In a dramatic vote held after midnight Friday in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Senate voted 57-42 to block legislation called the USA Freedom Act to reform the National Security Agency.
Then came a 45-54 vote to kill a planned two-month extension of the current law — the Patriot Act. Sixty votes were needed to win on the procedural motions and proceed to voting on the bills.
Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, the Democrats from Hawaii, voted “yea” on the USA Freedom Act and voted “nay” on the Patriot Act extension.
The U.S. Capitol.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Here’s what happened next, according to The Hill:
Then, in a dramatic turn on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) repeatedly tried — and was repeatedly blocked — to extend the June 1 deadline of the Patriot Act provisions to June 8, then June 5, followed by June 3 and finally June 2.
All were blocked. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — fresh off his 10.5-hour floor speech opposing the Patriot Act — led the charge against McConnell’s effort, and was joined by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).
The Patriot Act expires June 1, and it contains the provisions authorizing the NSA surveillance programs. McConnell ordered senators to return to D.C. May 31 from the long Memorial Day break to vote one more time on the matter in a rare Sunday session, but it seems a long shot.
In the meantime, the Obama administration said after the Saturday votes it would move to end Read more
Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, the Democrats of Hawaii, were among the 37 U.S. senators voting late Friday against legislation giving President Obama fast-track negotiating authority in trade.
But Republicans, with the help of some Democrats, managed to get the more than 60 votes to prevent any filibuster and pass the bill.
The move is “a major second-term legislative victory” for the president, says The Hill, but also “a big win for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who said last month that passing trade legislation would likely be the biggest accomplishment of the 114th Congress.”
The White House, from the south side.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The move is also a big disappointment to Hirono, who released a lengthy statement after the vote. It said in part:
“Congress certainly shouldn’t be putting trade agreements that fail on fundamental protections on a ‘fast track’ to passage, which is why I’ve consistently opposed free trade agreements that were negotiated under fast track authority in the past. Instead, Congress should fast track legislation that will help working families like raising the minimum wage, funding job creating transportation and infrastructure projects, and enhancing U.S. competitiveness by passing comprehensive immigration reform and making college more affordable.”
Earlier this week, Schatz spoke on the Senate floor to oppose fast-track authority, saying in part, “I am seriously concerned about using fast-track to pass trade agreements that do not reflect the best interests of the American people and undermine the prerogatives of the Congress. Corporate interests should not be the driving force Read more
U.S. Rep. Mark Takai is cosponsoring a bill that makes airports more accommodating for breastfeeding mothers.
The Hawaii Democrat and 11 others are backing U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, who introduced legislation that would require airports to provide private rooms where new mothers can breastfeed or pump breast milk.
The Friendly Airports for Mothers Act will “provide accessible, safe, clean and convenient lactation rooms for travelers,” Duckworth wrote in a statement released Monday. Under the bill, large and medium-size airports would be required to set up a lockable room in each terminal that’s equipped with a table, chair and electrical outlet within the next two years.
“For too long we have failed to prioritize the needs of our mothers,” Takai said in a statement. “Women need to have a space that is convenient, safe, and secure so that they are able to address their needs. It is crucial that we begin to provide support for mothers across the nation.”
Travelers navigate signs in the Honolulu International Airport.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Unofficial results have been announced in the Oahu Neighborhood Board elections.
This year, 598 candidates were vying for 437 seats in the biennial, all-online election, which received an innovation award from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government for cutting costs by switching to a digital format.
Oahu’s Neighborhood Boards serve as advisory councils that help decide what happens in their community in terms of development, business and neighborhood laws at all levels of government.
The Neighborhood Commission is scheduled to certify the results at its Tuesday meeting.
City and County of Honolulu
When it comes to the ultimate American military sacrifice that is the reason for the Memorial Day holiday, Hawaii stands tall, according to the Washington Post.
In the four major military conflicts since World War II, the Aloha State has suffered the highest per capita death toll, the article states.
As a share of its population, Hawaii suffered more casualties in the Korean War than any other state, according to the newspaper’s analysis.
Nevada saw the most residents die per capita during the Vietnam War, while New Hampshire had the largest percentage of deaths per capita in the Persian Gulf War. Wyoming has suffered the most casualties per capita in the war on terrorism.
In terms of total deaths in the four conflicts, California has lost more residents than any other state, as of last December 2014, according to Defense Department data reported by the Post. Hawaii’s toll from those four conflicts is just over 700.
The Post article states:
“The Aloha State has also played a strategic role in the nation’s various entanglements, most prominently during World War II, but also as a key staging area during the Korean and Vietnam wars.
“It may have joined the union nine decades after the first Memorial Day observances, but Hawaii has, in its short time as a state, more than earned its right to share in the day’s remembrances.
The State Auditor has released a follow-up to its 2012 report on the state Department of Education’s transportation woes. That audit slammed the DOE for numerous problems related to how it managed its school bus services and made 20 recommendations for improvement.
The follow-up, released Thursday, noted that eight of the recommendations have been satisfied but the rest are still in progress in some fashion.
The 2012 audit followed Civil beat’s investigative series on skyrocketing school bus costs and mismanagement. “Taken for a Ride” reported extensively on the department’s transportation budget, which climbed from $25 million a year to more than $72 million a year in just six years. One significant finding: school bus companies abruptly stopped bidding against each other and the DOE began accepting the bids without question.
As the Auditor found, school officials acknowledged the rising costs could have been the result of collusion. The Auditor documented lax procurement policies as contributing to the costs but found numerous other problems as well, including no real good way to track routes and how buses were being utilized. Staff overseeing the bus companies were not qualified, the auditor found.
The follow-up audit reports that the DOE has developed standard operating procedures and is in the process of implementing a computerized route-planning system. Improved procurement practices are in place although the auditor noted the agency still has not created policies to deal with suspected anticompetitive practices.
School buses operated by Roberts Hawaii
University of Hawaii students will see a smaller increase in their tuition bills for the 2015-16 school year than previously anticipated.
The UH Board of Regents voted Thursday to reduce planned tuition increases by 2 percent to 3 percent at each campus. The board approved a five-year tuition plan in 2011 that called for 7 percent increases in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
For students at UH Manoa and most students at the state’s seven community colleges, the rate increase will be 5 percent instead of 7 percent. UH Hilo and West Oahu will raise tuition by 4 percent instead of 7 percent.
“The UH administration is very focused on cost containment and improved efficiencies,” UH President David Lassner said in a press release. “I thank the legislature and our campuses for working extremely hard to ensure that high-quality public higher education in Hawaiʻi remains available and affordable for all.”
Undergraduate tuition at UH Manoa for Hawaii residents was $1,752 a semester in 2005. This spring, it was $4920.
University of Hawaii students sit during undergraduate degree ceremony held at Stan Sheriff Center. 16 may 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The University of Hawaii became the latest university to take a stand against investing in fossil fuels like coal and gas, after a unanimous vote on Thursday by the Board of Regents.
It will take another three years for the university to fully divest its $66 million endowment, but the effort will start immediately, according to a press release issued by the university. Currently 5 percent to 7 percent of UH’s endowment portfolio is invested in energy companies.
Michelle Tigchelaar, a graduate student at UH, launched the movement to get the university to divest from fossil fuels in 2013. Others quickly joined suit, with local activists creating a website and collecting more than 1,350 signatures on a petition asking the university to take action on the matter.
“This was the perfect model of climate activism,” marine biologist and faculty task force member Joe Mobley said in a press release Thursday.”Regents, faculty and students alike came together, shared their concerns over the scope and speed of climate change, particularly as it affects the Hawaiian Islands, then did something about it.”
Members of the UH Board of Regents and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Task Group on Thursday after the vote to divest.
Courtesy of UH
Waimanalo no ka oi!
That’s according to Dr. Beach, a coastal science prof who just released his Top 10 list for the year.
“Professor Stephen Leatherman of Florida International University compiles the popular list of best public beaches in the United States using 50 criteria, including best sand and water quality, environmental management and amenities,” says a news report.
Waimanalo Bay Beach Park edged Barefoot Beach in Florida as the top pick for 2015.
Hamoa Beach on Maui also made the list.
I totally concur on the Waimanalo pick. A favorite memory of mine was four days spent in a friend’s house one block from the beach, way back in 1980. Picture “Point Break” crossed with “Dazed and Confused.”
Flickr: Kanaka Menehune
You probably saw news clips a short while back about how Noah and Emma were the most popular names for baby boys and girls, respectively, in Hawaii last year.
Indeed, according to the Social Security Administration, Noah and Emma are the most popular names for boys and girls across the country by far.
Looking at the list for Hawaii only, however, it’s striking just how many baby boy names have biblical origins: In addition to Noah, they include Ezekiel, Isaac, Eli, Micah, Ezra, Levi, Isaiah and Elijah.
Jacob, Luke, David and Matthew are also popular. To a lesser extent, so are Jeremiah, Joseph, Gabriel and even Zion.
In fact, there are far more names inspired by Judeo-Christian texts than there are Hawaiian names for Hawaii-born babes. Of the handful making the cut in 2014, Kai ranked No. 41, Keanu came in at No. 65 and Kainoa listed at No. 82.
On the girl side, there are far fewer names inspired by religion, although 14 girls were given the name Trinity last year, 18 were named Faith and 13 named Nevaeh, which is “heaven” spelled backward.
There were also only a handful of Hawaiian names, such as Leilani, which ranked at No. 51.
What the data do not reveal are middle names. As is common in the islands, many middle names are Hawaiian. It is also a tradition, to cite just two examples, to give many Japanese- and Chinese-American newborns Japanese and Chinese middle names.
Gov. David Ige’s public schedule is now available online, making it easier to keep tabs on where he’s going and who he’s seeing.
His predecessor, former Gov. Neil Abercrombie, had provided a similar service in the form of weekly public calendars. But until now, tracking Ige’s whereabouts over the past six months since he took office had proven a bit challenging.
Ige’s public schedule is now on the front page of his website — governor.hawaii.gov. His weekly schedule will be updated every Friday, according to the governor’s office.
His public schedule shows just one event for Wednesday, a speaking engagement before the American Council of Engineering Companies of Hawaii at the Hale Koa Hotel.
The rest of his week looks light. He has two proclamation signings at his office Friday for Punahou JROTC and Sakada Day, and Saturday evening he is making an appearance at the 38th annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards Show at the Hawaii Convention Center.
Special Adviser to the Governor Betsy Kim walks with Gov. David Ige on their way to their next appointment, Feb. 23, in Washington, D.C.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Hawaii was ranked the third-worst state when it comes to the condition of its rural transportation system, according to a report released this week by TRIP, a national transportation research group.
The report says 31 percent of Hawaii’s rural pavement is in poor condition, with only Rhode Island and Michigan worse off.
However, Hawaii wasn’t among the top 20 worst states when it comes to structurally deficient rural bridges and rural fatality rates. The top honors in those categories went to Pennsylvania and Connecticut, respectively.
Hawaii’s rural roads, like this one on Oahu, are in need of repair, according to a new study.
Anita Hofschneider/Civil Beat
“The safety and quality of life in America’s small communities and rural areas and the health of the nation’s economy ride on our rural transportation system,” Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP, said in a release.
“The nation’s rural roads provide crucial links from farm to market, move manufactured and energy products, and provide access to countless tourism, social and recreational destinations,” he said.
“But, with long-term federal transportation legislation stuck in political gridlock in Washington, economic growth in America’s rural communities could be threatened. Funding the modernization of our rural transportation system will create jobs and help ensure long-term economic development and quality of life in rural America.”
Check out the full report here.
The Associated Press is reporting that a second Marine has died of injuries suffered when an MV-22B Osprey aircraft crashed Sunday at Bellows Air Force Station.
His identity had not been released Wednesday morning. The crash also killed Lance Cpl. Joshua Barron, 24, of Spokane, Washington. Two other Marines remain hospitalized in stable condition, the AP reported.
After taking off from the USS Essex about 100 miles offshore, the aircraft was dropping off infantry Marines at Bellows for training on land.
The Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter but flies like an airplane, which gives it a longer range than traditional helicopters.
This Instagram snapshot shows the scene of a Marine helicopter crash at Bellows Air Force Base on Sunday.
Hawaii is the fourth-best state for senior health, accoding to the third edition of United Health Foundation’s “America’s Health Rankings Senior Report: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities.”
The only bad news there is that the Aloha State was ranked first last year.
The report identified Hawaii’s “strengths” as a low prevalence of obesity, a low geriatrician shortfall and a low hip fracture rate. Its “challenges” included a high prevalence of underweight seniors, a high prevalence of activity-limiting arthritis pain and a high percentage of hospital deaths.
The report also noted these year-over-year highlights regarding the health of people 65 and older in Hawaii:
• Pain management for those suffering joint pain decreased 37 percent from 59.4 percent of adults to 37.2 percent.
• Flu vaccine coverage increased 12 percent from 62.7 percent to 69.9 percent.
• Hospice care increased 18 percent from 35.6 percent to 41.9 percent of decedents.
• Use of intensive care units increased 7 percent from 12.2 percent to 13.1 percent of decedents.
• Poor mental health days increased 18 percent from 1.7 to 2.0 days in the previous 30.
In the second significant consumer protection case announced this week, Hawaii’s Department of Consumer Affairs and 30 other states on Wednesday released details of a settlement agreement with the big three national credit reporting agencies that will bring new quality control to their data collection and sharing in service of consumer credit ratings.
Equifax Information Services LLC, Experian Information Solutions and TransUnion LLC will pay participating states $6 million and make a long list of significant changes to their business practices. Hawaii’s share of the settlement will be nearly $100,000, which state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs officials say will be dedicated to enforcement of Hawaii consumer protection laws.
Agencies that rate consumer credit will have to play by new rules under a settlement announced by Hawaii and 30 other states.
From a news release announcing the agreement:
“Under the settlement, the credit reporting agencies have agreed to increase monitoring of data furnishers, to require additional information from furnishers of certain types of data, to limit direct-to-consumer marketing, to provide greater protections for consumers who dispute information on their credit reports, to limit certain information that can be added to a credit report, to provide additional consumer education, and to comply with state and federal laws, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act.”
“This settlement makes the credit reporting agencies much more accountable to consumers who raise concerns regarding inaccuracies or errors contained in their credit reports,” said Office of Consumer Protection Executive Director Stephen Levins Read more
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin is joining attorneys general from 35 other states and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in a federal lawsuit against four “sham cancer charities” they accuse of fleecing donors of more than $187 million.
Attorney General Doug Chin (center)
A news release based on the federal court complaint said the four groups promised donors their gifts would help cancer patients, but donations instead principally benefited the organizations’ “paid fundraisers, perpetrators, their families and friends.” Two of them, the Breast Cancer Society of America, Inc., and Children’s Cancer Fund of America, Inc., have already agreed to be dissolved in settlement discussions with the government, the release said.
Those groups as well as the other two organizations, Cancer Fund of America, Inc., and Cancer Support Services, Inc.. are all run by James T. Reynolds Sr. and Rose Perkins, their son James T. Reynolds II and family friend Kyle Effler. Of those individuals, all but Reynolds Sr. so far have agreed to settlements that will ban them from fundraising, charity management and oversight of charitable assets.
Litigation will continue against Reynolds Sr. and the latter two cancer organizations, according to the release.
Using telemarketing calls, direct mail, websites and materials distributed by the Combined Federal Campaign — an annual fund-raising effort targeting federal employees — the individuals and their charities raised donations that were subsequently used for high-paying jobs for family and friends, cars, cruises, gym and dating site memberships and even college tuition, the AGs and FTC allege. They are also accused Read more
A Honolulu police officer busted for attacking two men in a Chinatown game room pleaded guilty to federal civil rights violations Tuesday, telling the judge “I lost my temper.”
Vincent Morre now faces up to 20 years in prison, and is scheduled to be sentenced in August. Civil Beat partner KITV reports Morre, 37, plans to resign from the Honolulu Police Department.
HPD officer Vincent Morre, in the white shirt, was caught on video attacking two men in a Chinatown game room.
Screen shot from KITV
Morre is a nine-year veteran of HPD and worked in a specialized crime reduction unit combating street crimes. He was caught on surveillance video last September punching, slapping and kicking two men inside of a local business. Morre also threw a stool at one of the victims, resulting in the man getting stitches.
The incident was just one of many that mired the HPD in controversy over the past year. Another sergeant was caught on tape fighting with his girlfriend, causing lawmakers to speak out about lax enforcement of domestic violence and weak oversight.
Police Chief Louis Kealoha had problems of his own, including an incident in which he caused a mistrial in a stolen mailbox case involving his wife and her uncle. He now faces a possible FBI investigation and city ethics probe for his handling of the case.
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is calling for people to oppose a bill that would prohibit states or local governments from requiring mandatory labeling on genetically engineered food.
House Bill 4432 was introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas, and Gabbard said in a campaign email Tuesday that Congress could vote on it any day now.
“One of the best is our ability to grow our own food, and to do it in a way that’s sustainable,” said the Democrat representing Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district. “But our farmers and our communities are dealing with huge multi-national agribusiness corporations that keep their use of GMOs secret from consumers. That’s just plain wrong. Each of us has a basic right to know what’s in our food. Now is the time to call for action.”
She linked to an online petition calling for mandatory GMO labeling that’s already garnered over 28,000 signatures, and threw in a link requesting campaign contributions at the bottom of the email.
In Gabbard’s district, which includes Kauai County, Maui County, the Big Island, and the rural parts of Oahu, GMOs are fairly unpopular. Both Kauai and the Big Island passed regulations on GMO farming that were struck down in court. Last fall, Maui County voters approved a ballot initiative to temporarily ban GMO farming, but lawsuits from Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences have so far prevented the law from going into effect.
The Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii has made progress since a 2012 state audit criticized it for poor management and lack of transparency, but it still has transparency problems, according to a follow-up report from the Auditor’s Office issue Tuesday.
Located at Keahole Point in the Kailua-Kona region of the Big Island, the ocean-research and commercial facility serves as a tech park for more dozens of businesses, including some of the state’s most cutting-edge renewable energy and aquaculture projects.
There was some good news in the update. The report states that “the authority’s contribution to Hawaii’s economy surged by 40 percent, from $87.7 million in 2010 to $122.8 million in 2013. NELHA has also adopted a master plan, revised its strategic plan, and updated its distributed energy resources strategy. These plans have guided the authority towards developing the Hawaii Ocean Science Technology Park’s infrastructure for incubation of research projects as part of an integrated test-bed for clean energy technology business and investment. The authority has also updated its Project Initiation Packet for prospective tenants, leasing policy, and seawater rate analysis and methodology, all of which are posted on the NELHA website.”
But the report also found unresolved issues.
“NELHA has yet to work on its administrative rules, which are necessary for the authority to lawfully carry out and enforce its policies and programs,” the report states. “In addition, the two tenant representatives on the board have continued to vote on items affecting lease rents and water rates, which may be in violation of NELHA’s statute Read more
At least one classroom at James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach will be getting air conditioning later this year, after a student-run fundraising campaign raised $21,710.
Students launched Fahrenheit73 early this spring in an effort to raise awareness about heat challenges in Hawaii schools and create a fundraising model that students at other campuses could adopt.
“We thought that since it’s our generation and our age group, that it would be good if we addressed it ourselves,” Allie Saunders, one of the students behind the campaign, told Civil Beat.
Temperatures at Campbell, one of 242 public schools in Hawaii that lacks central air conditioning, can often reach the 90s.
The students behind the campaign — who are all fellows at the Center for Tomorrow’s leaders and attend schools with air conditioning — were inspired to launch the project after reading Civil Beat’s coverage of the issue last year.
The students hoped to raise $19,000 for to pay for two solar hybrid air conditioning units. The units will work with the school’s electrical infrastructure and have a minimal impact on electric bills.
It would cost an estimated $1.7 billion to install air conditioning in all of Hawaii’s public schools.
Campbell is high on the Department of Education’s list of priority schools for air conditioning. The DOE is also working on other heat abatement measures, including installing ceiling fans in some schools.
Thermal image taken in classroom at Ilima Intermedate in Ewa Beach on Sept. 12, 2014. The Celsius temperature reading of 35.0 in the upper left corner is equal to 95 degrees Read more
David Ige, like Neil Abercrombie, had no problem securing funding from Hawaii lawmakers to get his new administration up and running — without providing detailed requests. That wasn't the case for Republican Linda Lingle.