations and maintenance
  • Prohibits use of the TAT funds for HART administrative and operating costs
  • Maintains counties’ share of TAT revenue at $103 million per year (the share was scheduled to be reduced to $93 million beginning fiscal year (2017-2018)
  • Honolulu’s share of the TAT county subsidy (44.1 percent) will be solely directed toward funding rail
  • The scheduled 2018 reduction in the neighbor island county TAT subsidies will be eliminated and those counties will continue to receive their current TAT subsidy that is calculated as a percentage of $103 million through fiscal year 2027-2028:
  1. Oahu $45.4 million
  2. Maui $23.4 million
  3. Hawaii $19.1 million
  4. Kauai $14.9 million
  • These TAT amendments could generate $926.8 million over the 11-year period.

General Excise Tax (GET)

  • Extends the county surcharge on GET for an additional one year from 2027-2028
  • Continues the state’s reduced share of the administrative service fee (“skim”) at 1 percent in 2028
  • The reduction of the State’s skim to 1 percent generates $350 million from 2018-2028
  • These GET amendments generate $435.2 million in 2028.

New Start Education Special Fund

  • Reduces the annual allocation (for 11 years) for the New Start Education Special Fund from $50 million to $25 million, for a total of $275 million.

City Non-Rail Development

  • Prohibits a county from using public funds to reconstruct or redevelop an event venue (and associated infrastructure and appurtenances) that is within a Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) district or in a manner that requires HCDA approval, through December 31, 2028.

Frozen Fish Product Voluntarily Recalled Due to Positive Test Results for Hepatitis A

Tropic Fish Hawaii (TFH), a wholesale food distributor and subsidiary of CMU and Associates (CMU) on the Big Island, announced they identified and voluntarily recalled a shipment of frozen imported cubed tuna from Indonesia from distribution due to testing positive with the Hepatitis A virus. The company has notified all customers who may have received fish from the shipment and has removed all potentially affected products from public sale.

TFH, through CMU, regularly tests products for the Hepatitis A virus for one if its customers, Times Supermarkets, which implemented a testing requirement for all of its vendors following the Hepatitis A outbreak last year. Late yesterday, upon learning that a sample of the supply tested positive, the company contacted the businesses potentially affected and immediately began voluntarily recalling the product. The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) was notified and TFH is ensuring all proper procedures are being followed under the direction of the DOH.

“Our normal procedure is to receive the test results prior to distribution, but unfortunately that did not happen with this particular shipment,” said Shawn Tanoue, president of Tropic Fish Hawaii. “We have corrected our procedures to ensure this will not happen again. I want to personally apologize to our customers and the public. We are a local company and pride ourselves in our work and in providing the highest-quality products.”

The recalled product was distributed to the following restaurants and retailers, which are all located on Oahu, between April 27 and May 1:

  • ABC Stores #38 (205 Lewers Street)
  • Aloha Sushi Nimit
  • G.P. Hawaiian Food Catering
  • Maili Sunset Bar & Grill
  • Shima’s Market
  • Times Aiea
  • Times Kailua
  • Times Kaneohe
  • Times Kunia
  • Times Liliha
  • Times Mililani
  • Times Waipahu

5/3/17 UPDATE:

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has been notified by Tropic Hawaii, LLC, the distributor for the imported frozen raw ahi, that Aloha Sushi at 3131 N. Nimitz Hwy. received, but did not use any of the product to serve or sell food.

“We apologize for our mistake identifying Aloha Sushi as a food establishment that used the imported ahi recalled by our company yesterday,” said Shawn Tanoue, President of Tropic Fish Hawaii, LLC. “The information we reported to the Department of Health was incorrect and Aloha Sushi did not serve or sell our product that tested positive for hepatitis A.”

At an on-site inspection late yesterday of the ABC store at 205 Lewers St., a DOH inspector was informed by the store and confirmed the recalled product was received and not sold.

The press release issued by DOH identified Aloha Sushi at 3131 N. Nimitz Hwy. and the ABC store at 205 Lewers St. as food establishments that used the recalled product to prepare food sold to customers. This information was provided by distributor Tropic Hawaii to DOH as part of state reporting requirements for food safety

Additional Open Application Period Begins for Hawaii Preschool Open Doors Program

The Department of Human Services (DHS) has opened an additional application period for its Preschool Open Doors (POD) program and encourages families to apply between May 1 and May 31, 2017.  Applications received during this period will be considered for preschool participation during July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018.

Click to read

This program, which currently serves more than 1,700 children statewide, provides child care subsidies to eligible low- and moderate-income families to pay preschool tuition. POD aims to provide children whose families might otherwise not be able to afford preschool the opportunity to gain essential skills to be successful in school and in life.

To qualify for the program, children must be eligible to enter kindergarten in the 2018-2019 school year (born between August 1, 2012 and July 31, 2013). Families are reminded that a child must be five years old on or before July 31 to enter kindergarten. Families may choose any one of the 433 State-licensed preschools. Underserved or at-risk children receive priority consideration for the POD program, and funds are limited.

Interested families may request an application beginning Monday, May 1, 2017 from the Department’s POD contractor, PATCH, by visiting or calling 791-2130 or toll free 1-800-746-5620. PATCH can also help families locate a preschool convenient for them.

Applications must be received by Wednesday, May 31, 2017 to be considered during the July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018 program period. Applications should be dropped off, mailed, faxed, or emailed to the following:

PATCH – POD, 560 N. Nimitz Hwy, Suite 218, Honolulu, HI 96817, Fax: (808) 694-3066, PODAdmin@patch-hi.org

Eligibility and priorities for POD program selection are detailed online in HAR §17-799, which is available online at humanservices.hawaii.gov/admin-rules-2/admin-rules-for-programs.  For more information about other DHS programs and services, visit humanservices.hawaii.gov.

Call for 2018 Living Treasures of Hawaii Nominees

The Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii is currently accepting nominations for the 2018 Living Treasures of Hawaii.

The “Living Treasures of Hawaii” was inspired by the Living National Treasures (Ningen Kokuho) of Japan. Since 1976, the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii has recognized individuals who have demonstrated excellence and high standards of achievement in their particular fields and who are continuing to preserve and perpetuate the island’s distinctive cultural and artistic heritage.

2017 Honorees Bishop Ryokan Ara, Beatrice Kanahele Dawson, Nobuko Kida, Roy Sakuma and George Yokoyama

Candidates are selected based on their demonstration of continuous growth and learning in one’s area of strength, their consistent sharing of knowledge and understanding of their particular field, and their steady and significant contributions towards enriching our society.

An organization or person may nominate a candidate for this honor by submitting a nomination form with information on the nominee, and a maximum of three recommendation letters. The nomination form is available at the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii Headquarters Office located at 1727 Pali Highway, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813 and www.hongwanjihawaii.com.  Completed nominations may be submitted in the following manner:

  • By mail
  • By fax – (808) 522-9209
  • By email – admin@honpahi.org
  • Dropped off during office hours

The completed nomination must be received by the Living Treasures Committee no later than August 1st.

The 43rd Living Treasures of Hawaii Recognition Program and Luncheon will be held on Saturday, February 10, 2018, 12:00 p.m. in the Coral Ballroom at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.

For more information on Living Treasures of Hawaii, please call (808) 522-9200 or visit http://hongwanjihawaii.com/ living-treasures.