February 14, 2009

Civil Unions = veto bait?

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 11:50 am

Maybe it’s out there somewhere, but I have not seen any news reports with Governor Lingle’s reaction to the Civil Unions bill that recently passed the House 33-17. The Advertiser and Star-Bulletin stories after the House vote both mentioned the uncertain fate of the bill in the Senate, but then stop there. A Google search found a quote from Governor Lingle’s senior policy adviser, Linda Smith, saying that Lingle takes no position.

According to the committee report, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor testified in opposition to the bill. I have requested copies of all the testimony, but I don’t see any government agencies (other than the LG) on the list of testifiers. Their absence is odd, as it is clear that CUs would have effects on a wide range of state functions. Of course, the Governor’s Office policy is to require prior approval of all “official” testimony from the executive branch, and if the Governor is unwilling to take a position on CUs, then this probably explains their collective silence.

33 House votes are not enough to override a veto. The Advertiser mentions that Representative Takai (who is on military leave) did not vote but supports the bill. I’m not sure why they mention that, since Takai would need to be present to participate in any (potential) veto override vote. Maybe Takai has a brief period of liberty scheduled this summer when he could attend? I dunno.

The Senate, if the speculation in the media is true, probably does not have a 2/3 majority in favor of the bill, even though Democrats comprise 92% of the chamber. The lack of a Senate supermajority is not that surprising, given that 13 House Democrats have already voted no.

If Governor Lingle signals her intentions regarding Civil Unions (in either direction), it would provide cynical uncertain legislators an opportunity to chose a more politically advantageous position. Which is likely to be the main reason why the Governor remains silent.

February 7, 2009

Jon Riki vs. C-3PO’s evil cousin

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 11:20 am

Just when I had thought that perhaps his blog had hit a plateau in its, well, slowly-escalating oddity, there comes this new post at Representative Karamatsu’s blog. Wow. A tour de force in bizarro rambling! Now, a post like that is less amusing coming from the Chair(!) of the Judiciary Committee than if it were from some random powerless “everyman,” but it still cracks me up.

Now, the fun part. Which male “elected leader” is 5P8C , and what is the issue at stake? Karamatsu says this all went down on Thursday, which is the same day his “Juiciary” committee passed out the Civil Unions bill. Karamatsu’s post mentions that this was his first meeting with 5P8C, which would make him most likely to be a freshman legislator.

So, which is a line from the Star Wars scripts, and which is from a political blog?

Choice A:

Only destiny will reveal 5P8C’s superior counterpart. I have learned that there will always be someone stronger, smarter, and better than you no matter what you think. If you fight negative energy with negative energy, sooner or later you will lose.

Choice B:

A: Your thoughts betray you, Father. I feel the good in you, the conflict.
B: There is no conflict.
A: You couldn’t bring yourself to kill me before and I don’t believe you’ll destroy me now.
B: You underestimate the power of the Dark Side. If you will not fight, then you will meet your destiny.

I reckon this is what happens when too many people have those silly iPhone lightsabers! I don’t even have a cell phone. Sigh.

UPDATE: 5P8C is indeed Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, according to a new blog post by Derrick DePledge.

Legislators continue to bemoan an unpleasant legislative task

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 11:20 am

Recent stories (Advertiser and S-B) about the Governor asking legislators (via the media, instead of face-to-face) to delay the budget process until March make the Governor sound like an undergrad begging for an extension on her term paper revision, but I don’t think that’s what is really going on. It seems, to me, more like the Lege trying to avoid its responsibilities.

According to the legislative history, Governor Lingle’s executive budget (HB 200) was introduced on her behalf by Speaker Say on January 23rd. The website provides a PDF link that contains Lingle’s budget bill as submitted. So, [other than submitting most of her budget in landscape(!) orientation] what’s the problem, exactly?

Is her draft of the budget based on an outdated set of revenue projections? Hard for me to know for certain, but I’m 99% sure it is. However, that is the case every year, as the budget is submitted in late January and a new COR forecast is released every March.

It’s pretty clear (and understandable, from a cynical perspective) that neither the Governor nor the Lege is very eager to march at the front of the budget cut parade. However, the Governor has fulfilled her obligation to submit a budget for consideration. The House and Senate fiscal committees would like the Governor to submit another draft, showing where she would make even deeper cuts? I’m sure they would, and I’d love for the Governor (or anyone) to give me a spiffy new motorcycle, but none of that is likely to happen.

It’s time for the Lege to take its bite of the (bitter) apple. In years of increasing revenue forecasts you don’t hear legislators grumbling for revised input from the Governor about how to amend the budget. Well, that same policy should work just fine in the down years, too…

February 4, 2009

The debate over the GET surcharge

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics,Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 7:36 pm

Mayor Hannemann and State leaders are engaged in a struggle about a possible change that would see the State receive the proceeds of the 0.5% Honolulu County GET surcharge. David Shapiro has an interesting column and a blog posting on the topic.

The transit tax was levied by the City Council, not the Legislature, and the money belongs to the city.

Can the state legally transfer a city tax raised for a dedicated purpose to the state general fund for another purpose? The state Supreme Court struck down the Legislature’s transfer of insurance assessments to the general fund.

Legally? I’d say “yes.” This would be quite a different matter from the insurance and E-911 moneys being moved to the general fund. For starters, the GET (including the surcharge) is already state money and sits in the general fund until the surcharge is disbursed quarterly to the County. It is only after the State hands over (some) of the surcharge that the “dedicated purpose” is specified, and the law only says that the County has to use the surcharge funds for a specified purpose. So, it would appear to (non-lawyer) me that if the County didn’t receive any of the surcharge, that point would be moot. Furthermore, the equal protection claims described in the recent HSC ruling don’t appear applicable to a GET surcharge levied across the entire Honolulu County economy.

The bigger issue is fairness. If a tax paid by O’ahu residents only is siphoned by the state, Oahuans would effectively be taxed at a rate of 4.5 percent for the same state services that residents of other counties get for a tax rate of 4 percent.

Talk about inviting a tax-discrimination lawsuit by unhappy O’ahu taxpayers — not to mention a political backlash against O’ahu lawmakers who let their constituents bear a disproportionate burden in balancing the state budget.

On the other hand, neighbor island voters (and legislators) would quietly smile. The question then becomes one of if there would be enough neighbor island legislators and (revenue-desperate) Oahu legislators to make a majority. Remember, many districts of Oahu did not vote for the transit question on the November ballot, so the “political backlash” calculus is not as straightforward as Shapiro may think. When it comes right down to it, the Oahu taxpayers would not see any overt immediate difference; the GET on Oahu would not change, and the non-existent rail system would remain non-existent.

The comments at the column and blog post are also worth a look, which is where readers and Shapiro speculate that a “temporary” GET increase will be applied statewide. All legislators would need is a bill with a usable title… Oh, wait, that’s a bill sponsored by a few House Republicans and dissident Democrats? Even better. Heh.

Were the State to “withhold” the Honolulu GET surcharge instead of a enacting statewide GET increase, then I would not be entirely surprised if the the Honolulu Council were to threaten to repeal its surcharge in retaliation. That would seriously raise the ante in this spat, though, and (since the Council would need approval from the Lege to ever re-instate a GET surcharge) I don’t think the County would be so bold.

February 1, 2009

Dissident Democrats seek to clean House

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 1:23 pm

I haven’t even touched the Senate Bills, but I did survey the list of bills introduced in the House. Many of the bills will never even be heard in committee, and most of them will never become law, but it’s still a fun list to browse—if you’re wonky.

Anyway, I thought I’d point out HB 186 which was introduced by Representative Saiki. It proposes a Constitutional Amendment to limit legislators’ terms to 20 years in the House and 20 years in the Senate. Saiki won his House seat in 1994. Saiki and other dissident House democrats have tried several times in recent years to unseat Speaker Say (first elected in 1976). Representative Chris Lee (a true freshman) would appear to have joined Saiki among the dissident Democrats, since he was not “awarded” (read “burdened with”) the typical vice-chairmanship of a committee that is foisted upon junior legislators who support the Speaker. Chris Lee introduced HB 973, a bill substantially the same as Saiki’s.

Not to be outdone, however, and still smarting from the defeat of the ConCon ballot question in November, Representative Belatti (elected in 2006) introduced HB 364 which proposes to amend the Hawaii Constitution to limit legislators to only 12 years in each chamber. Unsurprisingly, Saiki did not sign on as an introducer of Belatti’s bill, haha.

So, in the unlikely event that either of these measures were heard, passed and ratified, there would indeed be significant turnover in the Lege. Reps Chang, Marumoto, (Speaker) Say, (Speaker Emeritus) Souki and Thielen would be term-limited out in 2010 if a 20 year limit were ratified. (No Senators would fall to a 20 year limit.) In addition to the aforementioned old-timers, Reps Herkes, Ito, Marilyn Lee, Luke, Morita, Marcus Oshiro, Saiki, Takai, Takumi and Ward would be pau in 2010 should a 12 year limit be ratified. Senators Baker, Bunda, Chun Oakland, Fukunaga, Ige, Ihara, Sakamoto, and Slom would be gone, too.

The implications for internal leadership struggles, and the likely churning among term-limited members seeking a spot in the opposite chamber would be fascinating.

Don’t hold your breath, though.

January 20, 2009

At long last, orders are being taken for the Cayetano memoir

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 9:26 pm

According to the Watermark Publishing website, former Governor Ben Cayetano’s memoir will be shipped to customers on February 13. Release of this book has only been delayed about two jillion times…

I’ll write a review once I get my copy, but maybe I’ll wait to publish my review until I get my copy of the book signed, haha. The excerpt in Honolulu Magazine way back in December 2006 raises my hopes that it will be worth the long wait.

Oh yeah, and there was a new President inaugurated today, or something. Tomorrow I’m taking a day off of work to attend opening day of the 2009 Legislature. See some old friends, people watch, eat heavy pupu, etc.

January 17, 2009

Draw your own conclusions about gasoline margins, because the data are all redacted

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 10:26 am

I am very disappointed in the Advertiser story (attributed to “Staff”) based upon a Public Utilities Commission report to the Legislature (PDF) written by a consulting firm.

The report produced for the Hawai’i Public Utilities Commission was mandated in 2006 as legislators moved away from a controversial eight-month-long gas price control program that resulted in pricing abnormalities and volatility.

Okay, that much I can agree with. From there, though, the consultant’s report (and the Advertiser’s coverage of it) plummets off the credibility cliff. As I have lamented many times in the past, the PUC placed a protective order over the information submitted by the refiners. As a result, there is so much secrecy that it’s impossible to judge the veracity of any so-called “conclusions” drawn from data that are not subject to public/peer review.

Indeed, the report even condescends to include passages such as:

It is very easy to come to incorrect conclusions without understanding all the factors around any numbers presented. The amount of information provided is extensive, and can easily be misrepresented, or misinterpreted without great care to insure that all price and volume information are properly compared, aggregated, and analyzed.

“So, we will not tell you any of it, simply to protect yourself from your own ignorance. You’re welcome.”

The article, unfortunately, does not mention that nearly every substantive part of the report is redacted to omit the key (confidential) data. Instead we see a list of bullet points in the article, each reported at face value without comment. Sure, if the story is about the report, then the story is accurate to the extent that the report does indeed include those points. But you’d think claims like this would be worth a bit of explanation, or at least investigation:

The monitoring system “still has some data and category issues to resolve, but it appears that the reporting and visibility of petroleum market information to the commission (PUC) has provided a transparency and watchdog role that was absent in the past,” the report said.

Yes, PIMAR has provided “a” transparency and watchdog role that was absent,” but PIMAR has not yet provided true transparency for gasoline consumers.

“There do not appear to be any aberrant pricing activities by any of the reporting parties.”

An interesting adjective choice. If Hawaii gasoline consumers are consistently being gouged, then continued gouging would not be deviating from the norm.

Hawai’i's refineries operated by Tesoro Corp. and Chevron Corp., had poor profit margins compared to other U.S. refineries. It noted the refiners’ margins had been squeezed by rising crude oil costs and a shrinking market for production as consumers pulled back on purchases.

Again, if only undefined, relative terms like “poor compared to other U.S. refineries” are to be used, and if those profit margins at other U.S. refineries are not revealed, then this bullet point means very little, if anything.

Hawai’i refinery margins for bulk sales of gasoline to suppliers were “competitive” with other markets considering location differences.

Well, at least the scare quotes imply that the term “competitive” is not defined…

Supplier profits on sales to service stations were reasonable in 2006, but have been falling since then.

No scare quotes on the word “reasonable,” even though that term is also undefined.

Seriously, scroll your way through that PDF report and you’ll be struck by how many figures are reduced to empty white space and by how much text (including entire paragraphs in some places, and a few useful words in other places) is redacted. You really need to look at the report to see how much secrecy the public is asked to ignore in order to accept the conclusions on faith. The Advertiser dropped the ball here, big time.

Anybody have access to an un-redacted copy? I want one badly.

January 15, 2009

I feel your pain, Mr. Ray

Filed under: Hawaii Media,Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 9:12 pm

I recommend this post from Don Ray, a new addition to the blogroll, about his ventures into UIPA land. Mr. Ray is one of those rare birds, the paid blogger (on the Grassroot Institute payroll), so he has more time and resources available to vigorously pursue his prey story than many of us. Plus, he has kept good records of how the hunt has unfolded.

As expected, I am being stonewalled to some extent by the Governor’s office, so Don’s post is especially well-timed for me. The Governor’s office is claiming a blanket “executive and attorney-client privilege.” Now for round two, my request for a “privilege log.”

January 11, 2009

House hired less session staff?

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 9:59 am

Buried at the end of Borreca’s Star-Bulletin column today:

Finally, here’s some good news: a veteran legislative worker who is saving money. Patricia Mau-Shimizu, the House Clerk, was told to cut the House budget.

She renegotiated contracts with vendors, cut back on new capital expenses, told House workers to take vacation time if they wanted Christmas [Eve, I hope] and New Year’s Eve off. She decided the state House didn’t need so many workers and just generally sucked it up.

The end result was a 10 percent reduction in the House budget. Total savings: $1.2 million.

So it can be done and without the Enron accounting schemes.

Translation: Savings can easily be made if you’re willing to “find savings” at the expense of the workers. Sorry, make that “at the expense of the non-unionized workers of the House.”

Hey, House insiders, care to explain what this 10% cut meant in terms of hiring? Less money allocated for each office to hire session staff could mean the same number of staff (but with even more modest salaries), or it could simply mean fewer staff were hired. The Lege is not going to have any less work this year than in a non-recession year, so the staff will have to do at least as much work with less pay and/or fewer co-workers. As if session workers were ever known to be slackers. [Well, except for staff working for powerless dissident or Minority legislators. Heh.]

Oh, those pesky details

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 9:57 am

The concluding paragraphs of a Star-Bulletin article have these surprising admissions from the Lingle administration:

Linda Smith, Lingle’s senior policy adviser, said the governor’s planned legislation would call only for the suspension of future pay raises and not include any retroactive cuts.

Hanabusa said Lingle is “privately admitting that calling on the Legislature to give up the recent raise was a mistake” because state executives had two pay raises before the legislators got their January increase.

“She has left the public with the unfair and inaccurate impression that accepting the pay adjustment was somehow self-serving,” Hanabusa said.

Lenny Klompus, Lingle’s senior communications adviser, said that in private meetings with legislators, Lingle said she had not realized that that their pay increase was coming in January.

“She told them she understood it and respected it and would not say anything else about it,” Klompus said.

You can almost picture the gnashing of teeth this detente is causing for Mr. Borreca, who begins the article by writing, “Calls for state legislators, judges and executives to cancel $4 million worth of pay raises appear to be going unanswered.” After a discussion of the legal and constituional issues, there is a resigned lament that, when pressed by Boreca, “Both [Sentoar] Kim and [Senator] Hanabusa say they know the public isn’t interested in the fine points of the legal argument, but they still have to obey the law.”

So, if the Governor is truly not going to press the issue of pay cuts, and the Democrats are not picking up the torch, and the Republican legislators (as ever) don’t matter, then it looks as if the pay raises will stick. For now, at least. Unless continued tub-thumping will drum up a champion for the cause, instead of only martyrs.

January 7, 2009

Who divvies up the forecasted revenues among the branches of government?

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 6:41 pm

I had never really thought of this before, but a Star-Bulletin article has got me wondering.

The S-B reports that the Senate Ways and Means Committee, currently in the middle of the annual “budget briefing” season, is sending the Judiciary and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs back to work on their respective budgets because they did not incorporate any spending cuts to reflect the expected decline in revenue.

I’m pondering a more fundamental question, though: when the Council on Revenues makes a forecast for revenues, is there anything that compels the four entities that submit budget bills to the Lege (i.e. Executive, Legislative, Judiciary, and OHA) to agree on how the forecasted revenues will be allocated among the branches of government? i.e. Just because the COR says revenues will be $X, down Y% from the previous figure, does it automatically follow that each branch of government must lower its budget by (at least) Y%? Here, it looks as if the Judiciary and OHA are saying, “make the necessary cuts in the Executive and Legislative budgets, but leave our budgets alone.” It’s interesting, to me, because it presents obvious separation of powers questions. Ultimately the Legislature controls the budget process, but I could understand the urge for the Judiciary (for example) to stand firm (or even ask for an increased budget) and to see if they could not convince legislators to make up the revenue shortfall by deeper cuts in the “other” budget bills.

So-called “across the board” cuts are often, I’d even go so far as to say usually, a short-sighted method to trim a department budget because worthy programs are cut back just as much as less worthy programs; with both programs then slipping (or slipping further) toward unworthiness. Why should we expect “across the branches of government” cuts to make any more sense?

If the Lege expects the other branches of government to budget with a certain expenditure limit, then do they tell each branch in advance what its limit will be? Or is it as simple (-minded) as “you must each cut your budget Y%?”

January 4, 2009

Senator Hooser turns to dKos for legislative inspiration

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 4:41 pm

After a playful exchange of emails wherein Senator Hooser requested that I return his blog to my blogroll (which I did, since Senator Hooser couldn’t do much worse than the already-blogrolled tripod.com-level introspective blather from Representative Karamatsu and the nearly-devoid-of-legislative-content blog of Representative Shimabukuro), today I notice a recent post from Senator Hooser at DailyKos (one not cross-posted on his own blog, oddly). Hooser is soliciting for ideas for the 2009 legislative session.

Some ideas now on the table include: Allowing the use of unemployment benefits to support obtaining a college degree and/or starting a small business. Mandating fuel efficiency standards for all new cars sold in the state, or at the minimum all new government vehicles. I am looking for others, and thought mining the minds of Kossack policy wonks who might be familiar with progressive initiatives occurring in other area’s, would prove especially fruitful.

So please, send me your best and brightest tangible proposals and I will do what I can to put them into action here in Hawaii. There are only two caveats: The idea must be tangible and specific and it must have no financial implications to the state budget whatsoever (no new taxes and no new expenditures). [emphasis added]


I’m not sure where that second caveat falls on the continuum between “cynicism” and “realsim.” Or, if you like, between “tokenism” and “superficialism.”

Be that as it may, the Kossacks quickly offered up a few suggestions:

  • Alternative Energy
  • Automated Payment Transaction Tax
  • Sentencing Fiscal Cost Forecasting [Note to Senator Hooser: No need to reinvent the wheel here. Just re-start the Hawaii Sentencing Simulation Model that was never allowed to complete its work.]
  • Cool Roofs
  • GET adjustments
  • Health Care Review
  • Hooser deserves some credit for his attempt to engage the internet medium, even if this particular effort is pathetic in its timidity and seems more than a bit, well, self-serving.

    This episode may also be of interest to those attempting to interpret Senator Hooser’s banner ad campaign at the Star-Bulletin…

    January 2, 2009

    Hawaii GOP shuffles some appointees; Djou’s former staff pay the price

    After being tipped off by a Big Island Chronicle post yesterday, today I notice the Hawaii Tribune Herald story that provides details of a shuffle among Republican appointees between Honolulu and Hilo.

    You may recall that Honolulu Councilmember Charles Djou recently and abruptly dismissed three of his office staff.

    [Djou] will keep his secretary, Sylvia Matsuda, and a part-time worker, Sylvia Lorenz. There is also another part-time community liaison for Djou who works outside of Honolulu Hale.

    “[The three fired employees are] good people,” said Lorenz. “Councilman Djou had his reasons and they know what his reasons are.”

    At this point it is becoming easier to deduce those reasons: Dylan Nonaka is clearly being groomed for a larger role in the Hawaii GOP. Lingle’s nomination of Nonaka to become the UH Student-Regent was rejected by the Senate in 2005. The East Hawaii liaison position Nonaka filled for Lingle was a consolation prize, or a graduation present, you might say. For a politically ambitious person, though, Nonaka’s assignment was definitely bush league. Working for Djou, who is clearly a megalomaniac an ambitious politician and (for better or worse) one of the highest-profile Republicans in Hawaii, is a step toward the Majors for Nonaka. Miranda, Nonaka’s replacement in Hilo, may or may not have higher political ambitions, but it’s definitely a promotion for him. The HT-H says Miranda’s former post was “assistant administrator of boards and commissions assistant administrator.” [Sic!] Sounds like a title from The Office…

    This type of patronage machine is (or was) well-oiled on the Democratic Party side, of course. Loyal staff routinely become Democratic appointees (or are hired as lobbyists, heh) or even run for office—and win. The Hawaii Republicans seem to (finally) be getting in on that action. We’ll see if the Republican machine ever translates patronage posts into electoral victories, or if the process stalls at the appointee/staff level.

    State clamps down on (some) commercial activity at Nawiliwili cruise ship arrivals

    Filed under: Hawaii State Politics,Neighbor Island Politics — Doug @ 10:47 am

    The Garden Island News reports on a new policy (put in place January 1st) that prohibits so-called “greeters,” i.e. workers representing commercial interests, from soliciting customers at the harbor where cruise ships arrive.

    Greeters Ephraim Kaleiohi and Paulette Rosa bristled at the notion of a Nawiliwili without traditional greeters in a joint interview Wednesday, the day before the new policy was set to take effect.

    “What they’re taking away is the aloha spirit,” said Kaleiohi, owner of Aloha Discovery Island Tours, noting that the hospitable act of greeting dated back to Capt. James Cook’s 18th-century arrival on Kaua‘i.

    Rosa, a greeter for the free shuttle to Hilo Hattie, said any congestion issues at the harbor were due to security personnel not doing their jobs properly.

    “There’s no leadership down there,” she said, adding that greeters actually help alleviate confusion by directing travelers toward where they want [?] to be.

    “More than just representing the businesses they work for, greeters also provide a wide range of information about the island’s sights and activities,” explained Kmart greeter Steven Maze in a memorandum addressed to Davis Yogi, harbors administrator, and Mike Formby, deputy director of the state Department of Transportation. “Greeters are a part of the unique Hawaiian culture that attracts people to our islands.”

    The State remains unpersuaded.

    [DOT deputy director] Formby replied that for any commerce to take place in the harbor, a set of administrative rules governing policy needs to be in place. Since no rules have been published, he said, no business should be conducted inside the fences.

    The ban will not keep commerce completely at bay. Formby and [Kauai Harbors district manager] Crowell said in phone interviews those tour operators who have pre-arranged customers are still allowed in to pick them up at the ship.


    Formby said he does not want greeters inside the harbor, “yelling and shouting,” to be viewed as solicitors or “hawks.”

    “You’ve already got the driver of the bus,” he said. “Why do you need another person whose purpose is to hold the sign and encourage you to go to that store and buy goods?”

    “Hustling people … has been a no-no from the word go,” Crowell said.

    Wait, which is it? There needs to be rules before any commerce, or some commercial activity is allowed during the rulemaking process while other commerce is forbidden? Leaving aside the merits and demerits of these “greetings,” this adhocracy is unfair and Formby is acting capriciously.

    Some of the greeters’ complaints may be based on economics as much as they are on cultural differences.

    The competition for dwindling tourism dollars from cruise ship visitors — Formby called it a “turf war” and Crowell said between 1,900 and 2,500 visitors arrive by boat each day — may be decided not by the boat-side sales pitch but instead by the advance marketing campaign.

    If that is the case, operators like Polynesian Adventure Tours, a Norwegian Cruise Line subsidiary, could have a distinct inherent advantage over the smaller independent companies like Aloha Discovery Island Tours if activities coordinators on ships steer more customers their way.

    “How can you not have greeting in Hawai‘i?” Kaleiohi asked. “It’s like taking food out of my mouth.”

    Unfortunately for Mr. Kaleiohi, the price of his tours undercut those of the NCL/Polynesian Adventure Tours. Now, take a guess which company is more politically active. NCL has lobbyists, but I don’t see Kaleiohi or Aloha Discovery Island Tours on the lists of represented companies and lobbyists. I didn’t even check the campaign spending records, but my hunch is that NCL is much more loose with the campaign money, too.

    Clearly, there are some parallels with the beach wedding issue I wrote about on November 11*. In both cases, the State is beginning to regulate commerce on State property and facing resistance over the change.

    * That post was part of the “pre-HD-failure” Poinography, but I have a local cache of my blog (minus the comments) that I’m trying to figure out how to include on this re-launched Poinography. Since I only have those old posts in raw html (and not the MySQL database) the internal cross-post linkages are going to be a big challenge, so I may just punt on that aspect of the archive.

    December 31, 2008

    Creating a felony by County ordinance?

    Filed under: Hawaii State Politics,Neighbor Island Politics — Doug @ 9:06 am

    I am curious about this West Hawaii Today article about road rage. I don’t recall this ever being done, and I wonder if it can be done at the County level.

    Council Chairman J Yoshimoto, Hilo, said Monday he plans to work with the Police Department to create an ordinance that would possibly make road rage a felony offense.

    He said he has heard many stories from residents about some motorists becoming enraged on the highway and intimidating other drivers that prompted him to pursue additional penalties for those guilty of such infractions.

    Police Chief Lawrence Mahuna — who will retire on Wednesday — said he recently spoke briefly with Yoshimoto about the subject.

    Mahuna said there is a state law that covers aggressive driving [Really? I could not find one.], which is considered a misdemeanor, but nothing on the books that specifies “road rage.”

    Unfortunately, I have been unable to find the Revised Ordinances of Hawaii County online. Is there such a thing? [META: Is there a County with a more amateurish web presence?! Sheesh.] However, the Honolulu ROs are here, and the relevant Chapter for Honolulu does not spell out specific offenses and penalties (beyond describing where certain speed limits are in effect). Basically, I am under the impression that there is no County-level penal code—in any County. This would make even more sense for felonies, which are punished by imprisonment of more than a year, since the Counties do not have their own prisons, only jails.

    The HRS is somewhat schizophrenic on this matter. First it says the Counties can write “rules of the road” beyond the HRS, but then the next section of the HRS delineates exactly what powers are granted to the Counties.

    Can Hawaii County create a felony by ordinance? I dunno.

    December 30, 2008

    Russian thinks we’ll be an Asian colony by 2010

    Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 10:09 am

    The Wall Street Journal reports that a Russian academic has predicted the United States will meet the same fate as the Former Soviet Union, although not for the same reasons.

    Mr. Panarin posits, in brief, that mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation will trigger a civil war next fall and the collapse of the dollar. Around the end of June 2010, or early July, he says, the U.S. will break into six pieces — with Alaska reverting to Russian control.

    Hawaii, in Panarin’s fantasy, will “go to” either China or Japan. Others have alternative predictions.

    Think Panarin is right? Then bet on it, er, I mean, invest to suit!  [Hat tip to Charley Foster for the inspiration, triggered by a post he wrote way back in March.]

    December 26, 2008

    Money just sitting there, unripe for the taking

    Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 11:20 am

    The Star-Bulletin editorializes today about Governor Lingle’s plans to balance the budget by transferring money from various extra-General Fund accounts into the General Fund. But there is a catch.

    Gov. Linda Lingle’s formula to avoid fiscal shortages would re-purpose $36 million designated for refunding beverage container deposits to consumers and recycling businesses, and another $9 million from cell phone surcharges collected for a network that pinpoints emergency call locations.

    The biggest chunk of money – $40 million to cover expenses for the current fiscal year, and another $35 million for fiscal 2010 – would be drawn from the “rainy-day fund,” a reserve that comes from the state’s share of a tobacco settlement.


    Transferring rainy-day money requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. Lawmakers should go along with the proposal even though it would leave a balance of only $15.7 million.

    The two other transfers, however, present difficulties in view of a Supreme Court ruling [PDF] that says funds designated for specific purposes cannot be used otherwise. Legislators should, if necessary, rewrite the laws that set them up to conform with the ruling and consider abolishing some of them.

    Amending the various laws creating special funds to conform with the ruling is much easier said than done. I am not a lawyer, but I have read the ruling and it would be difficult, maybe even impossible, to “un-ring” the bells that led the Court to rule as it did.

    In a nutshell, the beverage container fund was established by the Lege, but (like the Insurance Regulatory Fund which was the subject of the recent ruling) the actual fees going into the fund are set by the Executive Branch. Meanwhile, the cell phone fund is explicitly defined as not being general fund revenue. Only the Legislature may impose taxes (which the ruling carefully defines and differentiates from user- and regulatory fees). Once fees are collected and deposited into a special fund, the ruling makes it pretty clear that special fund money can’t simply be transferred into the general fund without violating the separation of powers doctrine.

    [The Court] blanch[es] at the State’s basic contention that a user or regulatory fee, if initially assessed as such, can be transferred to a general fund when the same assessment would have been invalid had it been assessed initially with the express understanding that the funds would be transferred to the general fund. If [the Court] adopted such a position, seemingly nothing would bar the legislature from dipping into the fees collected by any state regulatory agency that were deemed to be “in excess of the requuirements of the fund.”

    So, unless the Constitution is amended to retroactively grant taxation powers to the Executive Branch [as if...], I see no legislative way to finesse these transfers in such a way that they could withstand judicial scrutiny. [I could be wrong, of course. If you know of a way, then, please, leave a comment.]

    Prospectively, however, reconstituted special funds could be created and (once deposits are made) become available for transfer if the Lege (instead of the Executive) imposed the various fee structures of these new special funds. The legislative process to make that happen would be extremely tedious, politically volatile and, most importantly, would not help the current budget situation. i.e. The existing special fund balances will remain unavailable for transfer.

    December 23, 2008

    Nominees to fill House District 9 are provided to Lingle

    Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 6:47 pm

    The Hawaii House blog introduces the three Democrats nominated to fill the seat left open upon the death of Representative Nakasone. Do all of these folks already live in District 9, or can they wait until actually selected to establish residence? I dunno. The law says that they must, so I assume the Party would not have nominated these three if they did not. I’m a bit surprised that Holter (County Chair) and Keith-Agaran (BLNR Chair, former Department Head and Deputy) both live in the only district that finds itself in need of an appointment. Dumb luck, I suppose. Not very surprised that those two were nominated, though.

    Filimoe’atu, is probably the long-shot candidate if the only yardstick is name recognition, but being less of a Democratic Party “insider” may actually improve her chances of being appointed since the Governor is unlikely to be keen on naming Holter or Keith-Agaran.

    I have no idea who would have the greatest support among the people of that district, but even that factor could be either a positive or a negative when you consider that the Governor will (or, if you doubt her partisan credentials, would be expected to) appoint the Democrat least likely to win election in 2010.

    I reckon the major (or wannabe) power-brokers are not going to submit written comments to the Governor regarding this matter, but it would be interesting to review whatever comments are submitted. I’ll try to remember to make such a request after the January 9 (?) comment deadline is past.

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