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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.”

 

Notices to Women Regarding Access to Family Planning Services Must Be Allowed, State Argues

Yesterday the Department of the Attorney General filed a memorandum opposing an attempt by certain religiously-affiliated organizations to prevent a new law concerning women’s access to information regarding reproductive health services from being enforced. The law, Senate Bill 501 (2017), was passed by the Hawaii state legislature on May 4, 2017, and signed into law as Act 200 on July 12, 2017. It requires limited service pregnancy centers to notify women in writing regarding the availability of state-funded reproductive health services.

The Department’s memo argues that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over several Western states including Hawaii, already upheld a similar law passed by California in 2015.
The opposition memo states in part:

The Legislature has found that “[m]any women in Hawaii … remain unaware of the public programs available to provide them with contraception, health education and counseling, family planning, prenatal care, pregnancy-related, and birth-related services.” To address this concern, [Act 200] was enacted into law. It requires “limited service pregnancy centers,” as defined in the Act, to disseminate a written notice to clients or patients informing them that Hawaii has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services.

A similar filing was made in a related case yesterday as well.

Governor Commits $19.5 Million in Federal Funds for Māmalahoa Highway Project

The County of Hawai‘i is pleased to announce that Governor David Ige and the State Department of Transportation have committed $19.5 million in federal (STIP) funds for the Māmalahoa Highway widening project in Waimea.

Photo by Aaron Stene of a previous Mamalahoa Project.

The current cost of the project is approximately $25 million, and the grant of $19.5 million in Federal Highway Administration Funds will be matched with a required 20%, or approximately $5 million, to be contributed by the County.

This initiative is the result of a coordinated efforts between the Federal Highway Administration, State Department of Transportation, Department of Land and Natural Resources, the County of Hawai’i and other project agencies.

“This is such an important project to improve the traffic flow and safety of the area, not only for vehicles, but for pedestrians and bicyclists as well,” said Mayor Harry Kim.  “This would not have happened without the personal help of the State DOT’s Ed Sniffen and the Governor.”

Hawaii Senate Adjourns Special Session

Members of the Hawai‘i State Senate adjourned Special Session today after the House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 4 to provide funding for the completion of the City and County of Honolulu’s rail transit project and bills to approve collective bargaining costs.

During this Special Legislative Session, as part of its constitutionally mandated duties, the Senate considered for advise and consent and approved a total of 50 gubernatorial appointments to 34 boards and commissions and one deputy director position.

Among those confirmed this week:

  • James Griffin, to the Public Utilities Commission
  • Douglas Shinsato to the U.H. Board of Regents
  • Robert Masuda as Deputy to the Chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources
  • Marcus Oshiro as the Chairperson and Representative of the Public of the Hawai‘i Labor Relations Board

A complete list of actions taken during the Special Legislative Session can viewed at capitol.hawaii.gov.

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.”

Crime in Hawaii at Record Low Level in 2016

Attorney General Douglas S. Chin announced today the release of the State of Hawaii’s annual Uniform Crime Report, Crime in Hawaii, 2016.

Attorney General Doug Chin

The report shows that in Calendar Year 2016, a total of 45,805 Index Crimes* were reported in the State of Hawaii, yielding a rate of 3,206 offenses per 100,000 resident population, the lowest on record since statewide data collection began in 1975. Hawaii’s Index Crime rate in 2016 was 6.2% below the rate reported in 2015, and 27.1% below the rate reported a decade earlier (2007).

Attorney General Chin said, “The record low crime statistics in 2016 highlight the outstanding work of law enforcement throughout the State and in all four counties. These numbers also help refute the false narrative from President Trump’s administration that crime in our country is at an all-time high.”

A total of 3,452 violent Index Crimes were reported statewide in 2016, yielding a rate of 241.6 offenses per 100,000 residents. Hawaii’s violent Index Crime rate in 2016 was 2.0% below the rate reported in 2015, and 12.5% below the rate reported in 2007.

There were 42,353 property Index Crimes reported statewide in 2016, yielding a record low rate of 2,965 offenses per 100,000 residents. Hawaii’s property Index Crime rate in 2016 was 6.5% below the rate reported in 2015, and 28.0% below the rate reported in 2007.

Other highlights of Crime in Hawaii, 2016 include:

  • The rate of reported offenses for two violent Index Crimes decreased in the State of Hawaii in 2016:  robbery, by 9.0%; and aggravated assault, by 2.3%. The rate of reported offenses for the other two violent Index Crimes increased:  murder, by 20.9%; and rape, by 11.9%.
  • Rates of reported offenses decreased for two property Index Crime categories: burglary, by 12.0%; and larceny-theft, by 6.6%. The motor vehicle theft rate increased by 1.3%.

* Including the violent Index Crimes of murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, and tracked separately, human trafficking, commercial sex acts and human trafficking, involuntary servitude; the property Index Crimes of burglary, motor vehicle theft, and larceny-theft; and, tracked separately, arson.

  • The number of Index Crime arrests fell by 20.1% statewide in 2016. Arrests for violent Index Crimes decreased 13.9%, and arrests for property Index Crimes decreased 21.7%. Crime in Hawaii, 2016 also provides state and county data on the age, gender, and race/ethnicity of arrestees.
  • The City & County of Honolulu’s total Index Crime rate, violent crime rate, and property crime rate all decreased by approximately 2.5% in 2016, and its burglary rate fell to a record low level.
  • In 2016, Hawaii County’s total Index Crime rate and property crime rate decreased 24.1% and 26.5%, respectively, to reach their record low levels, and the violent crime rate rose 16.3%. Hawaii County’s burglary rate in 2016 was also at its record low level.
  • Maui County reported record low rates for total Index Crimes and property crime in 2016, with decreases of 5.6% and 4.3%, respectively, as compared to 2015. Maui County’s violent crime rate fell by 19.1% in 2016, and its burglary and larceny-theft rates decreased to record low levels.
  • Kauai County’s total Index Crime rate decreased 5.3% in 2016, reaching its lowest level on record. The violent crime rate decreased 24.1% and the property crime rate dropped 7.8%, also reaching a record low level. In 2016, Kauai County also reported its record low burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft rates.
  • Thirty-five murders were reported statewide in 2016, marking a 20.7% increase compared to the prior year. Males comprised 91% of the alleged murder offenders and 66% of the victims in 2016. Roughly two-thirds (68.6%) of the murder victims knew the offenders, and firearms were used in about half (51.4%) of the murders.
  • Of the 2,851 murders, robberies, and aggravated assaults reported statewide in 2016, 43.9% were committed using strongarm weapons (i.e., hands, fists, and feet); 25.2% with “other” or unknown weapons; 18.3% with knives or other edged weapons; and 12.6% with firearms.
  • Over $80 million in property value was reported stolen in the State of Hawaii in 2016, down 5.9% from the figure reported in 2015. Of the total value stolen in 2016, 32.2% was recovered, marking an increase from the 29.5% that was recovered in 2015.
  • No police officers were killed in the line of duty in the State of Hawaii during 2016, but 373 officers were assaulted, yielding a rate of 12.5 assaults per 100 officers. Crime in Hawaii, 2016 also provides data on the time of day, type of assignment, and the weapons used in assaults against police officers.
  • On October 31, 2016, a total of 2,995 police officers and 784 civilians were employed by the four county police departments, denoting a 0.4% increase in workforce from the figures reported from October 31, 2015.

 Record Crime Rates*
State of Hawaii and Counties, 2016

State of Hawaii

  • Record low total Index Crime rate.
  • Record low property crime rate.
  • Record low burglary rate.
  • Record low larceny-theft rate.

City & County of Honolulu

  • Record low burglary rate.

Hawaii County

  • Record low total Index Crime rate.
  • Record low property crime rate.
  • Record low burglary rate.

Maui County

  • Record low total Index Crime rate.
  • Record low property crime rate.
  • Record low burglary rate.
  • Record low larceny-theft rate.

Kauai County

  • Record low total Index Crime rate.
  • Record low property crime rate.
  • Record low burglary rate.
  • Record low larceny-theft rate.
  • Record low motor vehicle theft rate.

* Within jurisdiction, since the start of statewide data collection in 1975.

Copies of the complete Crime in Hawaii, 2016 report can be downloaded from the Research and Statistics section of Attorney General’s Crime Prevention and Justice Assistance Division web site at http://ag.hawaii.gov/cpja/rs/.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hawaii Lawmaker Elated With the Establishment of the Health and Human Services Committee

Representative John Mizuno (D-Kalihi, Kamehameha Heights), was confirmed today as the first Chairman of the newly combined committees of Health and Human Services through the passage of House Resolution 4 and 5. The resolutions amend the standing committees and committee assignments, and the Rules of the House of Representatives of the Twenty-Ninth Legislature of the State of Hawaii to Establish the Committee on Health and Human Services.

Rep. John Mizuno

“I am humbled by the passage of House Resolutions 4 and 5 and for the kind assignment and trust displayed by Speaker Scott K. Saiki, the leadership team and the caucus members to place me as the Chairman of the newly established Committee on Health and Human Services,” said Rep. Mizuno. “I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to Chair the combined committee and I anticipate a substantial workload for the upcoming 2018 session. With issues such as homelessness, possible cuts in Medicaid funding from the Federal government, compassionate care for our elderly and disabled, and a focus to be more efficient in the entire healthcare system in Hawaii, this will be an opportunistic 2018 session.”

“I will do my best to display careful, thorough thought in drafting sound policy and hearing good Legislation, which is congruent to Speaker Saiki, our leadership team, the majority caucus, as well as the GOP and the people of Hawaii. I look forward to a fruitful 2018 legislative session.”

Governor Nominates Representative Marcus Oshiro to the Hawaii Labor Relations Board 

Gov. David Ige today announced that he has nominated State Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D-House District 46) to the Hawaii Labor Relations Board as Chairperson and Representative of the Public. Oshiro will be completing the term left vacant by the resignation of Kerry Komatsubara, which ends June 30, 2018, and he is also being appointed for a six-year term which ends June 30, 2024.

State Rep. Marcus Oshiro

“Marcus is a respected leader who knows and understands the issues, and he has the background and experience to step right in to fill this very important role,” said Gov. Ige. “This will be a new opportunity for him to use his talent and skills on behalf of the public, and I have every confidence in him.”

“I am humbled by Gov. Ige’s nomination to serve as the chairperson of the Hawaii Labor Relations Board. With the Senate’s approval, I look forward to ensuring our labor laws are applied fairly and consistently with the principles of collective bargaining in promoting the harmonious and cooperative relations between the parties.”

Oshiro has served in the State House of Representatives since being elected in 1994. He is a former vice speaker, majority leader, and is past-chair of the committees on finance and labor. He is an active member of the community,

Oshiro earned his Juris Doctorate at Willamette University College of Law after completing his undergraduate work at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He is a graduate of Leilehua High School.

Both nominations to fill Komatsubara’s term and to the additional six-year term are subject to Senate confirmation.

Mayor Harry Kim Opposed to Permanent Cap on Counties’ Transient Accommodation Tax


Testimony by Harry Kim, Mayor, County of Hawai’i before Senate Ways & Means Re: SB 4:

The County of Hawai’i opposes the permanent cap on the counties’ share of the Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT). This cap is unnecessary to achieve all other aspects of the bill to finance Honolulu’s rail. The bill proposes to finance rail by extending the General Excise Tax (GET) surcharge period to 12/31/2030, increasing the share of the surcharge that goes to rail by decreasing the administrative charge retained by the State, and increasing the TAT rate by 1% and dedicating all of that increase to rail. There is no reason related to rail financing to cap the share of the TAT to the counties.

A cap on the counties’ TAT share is contrary to the Legislature’s own working group report and the original intent of the TAT tax summarized as follows:

  • Working Group Recommendation. The working group recommended the Tourism Special Fund receive $82 million in FY 2016 and increase in subsequent years in line with the Consumer Price Index for Honolulu, $31 million constant for the Convention Center-Turtle Bay-Special Land Develop Fund, and the remainder split between the State and counties at 55% for the State and 45% for the counties. Based on total TAT revenues in 2016 of $444 million, the $103,000,000 cap represents 31% of the remainder of the TAT after allocations to the Tourism Special Fund ($82 million) and the Convention Center-Turtle Bay-Special Land Development Fund ($33 million). As a result of the cap, the counties’ share will only get worse as tourism grows.
  • Nexus to Tourism Services. The incidence of the TAT is primarily on visitors, so the TAT tax revenues should fund public services which benefit visitors. The UH Economic Research Organization (UHERO) estimated that the counties pay for 53% of the services for which visitors directly benefit (UHERO Working Paper No. 2016-4). These services include police and fire protection, rescue, parks, beaches, water, roads, and sewer systems.
  • Act 185 (1990). Recognizing that “many of the burdens imposed by tourism falls on the counties,” the legislature created the TAT as a “more equitable method of sharing state revenues with the counties” (Conference Committee Report 207 on HB No. 1148). The legislature deemed at that time that the fair allocation was 95% of the total TAT revenues to the counties.

The State has multiple sources of revenues. The counties only have property tax, motor vehicle weight tax, and public utility franchise tax. Our out-of-control homeless problems are a symptom of the soaring cost to rent or own a home in Hawai’i. And you want to offer us the power to increase the GET tax, the most regressive form of taxation that impacts the lower income the greatest. We already had to increase our property tax to make ends meet. With the collective bargaining decisions dominated by the State, we again will face possible increases. We ask only for our fair share as recommended by the Working Group, to maintain quality services that uphold the tourism industry and affordability for our people.

Hawaii House of Representatives Adopt Resolution Formalizing New Committee Assignments

The Hawaii House of Representatives today adopted a resolution formalizing new committee assignments.

The new committee assignments are part of a broader House reorganization and administrative housekeeping that naturally follows from the change in Speaker at the end of the 2017 regular session.

There were more than 50 of changes made to committee assignments based on:

  • Member requests;
  • Changes to caucus;
  • GOP caucus asking for changes; and
  • Committees reorganized.

Committee assignments are as follows:

Agriculture

Chair Richard P. Creagan
Vice Chair Lynn DeCoite

Cedric Asuega Gates
Kaniela Ing
Matthew S. LoPresti
Calvin K.Y. Say
Gregg Takayama
Cynthia Thielen

Consumer Protection & Commerce

Chair Roy M. Takumi
Vice Chair Linda Ichiyama

Henry J.C. Aquino
Ken Ito
Aaron Ling Johanson
John M. Mizuno
Calvin K.Y. Say
Chris Todd
James Kunane Tokioka
Ryan I. Yamane
Bob McDermott

Economic Development & Business

Chair Mark M. Nakashima
Vice Chair Jarrett Keohokalole

Sharon E. Har
Daniel Holt
Linda Ichiyama
Aaron Ling Johanson
Kyle T. Yamashita
Lauren Kealohilani Matsumoto

Education

Chair Justin H. Woodson
Vice Chair Sharon E. Har

Richard P. Creagan
Mark J. Hashem
Kaniela Ing
Sam Satoru Kong
Angus L.K. McKelvey
Takashi Ohno
Rickard H.K. Onishi
Sean Quinlan
Lauren Kealohilani Matsumoto

Energy & Environmental Protection

Chair Chris Lee
Vice Chair Nicole E. Lowen

Ty J.K. Cullen
Sam Satoru Kong
Angus L.K. McKelvey
Ryan I Yamane
Bob McDermott

Finance

Chair Sylvia Luke
Vice Chair Ty J.K. Cullen

Romy M. Cachola
Lynn DeCoite
Beth Fukumoto
Cedric Asuega Gates
Daniel Holt
Jarrett Keohokalole
Bertrand Kobayashi
Matthew S. LoPresti
Nicole E. Lowen
Nadine K. Nakamura
Kyle T. Yamashita
Andria P.L. Tupola
Gene Ward

Health & Human Services

Chair John M. Mizuno
Vice Chair Bertrand Kobayashi

Della Au Belatti
Marcus R. Oshiro
Chris Todd
Andria P.L. Tupola

Higher Education

Chair Angus L.K. McKelvey
Vice Chair Mark J. Hashem

Richard P. Creagan
Sharon E. Har
Kaniela Ing
Sam Satoru Kong
Takashi Ohno
Richard H.K. Onishi
Sean Quinlan
Justin H. Woodson
Lauren Kealohilani Matsumoto

Housing

Chair Tom Brower
Vice Chair Nadine K. Nakamura

Henry J.C. Aquino
Mark J. Hashem
Sean Quinlan
Joy A. San Buenaventura
Bob McDermott

Intrastate Commerce

Chair Takashi Ohno
Vice Chair Isaac W. Choy

Romy M. Cachola
Beth Fukumoto
Ken Ito
Richard H.K. Onishi
James Kunane Tokioka
Justin H. Woodson
Gene Ward

Judiciary

Chair Scott Y. Nishimoto
Vice Chair Joy A. San Buenaventura

Tom Brower
Chris Lee
Dee Morikawa
Mark M. Nakashima
Marcus R. Oshiro
Gregg Takayama
Bob McDermott
Cynthia Thielen

Labor & Public Employment

Chair Aaron Ling Johanson
Vice Chair Daniel Holt

Sharon E. Har
Linda Ichiyama
Jarrett Keohokalole
Mark M. Nakashima
Kyle Yamashita
Lauren Kealohilani Matsumoto

Legislative Management

Chair Bertrand Kobayashi
Vice Chair Della Au Belatti

Isaac W. Choy
Cindy Evans
Dee Morikawa
Andria P. L. Tupola

Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs

Chair Kaniela Ing
Vice Chair Cedric Asuega Gates

Richard P. Creagan
Lynn DeCoite
Matthew S. LoPresti
Calvin K.Y. Say
Gregg Takayama
Cynthia Thielen

Public Safety

Chair Gregg Takayama
Matthew S. LoPresti

Richard P. Creagan
Lynn DeCoite
Cedric Asuega Gates
Kaniela Ing
Calvin K.Y. Say
Cynthia Thielen

Tourism

Chair Richard H.K. Onishi
Vice Chair Beth Fukumoto

Romy M. Cachola
Isaac W. Choy
Ken Ito
Takashi Ohno
Justin H. Woodson
Gene Ward

Transportation

Chair Henry J.C. Aquino
Vice Chair Sean Quinlan

Tom Brower
Mark J. Hashem
Nadine K. Nakamura
Joy A. San Buenaventura
Bob McDermott

Veterans, Military & International Affairs & Culture and the Arts

Chair Ken Ito
Vice Chair James Kunane Tokioka

Romy Cachola
Isaac W. Choy
Beth Fukumoto
Takashi Ohno
Richard H.K. Onishi
Justin H. Woodson
Gene Ward

Water & Land

Chair Ryan I. Yamane
Vice Chair Sam Satoru Kong

Ty J.K. Cullen
Chris Lee
Nicole E. Lowen
Angus L.K. McKelvey
Cynthia Thielen

Big Island Workshops on the Legislature – Make Your Voice Heard

You can add your voice at the State Capitol! Tell legislators what you want them to focus on when Regular Session begins in January and be ready to offer your testimony when things get rolling. To help, the Legislature’s Public Access Room (PAR) is offering “Your Voice,” a free 1- hour workshop at numerous locations on the Big Island.

Topics include understanding the legislative process, deadlines, and power dynamics, as well as tips on effective lobbying, testifying, and communicating with Senators and Representatives. “How-To” guides, informational handouts, and other resources will be available.

“Your Voice” – Free One-hour Workshops:

  • Mon Sept 11 6:00 p.m. Kailua-Kona – West Hawai’i Civic Center Community Hale; 74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Highway
  • Tue Sept 12 6:00 p.m. Waimea- Thelma Parker Memorial Library; 67-1209 Mamalahoa Highway
  • Wed Sept 13 5:30 p.m. Hilo Public Library; 300 Waianuenue Ave.
  • Thu Sept 14 5:30 p.m. Pahoa Community Center; Kauhale Street

For additional information, or to ask about additional workshops during this visit, contact PAR ─ 808/587-0478 or par@capitol.hawaii.gov.

New State Food Safety Rules for Food Establishments Enhance Public Health Protection

New state food safety rules designed to improve public health protection will go into effect on Sept. 2. The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) has amended Chapter 50, Food Safety Code, after completing public hearings on Hawaii Island, Kauai, Maui and Oahu in December 2016 and March 2017. The amended rules will affect all food establishments statewide with new requirements for the industry.

One of the major rule changes is a new mandate for Food Handlers Education certification for persons-in-charge at all food establishments. This will ensure a minimum baseline of food safety knowledge for all facility owners and managers. Studies have shown that food establishments with properly trained persons-in-charge have a lower occurrence of critical food safety violations that are directly linked to food illnesses.

The new rule requires that at least one employee present at every food establishment during normal work hours (including during food preparation) must have a formal food handlers training level certification. DOH will accept certification recognized by the American National Standards Institute. Training is available online from various vendors with fees averaging $10-$15 for certification. Proof of certification will be required during health inspections after Sept. 2, 2018. DOH will allow the industry one year to comply with this new provision.

Other changes to the state’s Food Safety Rules include:

  • Health inspectors may post placards during all types of inspection, including those for general complaints, and may post a “CLOSED” red placard at food establishments operating without a valid permit.
  • DOH may refuse permit renewals for food establishments with unpaid fines or stipulated agreements more than 30 days overdue.
  • DOH approval will be required prior to the sale of all “Wild Harvested Mushrooms.”
  • Permit exemptions will be allowed for residential child and adult day care providers, and bed and breakfast operators when certain conditions are adhered to. While exempt from permit requirements, these establishments may be subject to state health inspections.
  • Exemptions will also be allowed for the sale of “Homemade Foods” foods that are not potentially hazardous (e.g. certain pre-packaged foods). While exempt from permit requirements, these establishments may also be subject to state health inspections.
  • Special Event Temporary Food Establishment permits will be restricted to 31 days at a time. Consecutive permits may be allowed. Permit fees will remain at $100 for a 20-day permit with an additional $5 fee for each day over 20 days.
  • The section of the rules for Mobile Food Establishments has been removed and these regulations will be incorporated into the general regulations for all food establishments. All Mobile Food Establishments are required to access a state approved facility to support their food operations safely.
  • Full adoption of the 2013 FDA Model Food Code to include regulations governing reduced oxygen packaging. This will provide Hawaii with the most current nationally recognized food safety practices based on the most recent scientific studies conducted on food safety.

The DOH Sanitation Branch protects and promotes the health of Hawaii residents and visitors through education of food industry workers and regulation of food establishments statewide. The branch conducts health inspections of food establishments where food products are prepared, manufactured, distributed, or sold. The branch also investigates the sources of food borne illnesses, and works to control and prevent foodborne outbreaks. Health inspectors work with business owners, food service workers, and the food industry to ensure safe food preparation and conditions.

For more information on the department’s food safety program go to http://health.hawaii.gov/san/.

Hawaii Supreme Court Refuses to Order State to Repair Waikiki Gold Coast Seawalls

The Hawaii Supreme Court on Friday rejected a request by Waikiki apartment and condominium owners to order the State of Hawaii to pay for repairs to a damaged seawall, or for the owners’ attorney fees after 10 years of litigation, Attorney General Doug Chin announced.

The case, Gold Coast Neighborhood Association v. State of Hawaii, was initiated in 2007 by private individuals owning property situated on what is known as the “Gold Coast” on Oahu. Friday’s decision by the Hawaii Supreme Court ends the case.

The owners sued the State to repair seawalls built by private parties to protect private property from erosion and wave damage. The Supreme Court refused to issue such an order. The Court ruled the State holds an easement over the seawalls and is not liable for attorneys’ fees.

Attorney General Chin said, “We are pleased the Court affirmed our position that the courts are not the proper place to decide how taxpayer money is spent. The State will repair the seawalls if and only if money to do so is appropriated by the state legislature and allocated by the governor.”

The State of Hawaii was represented internally at all stages of the litigation. Supervising Deputy Attorney General Bill Wynhoff tried the case in circuit court and argued the State’s case in both the Intermediate Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. The private owners were represented by the firm McCorriston Miller Mukai McKinnon LLP.

A copy of the Supreme Court’s opinion and the dissenting opinion are attached.

Hawaii Access to Justice Commission: 2017 Essay & Video Contest

Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Simeon R. Acoba, Jr. (ret.), Chair of the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission said, “Equal access to justice should not be a mere illusion. We should be energized to meet the challenge of such equality.”

Justice Simeon R. Acoba

High School students in grades 10-12 are invited to write an essay or create a video about: “Why we need volunteers, and how volunteering has helped me to answer this question.”

Six (6) students will be selected to each receive a $500 award and will be recognized at the Pro Bono Celebration event at the Hawaii Supreme Court Courtroom in Honolulu on Thursday, October 26, 2017, at 4:00 p.m.

Grade Level(s): 10th grade 11th grade 12th grade, Deadline: ‎9‎/‎21‎/‎2017

There will be a total of six awards. Three awards shall be made for Honolulu County (Oahu); one award for Maui County (Maui, Molokai, Lanai); one award for Hawaii County (Hawaii Island); and one award for Kauai County (Kauai).

The judges shall decide whether an award shall be for an essay or a video.

Each neighbor island awardee will receive air transportation for two (the awardee and an adult chaperone) and a car rental stipend.

DIRECTIONS:

ESSAY

  1. The essay must be 500 words or less and use font size 12. It must not exceed two pages (8 1/2 x 11- inch paper), double-spaced.
  2. Essays submitted in prior years cannot be resubmitted and will be disqualified.

VIDEO

  1. The videos must be no longer than 2 minutes.
  2. The video must be burned to a CD or loaded to a USB drive and submitted. The maximum size of the video file is 1 GB, and shall be in one of the following formats: mov, mp4 or wmv. The video file’s name should be the student’s name (for example: janedoe.wmv).
  3. If you use your cell phone, be sure to film in landscape mode.
  4. Any and all included music must be copyright free or created by the students themselves.

Essay Video Contest Flyer

Discussion of Issues Relating to Special Session on Rail Funding, By Chairman of Maui’s County Council

The Chairman for the Maui County Council, Mike White, sent me the following document entitled “Discussion of Issues Relating to Special Session on Rail Funding:”


Mike White, Chairman of Maui County Council

Both the Hawaii State Association of Counties (HSAC) and the Hawaii Council of Mayors (HCOM) stand in support of the position to fund rail by extending the .5% GET surcharge.

  • The Proposal extends the GET surcharge for just three years to 2030.
  • The $1.3 billion raised by the TAT increase would be unnecessary if the GET was extended through 2033. The 3 additional years of surcharge would generate the same $1.3 Billion.
  • If the use of TAT fails the stress test of the Federal Transit Authority and is disqualified as a source to fund rail, will the TAT increase be reversed?

The promise to make permanent the $103 million to the Counties is questionable.

  • The Legislature’s history on keeping promises is weak. We all know that any action taken by today’s body can be reversed in any future session.
  • There was a promise that the 2% increase in TAT after the recession in 2008 would sunset after 5 years. It is not likely it will ever sunset.
  • The $103 million to the Counties still falls short in terms of the Counties being awarded their fair share.

There was hope that the recommendations of State-County Working Group would be taken seriously

  • The Counties’ share of the TAT would have been $184 million this past year if the legislature accepted the findings of the working group they established.
  • The working Group found that Counties provided 56% of visitor related expenditures from State or County general funds
  • Counties were willing to accept the lower 45% share compromise reached in the working group.
  • The Legislature has ignored the Working Group findings, maintained the cap and taken all of the increased revenue.

The State has already grown their share of the TATsignificantly.

  • TheState has increased its share of TAT from $17.1 million to $291.1 million since 2007
  • Since then the Counties share has dropped to $93 million, a loss of $7.8 million
  • The cost of Police, Fire and Parks departments in the four counties has increased by $264 million while Counties share has been reduced.
  • Without a rate increase State share will likely increase to $326 million in FY2018
  • With a 1% rate increase, State share will likely increase by another $58 million to $384 million.

Distribution to Local governments of taxes generated from Lodging Revenues

  • Nationwide, taxes on lodging have been established to cover the cost of services and infrastructure needed to support the visitors.
  • Nationwide, 67% of ALL taxes (GET & TAT) on Lodging revenue go to the local government.
  • In Hawaii, only 14% of GET & TAT generated is given to local Governments
  • The Hawaii TAT accounts for about 68% of the taxes on lodging. If we were to get the Average Local government share we would get almost all of the current TAT revenue.

Hawaii is not the only small state with large expenditures on Education and other government functions, but tax distribution is very different.

  • With similar populations to Hawaii, state expenditures on education in West Virginia and Idaho are close to Hawaii’s.
  • When Hawaii spent $1.6 billion or 23% of its General Fund (GF) on education, Idaho spent $1.6 billion (51% of GF)and West Virginia spent $1.9 billion (43% of GF) on education.
  • West Virginia has a 6% state sales tax and a 6% room tax (TAT)on lodging revenue. All proceeds from the 6% room tax go to the local government.
  • Idaho also has a 6% state sales tax and authorizes local government to impose “local option” taxes on lodging accommodations, drinks by-the-glass, retail sales, etc. The total taxes in resort areas appear to be about 12%. The state receives the 6% sales tax and the local government receives the rest.
  • This type of comparison deserves a closer look if we hope to bring a stronger sense of “partnership” to the relationship between our state and counties.

Our Legislators push the counties to increase property taxes instead of asking for more TAT.

  • Hawaii has lower property tax rates, but significantly higher home values.
  • Hawaii’s median home value is 5 times higher than West Virginia and three time higher than Idaho.
  • Even with lower rates, the average tax on the median home value is $1,430 in Hawaii vs $1,250 in Idaho and $660 in West Virginia.
  • Hawaii property taxes represent 2.1% of median household income. This compares to 2.6% in Idaho and 1.5% in West Virginia.

Neighbor Islands are again being offered the opportunity to pass the same .5% GET Surcharge for our transportation needs.

  • The concern that the neighbor islands have had for years is that once we pass the GET surcharge, the Legislature will take away ALL of our TAT revenue.
  • Some of us have been told directly over the years that this is their intension.
  • The Neighbor Islands favor keeping a visitor-generated TAT to pay for visitor–related services. It makes no sense to shift the cost of visitor services to our resident population through either GET or property taxes when the visitors have already paid their fair share.
  • The GET generated by the .5% surcharge would be just slightly higher than the amount of TAT we are currently getting.

Impact of TAT on Neighbor Islands

  • Oahu occupancy rates are 10 points ahead of Maui, 13 ahead of Kauai and nearly 20 points ahead of Big Island
  • From CY 2006 to CY 2016, Oahu GET base grew by 15% while Neighbor Islands remain below 2006 levels
  • One percent increase in TAT would remove over $30 million from our Neighbor Island communities and economies.

State should work on ensuring all TAT taxing options and compliance issues are addressed before simply increasing the rate

  • The State is not receiving a significant portion of the TAT revenue even though the visitors are paying the TAT or an equivalent.Amend TAT statute to ensure collection of taxes from accommodation remarketers instead of just operators.  Maui County has drafted a bill to correct the problem, and it will likely be part of the HSAC package. $60-80 million in added revenue.
  • Increase the basis of the calculation of TOT on Timeshares from 50% of maintenance fee to a higher percentage.
  • Work with Counties to ensure vacation rentals are operating legally and paying both State and county taxes. Maui County will be contracting with internet service that will identify location and ownership of rentals being advertised on the internet.
  • Instead of TAT, evaluate a Rhode Island-type 1% tax on food and beverages consumed at restaurants, bars and hotels. Restaurant Association estimates the Hawaii base at $4.6 billion. $46 million in added tax revenue

Tax Review Commission recommendations would increase revenues by over $300 million per year

  • Not all the recommendations are popular
  • Sugary beverage tax of $.02 per ounce – $50 million
  • Increase collection of taxes on e-commerce/online retail sales – $30-40 million

Mike White,
Maui County Council Chairman