Archive for February, 2010

A long, taxing night

February 24th, 2010

^^House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro (Screencap from

House lawmakers met late into the evening to decide on various tax proposals all aimed at closing the state’s $1.23 billion budget gap.

All of the tax bills were on Agenda #6, scheduled for 5 p.m. in the Finance Committee. (The agenda wasn’t taken up until about 9:45 p.m.)

The most prominent measure advanced by the committee was House Bill 2598, the proposal to scoop the Transient Accommodations Tax from the counties.

Rather than scoop the full amount — estimated at $100 million for the upcoming fiscal year — the committee amended the bill to instead temporarily cap the amount of TAT money going to the counties at the current level of $94.3 million a year. The state would get any revenue above that amount and the cap would be in place for the next five fiscal years, starting July 1.

Mayors and other county executives had lobbied hard against the total TAT scoop, saying  the loss of the those funds would lead to larger budget deficits on their ends, forcing them to look at increases in property taxes. A similar measure advanced last year but ultimately stalled, leaving the TAT money in place.

The committee deferred HB 2876, which would have temporarily increase the general excise tax and use tax rates by one percentage point to 5 percent.

Also deferred was HB 2880, which would have temporarily increased the “wholesale” rates under the general excise, use, and public service company taxes to one per cent from one-half per cent.

Lawmakers were working late into the night ahead of Friday’s decking deadline to have bills in their final form for final reading before sending them to the Senate for further vetting.

Duckworth Declines

February 23rd, 2010

duckworth_huffpoAP Photo

It appears that McKinley High School and University of Hawaii graduate Tammy Duckworth won’t be seeking political office in Illinois this year.

According to the Associated Press, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says the Iraq war veteran told him today she does not want to be considered as his running mate in the state’s gubernatorial race.

Duckworth last year was nominated by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed as assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington. She previously served as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

Duckworth was deployed to Iraq in 2004 as a member of the Illinois State National Guard. A helicopter pilot, she lost both her legs and partial use of one arm in a rocket-propelled grenade attack that year. She lost a run for Congress in 2006.

State of the City 2010

February 22nd, 2010


Mayor Mufi Hannemann delivered his sixth state of the city address tonight on the grounds of the Fasi Civic Center on the Diamond Head side of the Mission Memorial Buiding.

View the complete text of the mayor’s remarks here.

Tweets of Fire

February 19th, 2010


As the social media universe expands, many lawmakers have discovered the usefulness of using Twitter to get their thoughts (of 140 characters or less) out to the masses unfiltered.

One of the most candid Tweeters — and arguably, one of the more informative — is Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran (D, Kahului-Paia). @gilkeithagaran on Twitter (but his tweets are protected.)

He may have scored a first in Thursday’s House floor session — during a debate on House Bill 2169, the unemployment insurance tax bill — by tweeting a message that prompted a response on the floor from GOP Rep. Gene Ward (R, Kalama Valley-Hawaii Kai).

The legislation is aimed at lessening the increase employers are expected to pay in unemployment insurance taxes. Republicans argued the bill raises rates too quickly and that a proposal by Gov. Linda Lingle would provide a “softer landing” for businesses by implementing a more gradual rise in the tax rate.

Keith-Agaran tweeted:


Reading from his mobile device (a BlackBerry, I think) Ward rose on a point of personal privilege to refute the offending tweet, saying the information that was being disseminated electronically was not true. (Although he is on Twitter, @repward, he did not tweet from the floor.)

The House then undertook a procedural motion on a bill to allow flag poles to be erected in planned communities, leading to more heated arguments between Democrats and Republicans and this final tweet from Keith-Agaran:


And this from Rep. Marilyn Lee (@marilynblee):


Later, in an interview, Ward said his misgivings focused on what was tweeted during the unemployment insurance debate:

“I was offended by one of the members of the opposite side texting that we were arguing that we were trying to cut benefits. We never suggested lowering benefits. I know there’s not a precedent of having technology as a point of personal privilege, but … these are lies being propagated out there about things we didn’t say. You can’t start texting immediately — even though the technology is there — things that are untrue.”

We asked Keith-Agaran about the reaction to his tweeting. He had this to say and, of course, it was tweeted, so read from the bottom up:


In response to our query, House Communications Director Georgette Deemer (a prolific tweeter herself) ran it by Majority Leader Blake Oshiro as to whether any ground rules would be needed in the Twitter age.

From an e-mail: “The majority leader said that he may remind members of the need to be accurate and respectful of the debate when tweeting, however the act of tweeting itself during a floor debate is not a violation or an impropriety that needs to be addressed.  Had the tweet comment been disorderly or a violation of the Standards of Conduct Rule, then it would become an issue, but that was not the case yesterday.”

How Much for Breakfast with Karl & Duke?

February 17th, 2010

Karl Rove the former senior adviser to President George W. Bush is in town next week to speak to the local GOP’s annual Lincoln Day fund-raiser on Feb. 26.
For that event, Hawaii Republicans are charging $125 for dinner and a chance to listen to Rove’s speech.
But, if you want up close and personal with the Fox News contributor and Wall Street Journal columnist, Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona is offering you breakfast with Karl.
For $2,500 you can have breakfast on Feb. 27 at the Outrigger Canoe Club with Karl Rove, who according to a campaign solicitation, will give you a private briefing, a copy of his new book and a chance to get your picture taken with him.
Presumably for $2,500, you will also gets seconds on bacon.

The Politics of Paradise (Part II)

February 10th, 2010

It was previously noted here how even some Republicans were a bit worried about a perception problem for the party when the Republican National Committee held its national convention in Hawaii last month.

We expected the national media to converge on Hawaii. The event didn’t escape the watchful eye of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, either. Check out their send-up of the meeting on Tuesday night’s show:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
RNC Meeting in Hawaii
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

And here, from Thursday’s show, John Oliver’s follow-up to the initial RNC report:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Apparent Trap
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

Art Under Fire

February 9th, 2010


Artists and art aficionados may be feeling the heat as lawmakers look for more creative ways to close state and county budget gaps.

At both the state and county levels, proposals introduced last year that would repeal requirements to put public money toward art in public buildings are being given another look.

Speaker Calvin Say introduced a measure in the House that would suspend, until June 30, 2011, the transfer of one percent of all capital improvement project appropriations to the Works of Art Special Fund. House Bill 1224 stalled in committee last year, but remains alive and could be brought back as part of Say’s package this year.**

In the City Council, Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia plans to take another look at a bill that was tabled last year that would repeal the requirement that one percent of funding for the construction of city buildings be used for the acquisition of works of art.

Bill 09-35 is to be heard in the Budget Committee tomorrow (Feb. 10).

Supporters of the arts turned out last year to oppose the measure.

Michael Pili Pang, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Culture and the Arts, plans to be there again this year to testify against the measure.

“It’s more than just art in a building,” Pang says. “We have a whole philosophy and a belief that art will help stimulate the economy. Artists contribute to the economy — they contribute to the quality of life for the community — so we’re not too happy with this particular bill.”

Garcia says he brought the bill back for two reasons.

One, is to have the discussion with fellow council members on the notion of “fiscal prudence,” noting that even though the money for the art is from bonds used for construction projects, that is still borrowed money that must be paid back.

Secondly, Garcia says he is interested in pursuing a cooperative relationship with the arts community as the city moves forward on contsruction projects, particularly the 21 rail transit stations.

“What I want to see is artists working with the Department of Transportation Services, and the consultants, and see if they can incorprate art into the actual design of the stations,” Garcia says. “Instead of just buying a statue, why don’t we do something else with the money and still have artists employed and have artists engaged in the design of these 21 stations we’re hoping to build.”

If you’re interested in seeing how the discussion goes, the Budget Committee hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m., tomorrow in the council’s second floor hearing room at Honolulu Hale. The proceedings also are broadcast live on Olelo, channel 54.


**Update, 2/10/2010: Ronald Yamakawa, executive director of the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, responded that Say’s proposal would “devastate” the Art in Public Places Program and the Hawaii State Art Museum.

“Hundreds of thousands of residents and millions of visitors have used and enjoyed these programs over the years. The one-percent law, almost 50 years old, established Hawaii as a national leader among states and cities in beautifying the built environment, extending arts appreciation and education to all citizens and supporting artists and art and culture organizations. The present financial crisis will pass in time, but it may be impossible to undo the damage if this proposal becomes law.”

Tokuda Out

February 9th, 2010

UPDATE: Feb. 11: Sen. Tokuda tweeted this message at 5:03 p.m. today:




Senate President Colleen Hanabusa yesterday announced that Sen. Jill Tokuda will be out of the legislative session for an indefinite period. Sen. Russell Kokubun will assume her duties as chairman of the Senate Higher Education committee, Hanabusa said.

Tokuda is expecting her second child. A senate spokesman would not say if her absence is due to her pregnancy.

Young Gun

February 8th, 2010

We previously posted about how the national campaign committees have been keeping an eye on the race for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.

Today brought another salvo.

The National Republican Campaign Committee announced that Charles Djou had reached ‘Contender’ status as part of its Young Guns recruitment program. ‘Contender’ status is the second step in the three-level program, with Djou now facing a new set of benchmarks to reach ‘Young Gun’ status in his bid for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.

More on the Young Guns program here.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fired back with a statement from Andy Stone, Western Regional Press Secretary for the DCCC:

“Given how closely Charles Djou’s anti-middle class agenda mirrors that of national Republicans, it’s no surprise that the NRCC has Djou on their Young Guns list.”

Djou is the only Republican who has declared his intent to seek the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie at the end of the month. Democrats in the race are former U.S. Rep. Ed Case and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa.

California Stumping

February 3rd, 2010


With the race for Congress in full swing, at least one candidate is casting a line to the mainland looking for support.

And she’s taking advantage of the endorsement from U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, too.

We received word from a source in Sacramento about this event for Colleen Hanabusa being sponsored by the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce of Northern California:

Aloha HCCNC Ohana
We are pleased to share with you that a special event has been organized by colleagues and friends from Hawaii in San Francisco on Friday, February 19, 2010 – 6:00 – 8:00 PM

The Event will be a meet and greet of Coleen Hanabusa as she makes her bid for Congress for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.

Special Guest – Senator Daniel Inouye

575 Mission Street-Atrium
(next to Roy’s Restaurant)
San Francisco

Suggested Donation: $150

R.S.V.P. to
or for more information please contact:
Cameron Nekota at
or 808-678-1626


Elsewhere in the race for the 1st Congressional District, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee continues to call out GOP challenger Charles Djou. See the AP story here.