Monday, May 1, 2023

Big bonuses for Hawaii health insurer HMSA amid worker layoffs, what still lives and dies entering Legislature's final week, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

HMSA President and CEO Mark Mugiishi
HMSA execs saw big pandemic pay raises as workers lost their jobs. Executives at the Hawaii Medical Service Association, the state’s largest health insurer, received hefty pay raises and bonuses during the COVID-19 pandemic, while the company’s board voted to begin compensating itself for the first time in the nonprofit’s history, with its highest paid directors receiving about $100,000 annually beginning in 2022. Star-Advertiser.

Green Wanted Tax Relief, Housing and Action On Homelessness.
Lawmakers Mostly Agreed. But the "green fee" to slap extra charges on tourists failed, and bills to change the state tax code turned out to be more modest than the governor proposed in January. Civil Beat.

Broad tax relief proposals nixed. Hawaii taxpayers can expect less generous tax relief than proposed earlier this year, under legislation positioned for final votes this week at the Legislature. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii’s Green Fee Proposal Dies At The Last Minute — Again. Hawaii lawmakers opted not to pass what would have been a novel visitor-impact fee during this year’s legislative session, despite broad support for the initiative by local environmental groups and polls showing that most state voters supported it. Civil Beat.

Hawai‘i Legislature slashes nearly all funding for proposed clean elections program. In a matter of days, Senate Bill 1543 — a bill to promote clean elections through public campaign financing — was transformed from a radical shift in Hawai‘i’s politics to a one-year pilot program to a dead bill with no explanation as to why it died. Garden Island.

Anti-vaping advocates win nine-year battle to tax vape products similar to tobacco. Anti-vaping advocates won a nine-year battle to tax vape products like tobacco — with a 70% surcharge. Hawaii News Now.

Homeless kauhale villages in Hawaii supported at Legislature. The Legislature has backed expanding Gov. Josh Green’s “kauhale” efforts to create permanent villages of tiny homes for homeless people across the islands, along with Hawaii’s first-ever effort to provide affordable rental units for teachers and other public school employees. Star-Advertiser.

Expanded Hawaii preschool subsidies clear major legislative hurdle. A bill to greatly expand access to preschool for Hawaii children by making more and larger state subsidies available, and by allowing families with children as young as 3 to apply, has passed its last major hurdle at the state Legislature. Star-Advertiser.

Neighbor Island Hospitals Are Set To Receive ‘Drastically Needed’ Funding In New State Budget. Hawaii lawmakers are steering millions of dollars to facilities on the Big Island, Maui and Kauai for capital improvements. Civil Beat.

Food, agriculture bills appear to fail in final hearing. On the final day to get funding for bills that needed it, some popular food and agriculture bills that had made it through most of the legislative session gantlet didn’t get a hearing. Star-Advertiser.

Lawmakers Are Trying To Make It Safer For Children To Get To School. In response to more than 100 cases of traffic-related fatalities in 2022, many near schools, the Legislature is in the final steps to reestablish the Safe Routes to School Program as a new government initiative called the Safe Routes to School Advisory Committee. Civil Beat.

The Problem With Hawaii’s Secret Court Files.
In confidential lawsuits, a select few can keep sometimes embarrassing legal disputes hush-hush in ways that experts say may violate the First Amendment. Civil Beat.

Hawaii’s Cockfight Economy Is Worth Millions Of Dollars A Year. Prize-fighting chickens battle for six-figure purses while the sale and export of prize birds is a lucrative business. Civil Beat.


Council chair Tommy Waters offers budget insights. Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s proposed $3.41 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2024 sees a $200 million increase over last year’s city budget, but Waters is questioning whether city officials, including members of the Council, should receive pay raises while thousands of city positions like the 390 unfilled spots on the police force remain vacant. Star-Advertiser.

Mayor Blangiardi energized to pursue second term. Taking the oath of office in 2021, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi recently posted he's seeking a second term. KITV4.

Bleachers, no shade in revamped Aloha Stadium plan. Gov. Josh Green’s revamped effort to replace Aloha Stadium is betting that a private developer will help pay for more than an economy-class venue. Star-Advertiser.

Homeless man accused of $737K fraud in COVID-19 relief funds. A homeless man who allegedly founded a diabetes nonprofit, a web company and a crypto currency mining operation to fraudulently obtain $737,802 in Paycheck Protection Program funds and Economic Injury Disaster Loan funds made his initial appearance in federal court Friday. Star-Advertiser.

Drag story hour at park went on as planned despite protest. Tensions flared on Saturday at a Keiki Community Fair at a public park that featured drag performers, but organizers say they considered the event a success despite the controversy. The event was organized by the nonprofit Family Promise of Hawaii, which has helped homeless families and children for almost two decades. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii Island

Kona Coffee Farmers, ABC Stores Settle Labeling Lawsuit For $12 Million. The farmers alleged in early 2019 that more than 20 defendants — including MNS Ltd., which operates ABC Stores — were selling mislabelled ground coffee and beans, claiming they came from Kona.  Civil Beat.

Solemsaas out as HCC chancellor. Hawaii Community College Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas will be stepping down from her role following the spring 2023 semester, citing personal matters on Friday. Tribune-Herald. Big Island Video News.

Staffing shortages leading Big Island public defenders to withdraw from cases. There are 15 public defender positions on Hawai‘i Island — nine in Hilo and six in Kona — and four (26%) are vacant. Two each in Hilo and Kona. Big Island Now.

Groundbreaking and blessing ceremony held for new Koloko Heights project. The Kaloko Heights Affordable Housing Project will feature 99 family units, including 58 3-bedroom units and 41 2-bedroom units, in addition to one 3-bedroom manager’s unit. The 10.75-acre site is located on the Kohala (north) side of Hina Lani Street, approximately 2.3 miles mauka (east) of Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. West Hawaii Today. Big Island Video News.

Document outlines solutions for Puna’s wastewater. In a draft environmental impact statement published last week, the county Department of Environmental Management explains that there are no wastewater collection or treatment facilities in the district, and there were an estimated 16,000 cesspools in the region discharging more than 8.5 million gallons of sewage daily in 2010. Tribune-Herald.


Committee passes out county budget. The Maui County Council’s Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee passed out a $1.07 billion county budget on Thursday. Maui News.

Treatment of fuel spill area may begin in 2024.  It could be a year before treatment begins on the contaminated soil and cinder from an approximate 700-gallon diesel fuel leak at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex atop Haleakala.  Maui News.

One man dead following officer involved shooting on Molokaʻi.
One man is dead after a confrontation with officers on Molokaʻi who were responding to a report of a Temporary Restraining Order violation on Sunday morning. Maui Now. Hawaii News Now. KHON2.


State might remove Wailua Dam Reservoir. The Wailua Reservoir Dam was built a century ago to provide water for a thriving sugar industry on Kauai. With the sugar plantations long gone and agriculture on the decline, the reservoir and dam — now run by the state — no longer serve their original purpose. Star-Advertiser.

Kauaʻi utility cooperative’s new $8.5 million Anahola Service Center receives blessing. The facility replaces the Kapa‘a Service Center after more than 60 years of operations.  Kauai Now.

Tough opening quarter for home sales on Kaua‘i. Single-family home sales on Kaua‘i moved at a molasses-like pace in the first quarter of the calendar year, as evidenced by a more than 55 percent drop in transactions when compared with the same period a year ago. Garden Island.

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