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Big Island Resident Ka‘ehu‘ae‘e Announces Run for Governor

Big Island resident Wendell Ka’ehu’ae’a has once again thrown his hat into the political scene here on the Big Island of Hawaii.

On his Facebook account this evening, he has announced that he will run for the Governor of Hawaii.

The following was posted to his account:

For GOV 2018. IMUA “NO MORE LIES”. Wkaehuaea@Yahoo.com. P.O. Box 6848 Hilo, Hawaii 96720. Graduated Farrington High School, Honolulu 1960. U.S. Navy, Veteran, 1960-1964. Serve under Admiral John McCain, 7th Fleet Pacific. Aloha Airlines, Honolulu Terminal. Suisan, Hilo. Cost Accountant and Sales. Build two Radio Stations. KAHU AM Panaewa, Hilo. KAHU FM Pahala, Ka’u. Puna Sugar, Supervisor Cultivating Department. Hawaiian Homes Farm Lot. Panaewa, Hawaii. For 30 Years. Hawaii Community College at Hilo. AA Liberal Arts 1997. University of Hawaii at Hilo. BA Communication, BA Political Science, and a Minor in Economics 2000. Nā Leo ‘O Hawaii. Community Access Television. Hilo. Community Outreach Producer. Goals and Promise. Get All Hawaiians on the waiting List on the Lands State-wide. Support All Programs for Seniors, Veterans and Handicap. IMUA, “NO MORE LIES”. Mahalo for Your Support.

Senator Hirono Lashing Out at President Trump – Calls for His Resignation

Senator Mazie Hirono is going off on Twitter today and has called for the resignation of President Donald Trump:

5 hours ago

. is a misogynist, compulsive liar, and admitted sexual predator. Attacks on Kirsten are the latest example that no one is safe from this bully. He must resign.

VIDEO: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Calls on FCC to Uphold Net Neutrality Protections

With three days before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) makes a final decision on net neutrality, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) urged the commission to reject corporate-led efforts to unravel open, fair, and equal Internet access and to listen to the voices of the majority of Americans that support current protections on net neutrality.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said:

“In three days, the Internet as we know it could change forever. On December 14th, the FCC will be taking a vote on whether or not to get rid of net neutrality protections that keep the Internet open, fair, and equal for everyone.

“Repealing these protections will allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T to control the levers of the Internet—stifling access, deciding the websites you and I can visit and use, and making it impossible for small businesses to compete against industry giants. It will hurt our students, entrepreneurs, working families, and all who rely on the Internet for things like education, healthcare, and employment as a level playing field of opportunity.

“The FCC must protect the people it’s supposed to be serving—not big, corporate interests—and make sure the Internet remains a place where everyone has a seat at the table.”

President Trump to Land in Hawaii Tomorrow Morning

President Trump is scheduled to land in Honolulu tomorrow morning, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 at the Hickam Airforce Base.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has implemented Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) for the island of O‘ahu for Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.


The President is expected to stay on the military base and no roads or traffic will be stopped during his time on O’ahu.

The following operations are not authorized within this TFR: flight training, practice instrument approaches, aerobatic flight, glider operations, parachute operations, ultralight, hang gliding, balloon operations, agriculture/crop dusting, animal population control flight operations, banner towing operations, sightseeing operations, maintenance test flights, model aircraft operations, model rocketry, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and utility and pipeline survey operations.

Lifelong Kona Resident Announces Run for County Council Seat

Bronsten “Kalei” Kossow will run for Kanuha’s vacant District 7 seat on the Hawai‘i County Counil. Courtesy photo.

Bronsten “Kalei” Kossow has announced he will run for Dru Mamo Kanuha’s vacant seat on the Hawai‘i County Council.

Kanuha’s open seat represents District 7, which includes Kealakekua, Kona Scenic, Kainaliu, Honalo, Keauhou, Kahalu‘u, Hōlualoa, Kona Hillcrest, Pualani Estates, Sunset View, Kuakini Heights, Kona Vistas, Ali‘i Heights and Kona Industrial.

Kossow is a lifelong resident of Kona who attended Hōlualoa Elementary and Kealakehe Intermediate Schools before graduating from Makua Lani Christian School. While a junior in high school, he earned his Eagle Scout award, and soon after received the Honor of Vigil.

A former Boy Scout lodge-vice chief for Hawai‘i Island, Kossow has served as an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 79, and a section-vice chief for the Pacific Region. He is currently working toward his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with the University of Hawai‘i.

“I am proud to be born and raised in this beautiful community,” Kossow said. “I am eager to jump into the conversation and continue the discussion of the current issues that our community is facing such as: creating efficiency in government; pushing for temporary housing for our homeless, working with both County and State agencies to expand the services to those who need assistance; investing in a long-term plan to implement Kona water well security; striving for renewable and alternative energy sources; and enhancing agriculture development for food sustainability.”

Kossow is also a member of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, a former paraprofessional for Aloha Council, and current finance chair for Kona Coast Boy Scouts of America. He is also a game management advisory commissioner for Hawai‘i County District 7, as well as a flight coordinator for Paradise Helicopters.

Bill Signed into Law to Make APEC Travel Card Permanent

BIN file photo.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card program has been signed into law by the President.

Introduced by Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) and Steve Daines’ (R-Mont.), the bill allows Americans and citizens from APEC nations to access fast-track processing lanes at Daniel K. Inouye Honolulu International Airport and airports across the U.S. and Asia-Pacific area.

“The APEC Business Travel Card program has benefited hundreds of Hawai‘i residents by making it easier to travel and conduct business across a region critical to our local economy and jobs,” said Sen. Hirono. “This newly signed law reaffirms the importance of travel to our country’s engagement with the nations of the Asia-Pacific.”

“With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of the United States–we must make every effort to expand markets to create new good-paying jobs,” said Sen. Daines. “I’m thrilled to see President Trump sign this bill into law to open new opportunities for businesses.”

Prior to congressional action, permission for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to issue APEC Business Travel Cards was set to expire Sept. 30, 2018.

Over 200 Hawai‘i residents actively hold a card. On average, cardholders save 43 minutes in airport wait times.

The bill, called S. 504, is supported by the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Lodging and Tourism Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Asia Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce, U.S. Council for International Business, National Foreign Trade Council, U.S. Travel Association, Global Business Travel Association, American Hotel and Lodging Association, U.S.-China Business Council, U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China and the National Center for APEC.

Joint House Hearing Held on Reef Protection

Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing, chair of the Hawai‘i House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs, held a joint legislative informational briefing on Thursday, Nov. 2, at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol on “Reef Madness: Can We Save Hawaiʻi’s Marine Ecosystems?”

Rep. Kaniela Ing

Featured topics included coral bleaching, overfishing and pollution. Presentations were given by the Reef Recovery Lab, the University of Hawaiʻi, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources and the Surfrider Foundation.

“This conversation is crucial,” said Rep. Ing. “Hawaiʻi has the expertise and will, so we just had to pull everyone together. Policymakers learned a ton from experts, regulators and NGOs. The consensus was that the governor’s goal to protect 30 percent of nearshore fisheries by 2030 is important, but it needs teeth. I will be introducing a mandate to establish a statewide network of marine protected areas. DLNR publicly expressed support.

“Secondly, Hawaiʻi should join literally every other coastal state to issue non-commercial fishing licenses,” said Rep. Ing. “This will allow for more effective management, data collection and more fish for everyone.”

“As for coral bleaching, carbon emissions is the root cause,” he continued. “Pollution, sewage and toxic sunscreens are contributing factors. My committee will be considering a ban on sunscreen containing oxybenzone, and expansion of cesspool conversion credits, and ways to expedite our 100% renewable energy and transportation goals.”

“It was amazing—so much vital research by some of the best in the world all in one place,” said Ing.

TODAY at 4:00 – Hawaii Representative to Participate in Protest Against Trump

State Representative Kaniela Saito Ing will join “Resistance” groups at 4 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Hawaii State Capitol to send a clear message to President Donald Trump who is visiting Oahu before embarking on a trip to Asia.

Rep. Kaniela Ing

Ing will hold a sign that reads “Aloha means goodbye.”

“Aloha is a Hawaiian value rooted in the idea of love for one another, that we are all connected. I deeply support this concept,” said Rep. Ing. “But in order for Hawaii to remain a welcoming place of tolerance and aloha, we need to draw the line at leaders who incite fear and hate for personal gain. Trump rose to power by telling whole groups of people – ¬like immigrants, women, and transgendered individuals – that they are not welcome in our society.

“Hawaii is the most diverse state in the nation, and just a few days ago Trump literally said, ‘Diversity sounds like a good thing, but it is not a good thing.’ That statement alone undermines the values that make Hawaii, Hawaii. So yes, aloha means ‘hello,’ but it also means ‘goodbye.’ ”

Ing explained that Trump’s policy is personal to him and many others in Hawaii.

“My grandfather was a Japanese-American WW II veteran who fought overseas for our country, despite facing discrimination back home,” Ing said. “This administration evidently supports the idea of internment camps, in 2017, people.

“I’m afraid of turning on the news around my toddler son because I fear this president will teach him it’s OK to sexually assault women. We cannot afford to normalize any of this behavior.”

Ing will also be marching and speaking at the “The Nightmare Must Go!” protest at Ala Moana Beach Park starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 4.

Rep. Gabbard: DNC Rigged Presidential Primary & Damaged Party

Some have said that the Democratic National Committee rigged the presidential primary, which, in turn, damaged the party so badly that the Democrats lost the 2016 presidential election.

Photo courtesy of the Office of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Hawaiʻi Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard released a statement on Thursday, Nov. 2, calling for major reform to the DNC in response to an exposé of a rigged presidential primary written by Donna Brazile, the interim DNC chair who stepped in after Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was removed:

“Today we heard from Donna Brazile that what many suspected for a long time, is actually true: the DNC secretly chose their nominee over a year before the primary elections even occurred, turning over DNC control to the Clinton campaign. The deep financial debt, closed door decision-making, complete lack of transparency, and unethical practices are now front and center.

“Today’s news points to how deeply broken our campaign finance laws are, and how they have only served to weaken individual candidates, while empowering political parties and special interests. These laws essentially allowed the Clinton campaign to bypass individual campaign contribution limits by funneling millions of dollars through the DNC and state parties, taking control of the DNC in the process.

“Along with the recent retaliatory purge of Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison supporters from the DNC’s Executive Committee, this is further evidence of a party and a campaign finance system that needs to be completely overhauled and reformed. These reforms must empower the people and take our party back from the special interests of a powerful few.

“We must bring about real campaign finance reform. The DNC must get rid of the undemocratic system of super delegates, who have the power to swing an election, making up one-third of the votes any candidate needs to secure the nomination. The party must push for open or same-day registration in Democratic primaries in every state across the country to ease and encourage voter engagement instead of making it more difficult. If there is any hope of strengthening our party, they must stop this ‘more of the same’ mentality and start caring more about people than protecting the status quo.

No more games. No more retaliation. No more picking winners and losers. We must act now to take back our party—a party that belongs to the people—and fight for a new path forward that is open, transparent, accountable, inclusive, and that actually strengthens our democracy.”

Rep. Gabbard is a Democrat who has served as the U.S. Representative for Hawai‘i’s Second Congressional District since 2013. She was vice chair of the DNC from 2013 to 2016, when she resigned to support Bernie Sanders for president. She has been calling for an end to superdelegates in the Democratic Party’s nomination process and open Democratic primaries. Rep. Gabbard is a major in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard and has served on two Middle East deployments. She is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Puna Community Town Hall Meetings Hosted By Senator Ruderman

Senator Russell Ruderman will be hosting Puna Community Town Hall Meetings on Tuesday, October 24th in Pahoa and Wednesday, October 25th in Volcano:
I will be presenting some of my proposed legislation for the 2018 Legislative Session, and I invite you join me and take advantage of this opportunity for me to hear from you and give your input on these proposed measures, as well as hear your ideas for additional legislation to be introduced this next year.

My staff and I will also be discussing how you can be directly involved in the legislative process – by submitting language for legislation, contacting legislators and submitting testimony, and how to track legislation as it is referred to various committees and moves through the legislature.
Light refreshments will be served.

Senator Russell E. Ruderman
Senatorial District 2 – Puna-Ka’u

Live Stream with Bernie Sanders at UH Hilo – Proposed Legislation to Make Tuition Free

Tomorrow, Tuesday October 10th, the University of Hawaii Hilo registered group Global Hope, will be showing a nation-wide streaming of Bernie Sanders proposed legislation to make public colleges and universities tuition free.

The presentation will be at 7:00pm at University of Hawaii Hilo in UCB 100.

Many in Hawaii support Bernie Sanders and will be interested in this proposal.

Democratic Party of Hawai‘i Statement on the Passing of Former DPH Executive Director Flo Kong Kee

It is with profound sorrow that the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i (DPH) learned today of the passing of former DPH Executive Director, officer, and leader Flo Kong Kee.

Ms. Kong Kee was a longtime Party official, having served at different times over the last three decades as State Party Executive Director, State Treasurer, District Chair, Precinct President, delegate to numerous state and national conventions, and most recently as Delegate Page for the DPH during the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

“Flo was a person of tremendous generosity, class, and kindness,” said Tim Vandeveer, DPH Party Chairperson. “She exemplified grace under pressure and always put our party first,” Vandeveer stated, adding “Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family during this difficult time.”

Information regarding memorial services will be shared when made available.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Fights to Prevent the FCC From Dismantling Broadband Internet Standards

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) signed a bicameral letter to urge Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai not to relax Internet broadband standards for millions of Americans across the country which would most adversely affect rural, tribal, and low-income communities. The FCC announced in a Notice of Inquiry that it would consider lowering the standards of broadband Internet access speeds from 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload to 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload, while also classifying a mobile Internet connection as a suitable replacement for home broadband.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said:

“It is indisputable that high-speed broadband Internet access is essential to succeed in today’s economy, and that rural, tribal and low-income communities already face significant obstacles to accessing 21st century jobs, training programs, and educational opportunities.  According to the FCC’s own 2016 report, 39 percent of rural Americans and 41 percent of tribal communities lack access to acceptable internet speeds, creating significant obstacles that often inhibit them from doing things like promoting their business, communicating with their families, and accessing education tools.  I’ve heard this firsthand from constituents in my district who live in very rural communities.  Often, the only access to the Internet for kids in school was through a parent’s wireless hotspot signal.

“The FCC should be looking at how to expand and strengthen the infrastructure and high-speed Internet in America’s rural, tribal and low-income communities.  By opting instead to lower the bar and redefine what constitutes an acceptable Internet connection, the FCC continues on its current trend towards favoring corporate interests over American consumers.  Should the FCC’s proposals move forward, they will create more obstacles for working Americans by putting them behind the technology curve.

“I firmly support the expansion of high-speed Internet access to rural and tribal areas, which is why I cosponsored H. Con. Res. 63, which calls for the availability of high-speed Internet for all Americans.”

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.

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.

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:

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.

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