Capitol Watch

Hawaii Politics & Government

Capitol Watch

Nursing Home Care in Hawaii the Best in the Nation?

A newspaper story points at one indicator where Hawaii leads, leaving out other serious issues affecting quality.

·By Nathan Eagle

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser boldly declared in its front-page headline Wednesday that nursing home care in Hawaii is “the best in nation.”

Hopefully, people read the story all the way to the end, and then look at the paper’s reporting from last summer, which paints a far different picture.

In the latest piece, the most favorable indicator in the federal evaluation system — nursing homes with five-star ratings — was cherry-picked and a story was built around it.

Even then, the headline in the print edition should have included a qualifier since Washington, D.C. is actually the best in the nation in that category. (Some 39 percent of nursing homes in Hawaii have the top rating compared to 53 percent in D.C.)

Elderly receive help at a long-term care facility.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The far larger issue, though, is the story burying a crucial point for readers to consider when deciding how much weight to give the rating system that makes Hawaii seem so great.

Federal regulators have highlighted concerns over state regulators here tending to be lenient when it comes to inspecting nursing homes and not doing them on a timely basis.

In fact, Hawaii faced a huge fine for failing to inspect 17 of its 45 nursing homes in the time frame prescribed by federal law. A Star-Advertiser story in June quoted experts who underscored just how serious of an issue this is.

“To go beyond (the required time frame) opens up the whole problem of what is happening within these facilities,” Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy for the Washington, D.C.-based

Capitol Watch

House Lawmakers to Make Recommendation Friday on Rep’s Residency

A group of voters has questioned whether Speaker emeritus Calvin Say lives in the district he represents.

·By Nathan Eagle

A special committee of House lawmakers is set to continue its work Friday on a petition challenging the qualifications of Rep. Calvin Say to represent the 20th District.

A small group of voters believes the speaker emeritus actually lives in another district with his wife and kids instead of the Palolo home he maintains to be his primary residence.

The six-member committee, chaired by Rep. Karl Rhoads, began its work with a quasi-judicial hearing Feb. 13 that allowed both sides to briefly make their case.

Rep. Calvin Say listens to testimony during a hearing on a petition questioning his residency, Feb. 13. A special committee is expected to make recommendations Friday on what action the full House should take.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The committee has spent the two weeks since then reviewing additional evidence and preparing a draft report with recommendations on what action the full House should take.

The meeting Friday is expected to include a discussion of the draft report and decision-making on it. The committee has compiled pertinent documents here.

Read Civil Beat’s past coverage of the Say residency saga here.

Capitol Watch

Shield Law Bill Clears House Judiciary Committee

The measure would protect journalists from being forced to reveal confidential sources.

·By Nathan Eagle

The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Karl Rhoads, unanimously passed a measure Tuesday that would protect journalists from having to disclose their confidential sources under certain circumstances.

There was a shield law in Hawaii until 2013 when it was allowed to sunset because lawmakers couldn’t agree on the language amid pressure from the Attorney General’s office.

The Judiciary Committee made several amendments to House Bill 295, including language to make it clear that the privilege is held by the journalist and not the source. The goal there, Rhoads said, is addressing concerns that if a journalist feels a source isn’t being truthful, there won’t be any legal or moral obligation to keep the source secret.

Hawaii lawmakers are considering bringing back a shield law to protect journalists from revealing their sources and notes.

sskennel/Flickr

Rhoads said language would be also added to ensure that if a journalist revealed a source to someone also protected by a confidential relationship, like an attorney or priest, that it would still be privileged. But if a journalist told someone at a bar, for instance, who a source was then the privilege was waived forever.

The bill heads to a vote before the full House next. Read Civil Beat’s past coverage here.

State Offers Help to HMSA Members Whose Data Was Hacked

Anthem security breach affects roughly 18,000 current and former HMSA members.

·By Nathan Eagle

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs is offering advice to the roughly 18,000 current and former HMSA members whose personal information was compromised in a cyber attack on Anthem.

Members who sought treatment in one of the 14 mainland states where Anthem operates are being directed to AnthemFacts.com where they can learn about services the company is offering, including identity repair assistance, child identity protection and free credit monitoring.

The Hawaii Insurance Division and the Office of Consumer Protection will continue to monitor the situation, and suggests that consumers take extra precautions, such as reviewing their credit reports for signs of fraudulent activity, DCCA said in a news release Tuesday.

An estimated 18,000 HMSA members may have had their personal information compromised in a recent cyber attack.

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

“We will continue discussions with Anthem and HMSA to ensure the members affected are notified in a timely manner and informed of the next steps and protections offered,” said Gordon Ito, insurance commissioner.

OCP also reminded consumers to be alert for scammers who may try to take advantage of the Anthem security breach, the release said.

“This is a good time to remind everyone to never provide personal information to anyone unless you’re 100 percent sure that they are who they say they are,” said Stephen Levins, OCP executive director. “The main point is to exercise caution. Just because someone says they’re calling from your bank or health insurance company, doesn’t mean that they are.”

Consumers should also be on the

Capitol Watch

Hawaii House Bill Restricting Aquarium Trade Advances

An outright ban was scrapped but a measure tightening regulations has cleared a key committee.

·By Nathan Eagle

House lawmakers have scrapped an outright ban of aquarium fishing in Hawaiian waters but are keeping a measure alive that would add certain restrictions.

The Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs, chaired by Rep. Kaniela Ing, has received more than 4,000 pages of testimony on bills concerning the aquarium trade.

The committee went through a marathon hearing Wednesday, caught their breath and came back the next day to take action.

Thousands of pages of testimony on aquarium bills sit stacked in a Capitol conference room, Wednesday.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The committee indefinitely deferred House Bill 606, which would have placed a 10-year moratorium on the taking of aquarium fish, and similarly killed House Bill 883, which would have banned selling any aquarium fish subjected to cruel treatment.

But after making substantial amendments, they passed House Bill 873. The measure originally banned sale of aquatic life for aquarium purposes, but it was changed to allow it so long as Department of Land and Natural Resources administrative rules are followed, including bag limits and limited entry.

The committee also passed House Bill 511, which as amended prohibits the “purposeful” harassment of fishermen, including people collecting fish for aquariums.

More details will be available as soon as the committee report is filed.

Capitol Watch

Is It Finally Time to Define Dancing in Hawaii?

Lawmakers are trying again this session to address "Footloose" concerns in the islands.

·By Nathan Eagle

State lawmakers are taking another stab at forcing county liquor commissions to address a longstanding problem.

The commissions have chosen to regulate dancing for years, requiring special permits and additional fees. The problem is, they won’t define what constitutes “dancing.”

So bar owners in Hawaii face heavy fines if they let their patrons bob their heads to the music or swing their hips to a song off an approved dance floor.

Senate Bill 868, introduced by Kalani English and 13 other senators, would give the commissions until Oct. 1 to define “dancing.” The bill is awaiting a hearing before the Public Safety Committee, chaired by Sen. Will Espero.

The Legislature has tried for years to force the commissions to take action. A bill cleared the Senate in 2013 but died in the House.

Read Civil Beat’s past coverage of the issue here and a video interview with Dean Pitchford, who created “Footloose,” here.

Random people dance in a bar in Honolulu.

Alana Hong/Civil Beat

Capitol Watch

Ige Appointments Sail Through Senate Committees

Budget chief, tax director, head of human resources advance with unanimous support.

·By Nathan Eagle

Four more of Gov. David Ige’s appointments sailed through Senate committees with unanimous support Wednesday.

Assuming the full Senate follows suit, Ige will be 5 for 5 in securing approvals for nominations of key people to serve in his burgeoning administration.

The latest round includes his picks for budget director, Wes Machida; deputy budget director, Roderick Becker; tax director, Maria Zielinski; and human resources director, James Nishimoto. Each nominee was backed by reams of glowing testimony.

Catherine Awakuni Colón, Ige’s appointment to head the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, cleared her Senate committee hurdle Monday.

Gov. David Ige’s appointee to be his budget chief, Wes Machida, pictured here at a legislative briefing last month, easily cleared his first hurdle to confirmation Wednesday along with several others.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

On deck Friday is a Senate committee’s determination of whether to sign off on Ige’s nomination of Doug Chin to be attorney general.

A dozen more are up Tuesday for their first test before Senate committees. They include Randy Iwase, the governor’s choice to head the Public Utilities Commission, and his slate of nominees to serve on the Hawaii Community Development Authority: John Whalen, Tom McLaughlin, Amy Luersen, Donna Camvel, Brett Prejean, Michael Golojuch, Shirley Swinney, Dean Capelouto, Jason Okuhama, William Oh and Steven Scott.

On March 5, Ige’s appointee to be director of the Department of Human Services, Rachael Wong, is set to go before the Senate Human Services Committee.

There still hasn’t been a hearing set for the governor’s most controversial appointment, Carleton Ching, a lobbyist for Castle & Cooke

Legislators Want More Local Beans in Coffee That Carries the Label

One bill would require at least 51 percent regional beans to use names like "Kona," another would require 80 percent.

·By Richard Wiens

What’s in your cup of coffee?

West Hawaii Today reports that state Rep. Richard Creagan, D-Naalehu has introduced a bill requiring that packages with the Kona label contain at least 51 percent coffee grown in that region, something that many growers have long called for.

“We’re hoping to get some movement on it this year,” Creagan told the news outlet, which went on to report the following:

House Bill 387 extends the requirement to coffees sold under other Hawaii regional labels as well.

“For more than 23 years, Hawaii has been the only region in the world that statutorily authorizes the use of its geographic names, such as ‘Kona,’ ‘Maui,’ and ‘Ka‘u,’ on labels of its specialty agricultural products and requires that only 10 percent of the product originate in the geographic area,” the bill states.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, takes the request a notch higher with Senate Bill 594, calling for 80 percent real content in Kona blends.

Civil Beat

Capitol Watch

Governor Taps Hoshijo as Deputy Director of Labor Department

Ige has yet to name the head of DLIR, but has found who he wants to be No. 2.

·By Nathan Eagle

It’s only Thursday, but Gov. David Ige has announced the latest appointment to his Cabinet.

He had made a habit of announcing nominations on Fridays, but his spokeswoman said that practice was unlikely to continue after a Civil Beat story raised concerns about the decisions being buried over the weekend when fewer people were paying attention to the news.

Ige announced Thursday afternoon that he wants Leonard Hoshijo to be the deputy director in the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Gov. David Ige, pictured here in December, announced Thursday that he wants Leonard Hoshijo to be the deputy director of DLIR.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

It’s unknown who Hoshijo will work for though. Ige announced last month that he wanted Elizabeth Kim to head the DLIR but had to withdraw her name. She didn’t meet residency requirements after living and working the past year in Washington, D.C., as an appointee of President Barack Obama.

“Leonard Hoshijo understands the history of labor in Hawaii and the current needs of working people and employers,” Ige said in a statement released Thursday. “He is well respected by both those within labor and the businesses that grow our economy, create jobs and hire local employees.”

The governor’s office said in the release that Hoshijo’s professional experience spans decades in which he has worked on behalf of those who labor in Hawaii and gained valuable insights about the role employers play in solving workplace issues.

To take on this responsibility, the statement said, he will be leaving his position as the Education and Political Director for the

Capitol Watch

Hawaii Ethics Commission Fines Lobbyist, Land Use Research Foundation

LURF Executive Director David Arakawa thought he fell under a special exemption.

·By Nathan Eagle

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission has fined the Land Use Research Foundation and its executive director, David Arakawa, $2,000 apiece for lobbying lawmakers between 2008 and 2014 without being registered.

Arakawa cooperated fully with the investigation and has filed the missing reports for himself and LURF, according to a resolution from the commission this week.

“He apologized, took full responsibility, and explained that his failure to file reports was based on a misunderstanding of HRS section 97-2(e)(6), which exempts any person from the Lobbyists Law if he or she possesses special skills and knowledge that may be helpful to the legislature and makes an occasional appearance at the request of the legislature,” the resolution says.

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission has fined lobbyists for failing to register for the past six years.

Civil Beat file photo

The commission found him to be at fault because while Arakawa was providing his expertise, he was also advocating for a position and trying to influence legislative action.

Arakawa registered as a lobbyist last March after media scrutiny by The Hawaii Independent.

His registration statement lists numerous areas in which he expected to lobby. His expense reports for 2013 and 2014 show that he spent no money on lobbying.

LURF’s own website touts one of its strengths as being a “strong and effective advocate and lobbyist.”

The site says the group promotes the business interests of landowners and developers in Hawaii at the local, state and federal levels of government, working to change laws and policies to crate a more favorable business

Capitol Watch

30 State Employees Pay Fines for Accepting Free Rounds of Golf

Hawaii Ethics Commission resolves lengthy investigation into public workers improperly accepting gifts from private firms.

·By Nathan Eagle

High-level state employees have agreed to pay thousands of dollars in fines to settle allegations by the Hawaii Ethics Commission that for years they accepted free rounds of golf from top private firms who had business before the state.

The lengthy investigation wrapped up this week with a formal resolution of charges against nine state employees plus a notice that cases against 21 other public workers were resolved after they paid administrative fines.

Les Kondo, executive director of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, speaks during a meeting last year.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

The commission named eight of the nine state employees who had formal charges filed against them. They include:

Marshall Ando, Department of Transportation, Harbors Division, Engineering Branch, Design Section Head: Administrative Penalty, $7,500
Gerobin Carnate, Department of Transportation, Highways Division, Materials Testing and Research Branch, Structural Materials Section Head: Administrative Penalty, $6,000
Brian Kashiwaeda, University of Hawaii, Community Colleges Facilities and Environmental Health Office, Director: Administrative Penalty, $3,200
Brian Minaai, University of Hawaii, Associate Vice President for Capital Improvements: Administrative Penalty, $3,000
Eric Nishimoto, Department of Accounting and General Services, Public Works Division, Project Management Branch Chief: Administrative Penalty, $5,600
Alvin Takeshita, Department of Transportation, Highways Division, Highways Division Administrator; Prior Engineering Program Manager, Traffic Branch Head: Administrative Penalty, $5,750
David Tamanaha, University of Hawaii-Maui College Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs: Administrative Penalty, $1,750
Jadine Urasaki, Department of Transportation, Deputy Director for Capital Improvement Projects; Prior Department of Education Facilities Development Branch, Public Works Manager: Administrative Penalty, $1,500

An engineer with the Department of Agriculture who used to work with the Department

Capitol Watch

Where Does Hawaii State Rep. Calvin Say Really Live?

A group of six House lawmakers are going to look into residency questions concerning the speaker emeritus.

·By Nathan Eagle

A group of six state House lawmakers will be investigating whether Rep. Calvin Say actually lives in the Palolo district he’s been elected to represent for decades.

The courts have punted on the longstanding concern over the residency of the speaker emeritus, saying it’s the House of Representatives’ kuleana.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Joe Souki announced that he has appointed a special committee to look into the issue.

Rep. Calvin Say speaks during a hearing last March. A special House committee is looking into concerns over his residency.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

KITV’s Andrew Pereira reported that Souki named Judiciary Chair Karl Rhoads to lead the special committee, which will include Vice Speaker John Mizuno, Majority Leader Scott Saiki, Majority Floor Leader Cindy Evans, Majority Whip Ken Ito and the only Republican, Minority Leader Beth Fukumoto Chang.

After a judge ruled in September that the House had jurisdiction over the matter, six Palolo voters who filed the lawsuit submitted their request to Souki, who initially had denied the request on his belief that it was up to the courts to decide.

Say has represented District 20 since 1976. The district includes St. Louis Heights, Palolo, Maunalani Heights, Wilhelmina Rise and Kaimuki.

Say is not the only state lawmaker with residency issues.

Civil Beat’s Anita Hofschneider broke the news Monday that Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria acknowledged he has improperly claimed a rental property in Palolo as his primary residence and will likely have to pay back taxes on the nearly $1.8 million home.

She reported that he said he’s moved out of the

Capitol Watch

Chief Justice Asks Legislature for $55M to Finish Kona Courthouse

State of the Judiciary address touts accomplishments, highlights goals.

·By Nathan Eagle

Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald wants the Legislature to give the Judiciary the remaining $55 million it needs to finish building a courthouse complex in Kona.

State lawmakers approved the first $35 million needed for the project last session and will be considering his request for additional money as they get to work this session, which started last week.

Recktenwald highlighted the budget request during his State of the Judiciary address before the House and Senate on Wednesday at the Capitol.

His speech highlighted a number of accomplishments over the past year, like programs to help veterans, youth and people with disabilities.

Recktenwald also talked about the challenges that lie ahead. He wants the judicial system to become more efficient and continue to expand the public’s access to justice.

“There is much work left to be done, but we have come a long way,” he said, later adding that the Judiciary’s foundation depends on its ability to continue giving everyone a “fair shake.”

Read Recktenwald’s full speech here:

Capitol Watch

Union Strike Over Contract Closes 10 Kaiser Clinics

Nearly 1,900 workers are affected by the planned six-day strike.

·By Nathan Eagle

Nearly 1,900 Local 5 union workers are planning a six-day strike that is expected to close 10 Kaiser Permanente clinics statewide.

KITV reports that employees have been working without a new contract for more than two years.

Kaiser plans to reschedule elective procedures and non-urgent appointments due to the changes, according to the KITV story.

Learn more here.

Union workers are going on strike, shutting down 10 Kaiser Permanente clinics.

KITV

Capitol Watch

Senate Committee Defers Public Records Bill

The Office of Information Practices objected to legislation requiring government agencies to maintain public records better.

·By Nathan Eagle

State Sens. Gil Keith-Agaran, Kalani English, Maile Shimabukuro and Glenn Wakai would like government agencies to take better care in how they maintain public records.

The Office of Information Practices, the state agency tasked with administering Hawaii’s open records law, appreciates the intent of what they are trying to do but came out against their legislation to require it statutorily.

Gilbert Keith-Agaran

“OIP believes that encouraging agencies to be attentive to existing retention schedules and to take care with their ‘official’ files is a laudable goal, but the broad application of this bill combined with the legal liability it creates makes it an impractical solution,” OIP Director Cheryl Kakazu Park wrote in her testimony.

The Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, chaired by Keith-Agaran, deferred Senate Bill 140 on Tuesday.

Others didn’t think the legislation went far enough.

The Kokua Council said in its testimony that government agencies need to do more than just take care of the hard copies of public records; they need to make them accessible to everyone online.

The council, an advocacy group for seniors and others, pointed out that for many groups of people — neighbor islanders, students, attorneys — if the information is not online there’s really no practical or useful access.

The Hawaii Supreme Court in November ruled that government agencies don’t have a duty of reasonable care with respect to maintaining government records for the purpose of public inspection because there’s no state law requiring such.