Archive for June, 2011

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June 20th, 2011
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Gov. Neil Abercrombie issued a statement today on his request to 28 members of state boards and commissions that he has asked to resign to give him more flexibility to enact his “A New Day in Hawaii” plan.

Our administration needs to be able to work collaboratively with our boards and commissions to get work done in the public’s best interest. This includes a new approach to maintaining our public housing units so residents can live safely and with dignity; developing a statewide vision for our sporting events and venues; and changing our policies for managing and utilizing our limited resources and land.

As with the Board of Education, it’s important that all boards and commissions have the opportunity to have a fresh start, so they can work in alignment with other state agencies and move quickly on important issues.

My request for individuals to voluntarily resign is not a reflection of their service nor an issue of personalities. The people of Hawaii voted for a change in direction; a New Day. I need the opportunity to move forward with a team dedicated to that proposition.

Battle of the Buildings

June 20th, 2011
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The Department of Accounting and General Services, along with other officials at the state Capitol, are urging building denizens to go green and help the Capitol win a national competition for reducing its energy usage.

Teams from 245 buildings nationwide, including the Capitol, are competing in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s second annual national competition among commercial buildings to save energy and fight climate change.

The winner — the building that reduced its energy use the most — will be recognized in November.

At the Capitol, signs are posted and DAGS workers have been going door-to-door to ask building users to conserve energy through various methods, such as turning off lights, hibernating or shutting down computers when not in use, unplugging personal mobile devices and keeping doors closed.

DAGS officials, with help from EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, are sponsoring a series of informational workshops this week, June 21-23, culminating next week (June 29) with a rally in the Capitol Rotunda featuring Gov. Neil Abercrombie and music by Jive Nene.

The schedule for workshops is listed HERE.

Top five

June 20th, 2011
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The state Ethics Commission posted the spending by organizations lobbying the state Legislature from March through April, which covers the second half of the session.

Here are the top five spenders:

*Hawaii Association for Justice (trial lawyers): $119,424

*American Beverage Association: $90,585

*Altria Client Services (tobacco): $51,925

*Hawaii State Teachers Association: $41,210

*Citizens for a Better Way (casino gambling): $39,093

Review

June 17th, 2011
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Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Thursday appointed the last of seven members to the new Tax Review Commission that will analyze state tax policy and recommend changes, selecting Roy Amemiya and Peter Ho.

The governor had referred to past Tax Review Commission recommendations earlier this year when proposing a pension tax and other tax adjustments. State Sen. David Ige (D, Aiea-Pearl City), the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, has said he wants the new commission to take a comprehensive look at a pension tax.

Here are the seven commission members:
*Amemiya (interim)
*Ho (interim)
*Mitchell Imanaka (interim)
*Randy Iwase (interim)
*Michael McEnerney
*Gregg Taketa
*Darryl Nitta

The interim members are subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

Online taxes

June 16th, 2011
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Hawaii may have backed away from an aggressive plan to collect online taxes on Internet sales, but other states are moving forward.

California lawmakers approved a bill that supporters estimate will generate $200 million a year to help with the state’s budget deficit.

Amazon.com, the nation’s largest online retailer, dropped affiliate marketing programs in Connecticut and Arkansas after those states pursued online taxes. Amazon.com had done the same in Hawaii in 2009 when state lawmakers passed an online tax bill but restored the arrangements after then-Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed the bill.

Endorsement

June 16th, 2011
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U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono has picked up an endorsement in her run for U.S. Senate.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union which represents 18,000 American Airlines flight attendants, today threw its support behind Hirono, citing her support of flight attendants and working families.

Laura Glading, president of the Euless, Texas-based APFA, said in a news release:

“On every issue important to flight attendants and working families, Rep. Hirono is and has been in our corner. From protecting health and safety in the workplace to fighting for U.S. jobs, from health care reform to advocating for working families, Rep. Hirono has been outstanding.

“Like most of America we have struggled in both our work lives and our personal lives during this continuing economic crisis. As a Hawaii State Legislator, Lieutenant Governor and a U.S. Representative, Mazie Hirono has supported the economic well-being of Hawaiians and our nation’s workers and their families.”

Glading praised Hirono as a longtime advocate for Flight Attendants and passenger safety, pointing to her legislation to address Flight Attendant fatigue and support of health and safety protections for the cabin crew that pilots and other workers across the country already enjoy.

APFA bills itself as the nation’s largest independent flight attendant union.

Hirono is running to succeed U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, who plans to retire when his term expires next year. The only other declared candidate is former U.S. Rep. Ed Case.

Suburban

June 15th, 2011
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Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who famously used to campaign in a yellow Checker cab, is now rolling in a new leased Chevy Suburban LTZ from J.N. Chevrolet.

The three-year lease on the blue Infiniti QX56 used by former Gov. Linda Lingle expires this month. Donalyn Dela Cruz, a spokeswoman for Abercrombie, said the Suburban costs $844 a month to lease, down from the $938 a month for the Infiniti.

Dela Cruz said the pearl-colored Suburban, which gets 15 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway, is widely used by security details and has the necessary size to carry adequate staff and equipment.

Passport

June 14th, 2011
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Donalyn Dela Cruz, Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s spokeswoman, is writing and producing a new Hawaii travelogue show.

“Passport Hawaii,” hosted by Brook Lee, a former Miss Universe, and co-hosted by Bryan Clay, who won an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon, will appear on KGMB.

Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaiian Host, Starwood, Bishop Museum, the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, InsideOut Hawaii Magazine and Chai’s Island Bistro are sponsoring the half-hour show, according to the producers.

Dela Cruz, a former television reporter, said she does not believe her work on the show will conflict with her responsibilities as the governor’s spokeswoman. She also said she does not plan to interact with the television station or the show’s sponsors.

“I love to tell stories. I love to write,” said Dela Cruz, who earns about $70,000 a year as the governor’s spokeswoman.

Richard Velazquez, the show’s executive producer, said he hopes the show will air monthly. The show is scheduled to premiere on Monday.

“This is something she is doing for us and will be doing for us going forward,” he said of Dela Cruz.

Options

June 13th, 2011
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Tammy Duckworth, the McKinley High School and University of Hawaii graduate and Iraq War veteran, resigned her post at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs today.

The Chicago Sun-Times and others report she may be looking to run for Congress again in Illinois.

Hawaii Democrats briefly considered her a potential candidate for U.S. Senate to replace U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, but Duckworth said she would likely look at political future in Illinois, not Hawaii.

Cited

June 9th, 2011
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The state Reapportionment Commission today agreed to publicly release a legal advice letter from the state Attorney General’s office on multimember legislative districts that the AG had withheld because of attorney-client privilege.

In the June 2 letter, state Deputy Attorney General Robyn Chun told commissioners that they were not constitutionally prohibited from using multimember districts, the norm in Hawaii before a legal challenge in 1982.

Chun relies on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Burns v. Richardson in 1966, which came after a legal claim that the Hawaii legislative districts drawn just prior to statehood were unconstitutional

From the high court ruling:

Where the requirements of Reynolds v. Sims are met, apportionment schemes including multi-member districts will constitute an invidious discrimination only if it can be shown that “designedly or otherwise, a multi-member constituency apportionment scheme, under the circumstances of a particular case, would operate to minimize or cancel out the voting strength of racial or political elements of the voting population.”

The Reapportionment Commission voted 5-4 not to consider multimember districts.