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Updated: 31 min 11 sec ago

Hawaii Fire Fighters Association Endorses Abercrombie

6 hours 56 min ago

HONOLULU – The Hawaii Fire Fighters Association (HFFA) has announced that it will endorse Governor Neil Abercrombie for a second term. HFFA represents nearly 3,100 active and retired firefighters throughout Hawaii.

“Governor Abercrombie has stood by our side for over 40 years,” said Bobby Lee HFFA president. “We first endorsed him in 1974. Since that time, he’s consistently supported us on labor issues and fire and public safety matters. There’s no one more qualified to lead this state to a brighter future.”

In December 2010, Governor Abercrombie took office amidst an economic recession, a severe state budget shortage, and “Furlough Fridays”. Since that time, Hawaii’s economy has improved, the state budget is no longer in deficit and the state’s unemployment is among the lowest in the country. The Governor has built a strong foundation to advance preschool for Hawaii’s keiki, expand benefits and services for seniors, and improve the state’s infrastructure.

“I’m grateful to the men and women of the HFFA for their support,” said Governor Abercrombie. “Their commitment to ensuring the safety and protection of our community is truly inspiring. It’s because of the sacrifice of people like the firefighters that I continue to push for issues that benefit the middle class.”

Categories: In the News

Senate Approves More than 170 House Bills

10 hours 2 min ago

HONOLULU -- At Second Crossover, the Hawaii State Senate advanced several bills that align with its 2013 legislative session priorities:  improving the lives of Hawaii’s people through kūpuna support, environmental protection, community investment and fiscal responsibility. Lawmakers advanced legislation relating to education, housing and homelessness, health, public safety, agriculture, veterans, and tourism.

The Senate passed more than 170 measures, including those supporting Hawaii’s kūpuna and protecting the environment.

Lawmakers passed three joint majority package bills related to these issues. The kūpuna measures advanced include HB1713, which will provide funding to support healthy aging programs and services and require the Executive Office on Aging to conduct a public education and awareness campaign on long-term care, and HB1715, which appropriates funds for the operation of investor education and related financial education programs targeted to kūpuna. Senators also approved HB1714, a bill that addresses sea level rise due to climate change. Voting on HB1716, a bill addressing invasive species, has been deferred until passage of the state budget bill.

The Senate also advanced HB1866, a compromise bill that addresses the concerns of both developers and critics of the Hawaii Community Development Authority while moving the state forward in a positive direction. The bill amends the HCDA membership and appointment, creates a 418-ft height limit, and makes requirement changes for notice, hearing, approval and vesting of rights for development permits. It will also permit sales of reserved housing units and cash-in-lieu payments for reserved housing requirements.

To expedite discussions on the state supplemental budget, the Senate last week approved the HB1700, the supplemental appropriations act of 2014, which includes less spending while continuing to support education, health, human services, the environment and public safety.

Following lower tax revenue projections, the Senate’s version of the bill reduces all funds by $46.1 million, inclusive of a general fund reduction of $45.8 million. For FY2014-2015, the bill reduces all funds by $167.9 million, inclusive of a general fund reduction of $158.7 million.

The bill does not include funding for certain administration requests that are intended to be funded under other appropriation measures, including joint majority package bills. These reductions should not be counted as actual “savings.” The reductions include $33.5 million for the UHPA salaries, $1.0 million for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council, and $4.9 million for Kūpuna Care and other senior citizen programs.

Members of the Senate and House convene conference committees this week to work out any differences in the measures.

OTHER SECOND CROSSOVER BILLS

Education

HB2109 HD2 SD1 establishes a five-year evidence-based physical-activity and nutritional-education pilot program within the A+ Program in Hawaii's public elementary schools.

HB1777 HD2 SD2 authorizes DOE employees and agents with specified training to volunteer to administer auto-injectable epinephrine to a student with anaphylaxis. Allows DOE to make arrangements to receive auto-injectable epinephrine supplies from manufacturers and suppliers.

HB2598 HD1 SD2 renames the Hawaii 3R's School Repair and Maintenance Fund the Hawaii 3R's School Improvement Fund. Requires the transfer of moneys collected pursuant to section 235-102.5(b), Hawaii Revised Statutes, and authorizes the transfer of any other moneys received in the form of grants and donations for school-level improvements and minor repairs and maintenance to the Hawaii 3R's School Improvement Fund.

HB1676 HD1 SD1 appropriates funds to, and authorize, the Executive Office on Early Learning to enter into agreements with the Department of Education and public charter schools to use available classrooms for public preschool.

HB1756 HD1 SD2 statutorily establishes the Resources for Enrichment, Athletics, Culture, and Health program within the Office of Youth Services to provide after-school programs in public middle and intermediate schools. Establishes a special fund.
Environmental Protection

HB2434 HD1 SD1 increases financial resources to support a conservation and natural resource protection program in the State. Specifies the distribution and allowable uses, subject to agreement between the HTA and the BLNR, of transient accommodations tax revenues allocated to the special land and development fund for resource and facilities management costs related to the HTA's strategic plan.

HB2620 HD1 SD2 requires the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program to submit a report updating the 1996 report on oil spills.

HB1514 HD1 SD2 appropriates moneys for mitigation of, and education relating to, the coffee berry borer.
Transient Accommodations Tax

HB1671 HD1 SD1 removes the current cap on transient accommodations tax revenues to be distributed to the counties and establishes the distribution of these revenues as a percentage of TAT collected.

Community Investment

HB2217 HD2 SD1 (Workforce Development) authorizes DLIR to establish working groups to identify high growth industries and workforce needs and to develop training programs.

HB2007 HD1 SD2 (Agriculture) appropriates funds to the Local and Immigrant Farmer Education Program of the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Cooperative Extension Service to support the growth and sustainability of the agriculture industry.

HB2468 SD2 (Agriculture) authorizes DBEDT, in collaboration with DOA, to perform studies and analysis relating to: (1) Establishing facilities on the island of Hawaii for quarantine inspection and treatment and handling imported and exported commodities; and (2) Implementation of designated foreign-trade zone sites. Creates an agricultural technology park under the HTDC.

HB2169 HD1 (Tourism) provides an incentive for the private sector to invest in hotel and resort construction and renovation.

HB2371 HD1 SD1 (Tax relief) reduces the tax burden on the lowest income residents of the State by amending the amount and threshold of the refundable food/excise tax credit and income tax credit for low-income household renters, and creates a new low-income tax credit and earned income tax credit.

HB1934 HD1 SD2 (Homelessness) appropriates funds to various programs that provided housing, housing assistance, and supportive services to individuals at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

Other Notables

HB1667 HD3 SD2 (Veterans) provides qualifying totally and permanently disabled veterans an exemption of one-half of the state vehicle registration fee, rounded up to the nearest dollar. Requires the Office of Veterans' Services to report the number of qualifying veterans to the Legislature and Department of Taxation.

HB1926 HD1 SD1 (Crime) amends the offense of prostitution to clarify that a law enforcement officer shall not be exempt from the offense if the law enforcement officer engages in sexual penetration while acting in the course and scope of duties; and establish that a person less than eighteen years of age shall not be prosecuted for prostitution or promoting prostitution offenses if the person is charged with a first and only prostitution charge; provided that a person's exemption shall not affect the prosecution of any other person for a prostitution or promoting prostitution offense. Amends the offense of solicitation of a minor for prostitution. Clarifies sentencing of repeat offenders and enhanced sentences for repeat violent and sexual offenders.

For more information visit www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

Categories: In the News

Obama nominates Burwell to be new health secretary

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 09:32
President Barack Obama announced Friday he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be the next Department of Health and Human Services secretary.
Categories: In the News

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigning

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 16:53
Kathleen Sebelius is resigning from her position as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a White House official said Thursday.
Categories: In the News

Honolulu City Councilmember Wants Tougher Penalties for Illegal Dumpers

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 12:14

Rep. Kymberly Pine

HONOLULU — In response to illegal grading of Hawaii Kai Marina sludge on the Waianae Coast, Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine introduced legislation to restore environmental justice throughout Oahu’s communities. Bills 35, 36, and 37 were drafted with input from Leeward Coast community leaders and public policy advocates, and developed in response to the rampant and illegal stockpiling and grading occurring throughout Leeward communities.

“It’s simply unacceptable for commercial enterprises and individuals to continue to use the Leeward Coast as their dumping ground. These new rules will bring environmental justice to the Leeward Coast and communities throughout the City & County of Honolulu. New enforcement tools will help the City hold willful and repeat violators accountable to the community,” Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine said.

Councilmember Pine has been working with community and environmental advocates in the Leeward Coast community to make environmental justice a priority by targeting illegal stockpiles and dumping along the Leeward Coast and throughout Oahu. The pervasiveness of the problem was not widely known by the public until last fall when a trucking company illegally dumped thousands of pounds of dredged sludge from the Hawaii Kai Marina on agriculturally-zoned land in Waianae.

“For far too long our community has been an illegal dumping ground for industry and has carried a disproportionate environmental burden for the whole state of Hawaii.  It's about time for legislators and regulators to send a powerful message to those who wish to continually operate illegally on our coastline. These illegal operations affect our people, our land, and our seas,” said Pake Salmon, a community advocate with Ka Wai Ola O Waianae, a community group that fights illegal dumping along the Leeward Coast.

Councilmember Pine’s bills will bring stiff penalties, including 500% increases in civil fines and criminal prosecutions for the most egregious cases of careless illegal stockpiling and grading. The proposed rule changes will also tighten up the application process for obtaining stockpiling and grading permits, provide the City departments with more enforcement options, and prevent the stockpiling of hazardous or non-natural materials on agriculturally-zoned land.

Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all communities in the development, implementation, and enforcement of laws, regulations, and policies affecting our communities’ natural resources.  Fair treatment means that no community should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental and commercial operations or policies.  Meaningful involvement means that the community has an opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that may affect their environment and/or health.

Bills 35, 36, and 37 will be formally introduced on Wednesday, April 16th at the City Council meeting. For a complete description of the proposed changes please see the addendum below.

Summary of the Environmental Justice Bill Package:

·        Increase maximum civil fines for violations of the Land Use Ordinance, and Public Works Infrastructure Ordinance by 500 percent from $1,000 per violation to $5,000 per violation per day the violation exists.

·        Create new category of ‘willful violations’ which creates new minimum civil fine of $1,000 per day for willful violations of the land use ordinance or grading violations.

·        Defines ‘willful violations’ as Director’s discretion considering relevant mitigating and aggravating factors including, but not limited to, the effect, if any, of the violation; the degree and extent of harm caused by the violation; the cost of rectifying the damage; whether the violator saved money through noncompliance; whether the violator took reasonable measures to comply with this Ordinance; whether the violator acted in bad faith; whether the violator reported the violation; and the proper record of the violator in complying or failing to comply with this Ordinance is present and past administrative actions.

·        New penalties for repeat violators – double fines for violators who commit violations two or more times in a 12-month period.

·        New penalties for repeat violators – repeat violators at same site in 12-month period will be subject to criminal prosecution.

·        New enforcement tools for the City – City officials can demand that the violator restore the land to its original condition and obtain a certificate of completion from the director. Orders may be enforced through the courts.

·        Proactive Enforcement – To combat parties from illegally grading and then obtaining a permit only after they are caught and fined, permits will be denied when owner or developer willfully violated city grading rules. This provision will protect ‘mom and pop’ who accidentally violate the statute, but will hold construction and development companies to strict compliance with the laws.

·        Stockpiling limits on agricultural land – restrict stockpiling of certain material on agriculturally zoned land so that contaminated material, construction materials, or other material that may impair the agricultural productivity of agricultural soils, cannot be stockpiled on agriculturally-zoned land.

Councilmember Pine represents residents of District One (Ewa, Ewa Beach, Kapolei, Honokai Hale, Ko Olina, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, Makaha, Keaau, Makua) and chairs the Intergovernmental Affairs and Human Services Committee.

Ka Wai Ola O Waianae is a community advisory committee whose mission is to reduce & mitigate illegal dumping & non point source pollution along the Waianae Coastline.

Categories: In the News

Schofield boy in state's care after parents' alleged abuse

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 15:36
A 22-year-old male soldier and a 25-year-old woman were arrested last month on suspicion of first-degree assault of a child, and the Department of Human Services has removed the 3-year-old victim from their Schofield Barracks home.
Categories: In the News

Republican state Senator proposes smaller budget

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 16:30
Hawaii's lone Republican in the State Senate has proposed a smaller state budget than what his Democratic counterparts approved to make the argument the state is headed for fiscal disaster if it doesn't change course.
Categories: In the News

Hawaii state Senate passes $12B state budget

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 18:34
Lawmakers in the Hawaii Senate have passed a state budget that calls for $12 billion in spending during the 2015 fiscal year.
Categories: In the News

Senate budget draft reflects forecast

Thu, 03/27/2014 - 15:33
The state Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday released a new draft of the state budget, scaling back the growth in spending to reflect the dramatic decline in revenue that was projected earlier this month.
Categories: In the News

Medal of Honor | Get Gored? | Celebrate Human Achievement | You've Got the Power

Wed, 03/26/2014 - 15:36

BY SAM SLOM - Join Us Tomorrow for SUNRISE Networking. There's still time to sign up for the next monthly SBH Sunrise Networking Breakfast, tomorrow, Thursday, March 27, 7 - 8:30 am in the Pineapple Room of Macy's Ala Moana Center. Networking strategies will be discussed-and practiced. Marketing expert Bob Sigall, Creative-1 and author of the best-selling "The Companies We Keep," books, will lead the discussion. Public invited. Reservations required. Full breakfast and free parking.  Call SBH for reservations at 396-1724.

Kuhio Day. Today is Kuhio Day, a state holiday, named after, would you believe, a Republican in Hawaii. All right, it was 1920 when Republican Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole was selected as Hawaii's delegate to the U.S. Congress but it was significant. Under Kuhio's influence the Congress enacted the Hawaiian Homestead Act.

Medal of Honor. Tuesday was Medal of Honor Day at the State Capitol. In a joint meeting of the House and Senate, Hawaii's fallen military heroes were presented with Hawaii's highest civilian award. The Medal of Honor program, enacted 8 years ago, was the idea of State Rep. Mark Takai and has been one of the most successful events at the Legislature. When the first ceremony was held, and in succeeding years, there were many fallen who were honored and medals presented to family members.

Most previous heroes were very young. As of January 20, 2014, Hawaii has lost 331 service members with Hawaii ties, who have sacrificed their lives, while in the line of duty.

The number of the fallen has decreased annually as America withdraws from the Middle East war fronts. Tuesday, there were four recipients including Air Force Captain Reid Nishizuka, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Edward Balli, Army Sergeant Tofiga Tautolo, and Army National Guard Sergeant Drew Scobie. There was not a dry eye in the Capitol. Family members of previous heroes were also in attendance and recognized.

Hawaii Homeowners Happy. Honolulu HomeLoans, Hawaii's leading mortgage banker, is releasing a "Happy Homeowner" graphic, which details the many reasons Hawaii's homeowners are happy, healthy and growing. The illustrations detail Hawaii's well being rankings from recent Gallup-Healthways polls, average temperatures and days of sunshine, and national fitness rankings. These facts are juxtaposed with HHL's transactions since 2010, showing how the average loan size and units sold continue to grow each year.

"Over the past few years, we have seen a slow but steady recovery in the Hawaii real estate market," says Andrew Kim, Chief Production Officer. "For prospective buyers who are contemplating the purchase of a home, this is a good time to put a plan of action into motion. Interest rates are still very low and loan options are prevalent. With the limited inventory of available property currently on the market, the appreciating trend in prices and values are expected to continue in 2014 and beyond."

Hawea Wetlands. A partnership of public agencies and private non-profit organizations announced that Hawea Heiau Complex & Keawawa wetland is protected as a community-owned and managed Hawaiian cultural heritage preserve. The property is on Hawai'i Kai Drive in the center of Hawai'i Kai - traditionally known as Maunalua - only minutes from Costco, between The Oahu Club (an outdoor fitness facility) and the Hale Ka Lae condominium project.

The Trust for Public Land purchased the property from Hale Ka Lae and transferred the land to Livable Hawai'i Kai Hui ("the Hui"), a community nonprofit that has been caring for Hawea heiau complex & Keawawa wetland since 2009. The Hui is preserving and teaching traditional Hawaiian cultural practices, restoring the land and introducing people to the property's powerful history. Congrats to the Hui's Elizabeth Reilly for all her hard work.

Celebrate Human Achievement. This week, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) will continue "Human Achievement Hour," an annual celebration of human progress and advancements in various fields of industry including technology, medical, energy and more. The celebration will culminate with a worldwide observance on Saturday, March 29, 2014, between 8:30-9:30 p.m. (local time).

"Observing Human Achievement Hour is about paying tribute to the human innovations that have allowed people around the globe to live better, fuller lives, while also defending the basic human right to use energy to improve the quality of life of all people," said CEI senior fellow William Yeatman.

CEI developed Human Achievement Hour as the counter argument to the World Wide Fund for Nature's "Earth Hour," an event where participants symbolically renounce the environmental impacts of modern technology by turning off their lights for an hour. By contrast, Human Achievement Hour promotes the idea that humans should look to technology and innovation to help solve environmental problems.

Instead of turning off your lights this Saturday, the Competitive Enterprise Institute encourages people to celebrate a human achievement that has improved their lives - everything from indoor plumbing to computer technology, to access to consumer goods and affordable energy. Shower, shop, listen to music, enjoy a cold beer, or simply keep your lights on for an hour. There are numerous innovations to celebrate. Participants may share these activities and join the conversation by tweeting @ceidotorg and using the hashtag #HAH2014.

Follow CEI's list of human achievements at: OpenMarket.org. For more information about Human Achievement Hour visit www.cei.org/hah.

Ryan Heads NaHHA. The Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association (NaHHA) selected Pohai Ryan as its Executive Director. Ryan brings to NaHHA vast experience in non-profit management and a storied career in local politics, which gives her a unique lens into the community and the visitor industry. Prior to joining NaHHA, Ryan served as the Executive Director of the Kailua Chamber of Commerce and was also in the Hawaii State Senate.

Tech Talk Panel Thursday. Think Tech Global will present its 2014 Legislative Midterm Update featuring Bob Toyofuku of Hawaii Advocates as moderator, with a panel of leading state finance officials at the Downtown YWCA on Thursday, March 27th from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. The panel members include Sen. David Ige - Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson - Co-Vice Chair of the House Finance Committee; Rep. Sylvia Luke - Chair of the House Finance Committee; and Kalbert Young - State Budget and Finance Director.

You've Got the Power. A new half hour television show, You've Got the Power, produced by Malia Zimmerman, Irma Baptiste and Shaunna Touchi of Luminescent Productions, will air on Saturday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. on KGMB TV and Saturday, April 19 at 6 p.m. on KHNL.

See a 30-second clip of the show here by  clicking here

The half hour show, which focuses on people who have overcome great odds to be successful and then help many other people, features Skylar Soares, Delorese Gregoire and Mo Maurer in the first episode.

Soares, 12, is the SBH Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013. She founded with the help of Make a Wish Foundation and HPU, the HiSky retail business. Gregoire is the founder of Winners Camp and has helped 15,000 teenagers discover their leadership skills and talents. And Maurer, a Maui resident, founded Assistance Dogs of Hawaii and has helped thousands of people in need find they joy and independence they deserve.

Sponsors include HWMG/HMAA, King Windward Nissan, InControl Diabetes Center, Pharmacare and Hawaii Homestay. If your company would like to be a sponsor, contact Irma May Baptiste at irmamaybaptiste@gmail.com

Get Gored? The Stephen and Marylyn Pauley Seminar in Sustainability at UH Manoa, the University of Hawai'i Sea Grant College Program and U.S. Senator Brian Schatz partnered to bring former U.S. Vice President Al Gore to the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa on April 15, 2014. Former U.S. Vice President Gore, known for his misinformation about Global Warming, the economy and other topics, will be sharing his insight on related topics and how they relate to Hawai'i. Want to go? Tickets are available at the Stan Sheriff Center Ticket Office or the UH Mānoa Campus Center Ticket, Information & ID Office.

Business at the Capitol. For a change, Hawaii business people were honored instead of taxed and banned at the State Capitol. New awardees of the U.S. Small Business Administration business advocates were honored after the Hawaii Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame inductees. Then Prudential made its distinguished awards to students engaged in community service. Quite a week at the Capitol.

Niu Valley to Serenade. The Niu Valley Intermediate School Orchestra, one of the top middle school orchestras in the nation, will be recognized at the Capitol on Friday. They will head to Iowa for competition later.

New Judicial Nominees. Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald released the list of judicial nominees that were provided to him by the Judicial Selection Commission for the upcoming vacancy in the District Court of the Third Circuit (County of Hawaii).  The names of the nominees are Lincoln S.T. Ashida; Paul K. Hamano; Jo Kim; Darien W.L. Ching Nagata; Henry T. Nakamoto; and J Stanley Yoshimoto. Comments on the nominees must be sent no later than Friday, April 4, 2014 to Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, Supreme Court of Hawaii, 417 S. King Street, Honolulu, HI, 96813, by fax (808) 539-4703, or email:  chiefjustice@courts.hawaii.gov

Mother of the Year. The Senate Minority's "Extern," UH Law Student, Mom and business woman Julie Sparks is Hawaii's Mother of the Year. She was written up in a full-page story in last Sunday's Honolulu Star-Advertiser and will be honored at a luncheon this Saturday at the Hale Koa Hotel. Way to go Julie!

Surfing in Afghanistan? The International Surfing Association (ISA) is proud to welcome Afghanistan as the ISA's 82nd Member Nation. Officially called the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the landlocked country is located in South Central Asia and is part of the greater Middle East. It is bordered by Pakistan in the South and East, Iran in the West, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the North, and China in the far northeast. The country has a small population of surfers who have come together and traveled for waves.

ISA President Fernando Aguerre said: "While still in its infant stage, there are a lot of opportunities for surfers and SUPers in Afghanistan, and we are excited to provide them with tools so they can grow their existing surfing community and allow their surfers to compete on an international level."

38th SBH Business Conference, May 13. The SBH 38th Annual Business Conference is set for Tuesday, May 13 at the Ala Moana Hotel, Hibiscus Ballroom.

Best-selling author and motivational business success speaker, Patrick Snow, will be the SBH's Keynote Luncheon Speaker. Current issue topics, networking, business exhibits and more will be included. Make reservations now by calling SBH at 808-396-1724.

New Facebook Link. The Hawaii Senate Minority has a new Facebook and a new look. Check it out here>
Please like us and invite your friends to like the group as well. If not, you are still able to view the page without creating an account.

Want More Business? JOIN SBH! Is YOUR business a member of SBH?  No? Lots of benefits. Strong networking organization. Call 396-1724 or go online to  smartbusinesshawaii.com.

Hawaii Reporter.com, Hawaii's first electronic daily newspaper launched in 2002, has all the breaking news and unlike other publications in town, is still free. Award winning Hawaii Reporter and Malia Zimmerman report daily (M-F) on the Rick Hamada Show heard on KHVH radio on 830 AM at 7:05 am. Malia will share the news behind the news.

Tune in to Panos Prevedouros. SBH Director and UH Engineering Professor Dr. Panos Prevedouros is a weekly guest on Rick Hamada's morning radio show every Tuesday from 7:05 a.m. to 8 am. Tune in!

Read SB NEWS. Don't forget to read your current (November) monthly SB NEWS by PDF attachment or link. More expanded news and views for the Hawaii business community. A limited number of printed copies are available for mailing if you call SBH (396-1724).

Categories: In the News

State to fight ruling in tot's death

Sun, 03/23/2014 - 16:29
The state plans to appeal a judge's ruling in which the state Department of Human Services was found negligent — along with a Navy diver based at Pearl Harbor — in the 2009 death of the sailor's 14-month-old boy, who was struck or shaken to death.
Categories: In the News

Hawaii lawmaker calls for federal investigation into Obamacare spending

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 14:43

NO TRANSPARENCY: Hawaii Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom wants a federal investigation into Obamacare spending

HONOLULU — Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom plans to ask the U.S. Government Accounting Office to investigate the state’s Obamacare exchange, Hawaii Heath Connector, if the connector doesn’t become more transparent and accountable in its spending.

Slom disclosed his plans to file the GAO complaint to Hawaii Reporter and also in a letter to Linda Rosen, director of the Hawaii State Department of Health, in which he asked her for details of the $204 million received from the federal government in Affordable Care Act grants.

Hawaii’s Health Connector, an independent nonprofit established by the Legislature, has so far refused to release details on how the grant money was spent, Slom said, citing “a potential threat” by making public ideas that could put the state exchange at a competitive disadvantage with the private sector.

“The lack of transparency regarding the grant expenditure requirements prompts this request for information and documentation,” Slom said.

At a Hawaii Health Connector hearing with the Senate Consumer Protection Committee on Monday, Hawaii Health Connector interim executive director Tom Matsuda briefed Senate committee chair Roz Baker and Slom on the status of enrollment.

“While there were several slides in the PowerPoint, there were few specific answers to my questions. Taxpayers should be very alarmed,” Slom said. “The Connector now boasts 5,400 people ‘signed up,’ but that does not equate to actual policyholders and is far short of the 100,000-person estimate made by the Connector last year. The registration period ends March 31 of this year.  This means Hawaii resident taxpayers will make up any losses of the Connector.”

During the briefing, Slom asked for the total number of paid employees and the cost for payroll, how the $204 million has been spent or allocated and the total amount spent on advertising the exchange, but Matsuda didn’t provide all the details, Slom said.

The Senate committee learned the contract with Canadian-based CGI, Inc., was higher than originally disclosed.

Matsuda revealed to lawmakers that the state will pay CGI $74 million over four years to build and maintain the portal. Previous reports had the cost estimated at $53 million.

Matsuda also acknowledged the website is still not fully operational today, several months after the Oct. 1 launch, in part because the Small Business Health Options Program for small businesses isn’t working. Slom, who also serves as president of the small business advocacy group Smart Business Hawaii, said the defective SHOP program is leaving small businesses frustrated.

“The website, run by CGI, has experienced numerous technical problems mirroring the problems of the federal CGI-run website. Many people have been unable to enroll via the website, contradicting assurances that the Hawaii Health Connector was meeting its deadlines and would be ready to serve the public,” Slom said.

CGI is the same company that built the troubled Healthcare.gov web site. The Obama administration ended its contract with CGI in January after the website failed to function properly upon its Oct. 1 launch.

Senators also learned during the briefing the federal government has no plans to extend additional funding grants to the Hawaii Health Connector, placing the burden on Hawaii taxpayers to make up additional costs to operate the Connector. Hawaii’s exchange must be self-sufficient by 2015.

Lawmakers are considering a number of options, including having the state take over the exchange, a plan advocated by the House majority leadership.

That could total between $15 million and $24 million a year, Senate President Donna Mercado Kim told Watchdog.org, when she detailed her opposition to a proposal for Hawaii to take over the exchange.

Lawmakers may also add a fee for all of Hawaii’s insurance providers to every plan sold, even if those providers don’t participate in the exchange.

Matsuda said the Connector is revamping its strategy to become more like the “Kayak model,” referring to the online travel booking website, in hopes it will make signing up for the exchange easier.

Matsuda didn’t return a call from Watchdog.org on Friday seeking comment.

Before its launch Oct. 1 Gov. Neil Abercrombie predicted “hundreds of thousands of people” in Hawaii would register for Obamacare. Hawaii has the nation’s lowest enrollment numbers, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report said last month.

Slom’s inquiry comes just two days before the fourth anniversary of the passage of the ACA on March 23, 2010.

 

Categories: In the News

Hawaii lawmakers lament defense cuts in Asia-Pacific theater

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 14:58

KEEPING US SAFE: The U.S. Army’s presence in Hawaii ensures security throughout the Pacific region, lawmakers say

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN -  HONOLULU – It’s a lot of bad news, says one Hawaii Democrat.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, says planned Department of Defense cuts to the state’s military budget are going to hurt.

Beginning Oct. 1, Hawaii expected $449.5 million for a series of construction projects, including several on the Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, Oahu. That allocation was sliced by more than half.

“We are looking at the possibility of significant cuts to defense spending, including losing almost half of our anticipated military construction, $128.3 million in projects from Marine Corps Base Hawaii alone. Other projects have been excluded as well, including funding for the Saddle Road that the people of the Big Island have been waiting for years to finish, and important projects like Pacific Missile Range Facility,” Hanabusa said.

The reductions conflict with what President Obama said in Australia in 2011. He announced he would refocus the nation’s security on the Asia-Pacific region and boost troops and resources in Hawaii and Australia. The realignment was planned in part to counter China’s military expansion, North Korea’s missile development, violent extremism in the Philippines and piracy in the region.

“Our enduring interests in the region demand our enduring presence in this region. The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” Obama told the Australian Parliament in 2011.

“As we end today’s wars, I have directed my national security team to make our presence and missions in the Asia-Pacific a top priority. As a result, reductions in U.S. defense spending will not — I repeat, will not— come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific,” Obama said.

Hanabusa said, “At a time when Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, has stated that the he already cannot meet the demands of the Pacific with the existing fleet, the proposal to mothball 11 cruisers will only exacerbate the existing shortfalls in the Navy.”

State Rep. Mark Takai, a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, said he is “shocked and stunned” by the drastic cuts to the defense construction budget for the military.

The March 4 reductions eliminate a $104.5 million Marine operations center, a $65.4 million bachelor-enlisted quarters and $62.9 million project to upgrade an airfield electrical system, among other projects.

“Our military bases are in desperate need of upgrades to accommodate this new focus,” said Takai, a Democrat. “This is not the time to eliminate these military construction projects for Hawaii as the Asia-Pacific Region becomes the priority.”

The effects of these cuts, which also include $15 million to complete the Saddle Road on Hawaii Island — affecting the main thoroughfare for military vehicles — and funding for a Maui Space Surveillance Complex and Maui High Performance Computing Center will be felt throughout the state and are inconsistent with our national defense strategies, the lawmakers say.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a March 4 news conference the Obama administration’s plans to reduce the U.S. Army to its smallest size since before World War II, from 570,000 soldiers to 440,000, and make other substantial cuts to all branches of the military, including base closures in 2017.

The U.S. military has more than 108,000 troops and dependents in Hawaii, according to data from 2012. That includes two Army posts and the Tripler Army Medical Center, two Air Force bases, two Coast Guard and three Navy stations, and a Marine Corps base.

“At this point, my priority is to work to restore funding through the National Defense Authorization Act, through my position on the House Armed Services Committee. I’m submitting a number of budget requests and will work with my colleagues on HASC to ensure that Hawaii gets the funding it needs and deserves,” Hanabusa said.

Military spending is one of Hawaii’s top economic drivers, and economists speculate the planned cuts will have additional impact.

The state Council on Revenues already revised Hawaii’s economic growth forecast downward in recent days—  from 3.3 percent growth to 0 percent growth — creating a $460 million negative impact to the state budget, according to Kalbert Young, director of the state Office of Budget and Finance.

Still, he’s taking a more positive approach to the news.

“Considering the geographic position of Hawaii and the strategic advantage the U.S, Department of Defense has previously recognized about Hawaii, I am still optimistic that the allocation of military spending to Hawaii against other military spending areas will still be a significantly positive and beneficial contributor of Hawaii’s overall economy.”

Takai said the Legislature will do what it can to stop the plan from moving forward.

“We will work together with our congressional delegation, the Military Affairs Council and my colleagues in the Legislature to do whatever we can to ensure that we support our military and it’s efforts to carry out the mandates of the new rebalance to the Pacific,” Takai said.

Reach Malia Zimmerman at Malia@hawaiireporter.com

Categories: In the News

Hawaii human services director to return

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 15:09
The director of Hawaii's Department of Human Services who resigned recently is returning to the job.
Categories: In the News

Patricia McManaman to Return as Director of the Department of Human Services

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 12:18

Patricia McManaman

REPORT FROM OFFICE OF THE GOV. - HONOLULU – Gov. Neil Abercrombie is welcoming the return of Patricia McManaman as director of the Department of Human Services (DHS), effective Monday, following a short leave of absence.

“I’m happy to see Pat back in a position to build on the solid foundation she has built in the department,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “Mahalo to Deputy Director Barbara Yamashita for stepping up and taking on additional duties to sustain the great work of DHS during Pat’s absence.”

McManaman has served under the Abercrombie Administration since its inception in December 2010. She led the department during a difficult time due to the economic recession, when programs and funding were scaled down. Her leadership and innovation helped drive through these difficult times, and her passion and commitment moved the department forward as it improved services and expanded programs.

Prior to her directorship position, McManaman practiced law in Hawaii for more than 30 years, holding a variety of public interest legal positions. She also served as a per diem judge in the District Court and Family Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii for 17 years.

McManaman has received a variety of awards and recognition for her leadership in social and public health issues.

Categories: In the News

Hawaii House advances $12.1 billion state budget

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 17:46
The Hawaii House has approved a $12.1 billion state budget for the next fiscal year, meeting a legislative deadline to pass a budget bill on to the Senate.
Categories: In the News

Waitlist Patients Burden Hawaii Hospitals

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 13:24

Wahiawa General Hospital

HONOLULU — Hawaii's waitlisted patients—that is, those remaining in a hospital after the need for acute care ceases—account for an annual loss of $62.7 million, according to discharge data analyzed by the Hawaii Health Information Corporation (HHIC), the state’s premier healthcare data collector and analyzer.

Waitlist patients can be characterized as needing treatment, but not at the severity that requires inpatient acute care.  They continue to stay in a hospital largely because there is no available funding for community placement options that provide the necessary treatments.

The analysis covers a period from 2006 through 2011 and reveals a trend: waitlists were a continuing problem and there was a lack of community resources to address this, at least during the period.

Key barriers to community placement of waitlisted patients include insufficient higher staffing mix in nursing homes and other placement alternatives to meet the complex needs of these individuals; a lack of specialty equipment to provide appropriate care; the cost of multiple or high-cost antibiotics, and lack of community-based resources to support the mentally ill.

In 2011, the 7,055 patients who were discharged after being waitlisted represented an 11 percent increase from 2006. That year, hospitals reported an annual loss of $55.4 million or $8,749 per waitlisted patient.  Over the succeeding five years, the average annual loss has been $64.6 million, with the largest loss, $72.7 million, reported in 2008.

Statewide, HHIC found that between seven and eight percent of those admitted to hospitals were waitlisted for discharge, with the average patient’s age being 70 years.  Government payers represented four of every five waitlisted patients (5,777), with Medicare the primary payer for two in every three (4,619).  In 2011, government-funded waitlisted patients accounted for $51.4 million or 82 percent of the annual loss.

In 2012, the Governor’s Office, the Healthcare Association of Hawaii and the State Department of Human Services collaborated on legislation, which passed, to address uncompensated care costs of Hawaii’s hospitals and nursing facilities; it was extended in 2013, but a reimbursement gap continues. Both the hospital and nursing facility sustainability initiatives utilize a federal matching fee program which recognizes revenues lost through Medicaid services.

“What we found is that ultimately, hospitals bear the cost of waitlisted patients,” said Peter Sybinsky, Ph.D., president and CEO of HHIC.  “Until more funded community-based treatment alternatives are available, the data indicates we will continue to see unnecessary and inefficient use of Hawaii’s most expensive healthcare resources.”

Findings are based on data collected from all acute care hospitals across the state, except Tripler Army Medical Center.  The report was funded by Hawaii Medical Service Association, Kaiser-Permanente, AlohaCare, Ohana Healthcare and United Healthcare, in order to provide a clear description of Hawaii’s waitlist population and estimate the financial impact on Hawaii’s hospitals.

Established in 1994, HHIC maintains one of the largest comprehensive health care databases in the state, comprised of local and national inpatient, emergency department, ambulatory care,  financial data and other data. The research and data compiled are analyzed and disseminated statewide and are used to help shape healthcare policy and educate decision makers, health care providers and industry experts. Through HHIC Knowledge Nuggets, the organization seeks to inform the public about important healthcare topics. For more information, visit www.hhic.org.

Categories: In the News

March 27th Luncheon Panel Program: Mid-term Legislative Report

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 13:01

March 27th Luncheon Panel Program

Downtown Forum - Mid-term Legislative Report

ThinkTech Hawaii will present our 2014 Legislative Mid-term Report featuring Bob Toyofuku of Hawaii Advocates as moderator with a panel of leading state finance officials at the Downtown Laniakea YWCA on Thursday, March 27th from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm.

The panel members are as follows:

  • Sen. David Ige - Chair, Senate Ways and Means Committee
  • Rep. Sylvia Luke - Chair, House Finance Committee
  • Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson - House Minority Leader; Co-Vice Chair, House Finance Committee
  • Kalbert Young - State Budget and Finance Director

Flash: Just when we thought the state had a $844 million surplus, the Council on Revenues projected zero growth for this year, leaving the state with $478 million less to spend next fiscal year.

How much do we really have and how are we going to spend it, or not? What effect will our current $40 billion of unfunded liabilities have on all this?

So all is not necessarily rosy going forward. Surely this picture will not be lost on a legislature that was concerned about spending the $844 million in the first place. What can we do to improve our fiscal health?

Now, in an election year, what are the real priorities that are going to determine the state's expenditures in the final result of the 2014 Legislature?

Categories: In the News

No growth in revenue predicted for state

Tue, 03/11/2014 - 16:35
The state Council on Revenues on Tuesday predicted zero revenue growth for this fiscal year and reduced the growth projection for next fiscal year, a significantly downgraded forecast that could handcuff state lawmakers as they draft revisions to the state budget.
Categories: In the News

Hawaii lawmakers want private providers to subsidize Obamacare exchange

Tue, 03/11/2014 - 12:34

Hawaii Health Connector sign ups still under one percent of Hawaii’s population.

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN - HONOLULU — Lawmakers scrambling to keep the Hawaii Health Connector solvent are proposing a fee for private insurers who decline to take part in the local Obamacare exchange.

At least three of five private medical insurance providers, the state's smaller insurance companies, have opted not to participate in the exchange during the first year. Insurance giants Kaiser Permanente and HMSA are part of the network.

"That's not fair, of course," said Rep. Bob McDermott, a member of the House health committee who voted against the proposal, House Bill 2529.

Adding a fee, he said, is a "blatant money grab" and would ultimately be passed on to the consumer.

"Everything we do here at the Capitol is a money grab," McDermott said. "This whole Obamacare exchange is a disaster. What a mess."

Supporters of House Bill 2529 say the proposed 2 percent fee is fair and the money is needed to ensure the exchange survives.

The Hawaii Health Connector received $204 million from the federal government to set up the exchange through 2014, and it's supposed to be self-sustaining by 2015.

Because enrollment is so low the state is looking at other ways to subsidize the failed exchange, including state subsidies and additional fees on medical insurance providers.

The House leadership estimates the state needs $15 million to operate the exchange per year beginning in 2015; Senate President Donna Mercado Kim believes the figure is more in the $18 million to $24 million range. About half of the $204 million has been spent or allocated, exchange officials told lawmakers in a recent hearing.

Before its launch Oct. 1 Gov. Neil Abercrombie predicted “hundreds of thousands of people” in Hawaii would register for Obamacare. Hawaii has the nation's lowest enrollment numbers, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report said last month.

The report says 4,467, people have signed up, but that number could be even lower because it's not clear whether those people have paid for their insurance. The plan relies on a 2 percent sign-up fee from each medical insurance plan, but that hinges on as many as 300,000 people signing up.

Abercrombie has expressed support for Universal Healthcare.

"The Connector and state legislators are currently discussing sustainability options," he said in a statement. "A single-payer system is one of several options in achieving universal health care coverage, which is the ultimate goal. We will pursue resolving issues with the Connector and its mission of insuring people without coverage in a timely way."

Kim opposes a state takeover and points to the exorbitant cost for each Obamacare enrollee to taxpayers — $45,668.

Hawaii, Kim said, has had a successful health-care system since 1976, the Prepaid Healthcare Act, which requires business owners to offer insurance to employees who work more than 20 hours per week.

McDermott said Hawaii's congressional delegation led him to believe it would get an exemption because the state law already requires businesses to pay for employee health care, and low-income residents benefit from subsidies. He said fellow lawmakers have told him Hawaii missed the deadline to register for the exemption and, in two years — after setting up the network and spending the millions of dollars the federal government allocated to the local exchange — Hawaii will apply for an exemption from the law.

"What a waste of $204 million," McDermott said.

In addition to the cost per person, Kim has been critical of Montreal-based CGI Group Inc, which created Hawaii’s portal. The company got $53 million for the site, which for more than two weeks failed to work after it launched Oct. 1.

The site relaunched Oct. 15, but ongoing complaints include cumbersome technology, frequent crashes after forms are filled out and submitted, confusion over plan pricing and scrambled information transmitted to the health-care providers.

Reach Malia Zimmerman at Malia@hawaiireporter.com

Categories: In the News

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