Hawaii Health Connector to be Investigated for Fiscal Improprieties

Current Health Connector Website

Current Health Connector Website


The Government Accountability Office (GAO) yesterday confirmed they will investigate the Hawaii Health Connector’s use of $204 million of federal grant monies.

In response to Senator Sam Slom’s query letter (dated March 27, 2014), David Lewis of the GAO yesterday confirmed that the GAO will now include Hawaii in their investigations into the use of federal grant monies by six other state exchanges. The GAO will investigate whether the Hawaii Health Connector correctly followed procedures relating to the use of federal funds as well as issues pertaining to security.

At 1:00 p.m. on April 17, 2014, Mr. Lewis indicated to Senator Slom that it is not common for the GAO to respond to issues presented to them by state legislators. Senator Slom says, “The fact that the GAO does not usually take up issues referred to them by state representatives reflects the serious nature of the issues surrounding Hawaii’s Health Connector, and its failure to act in a transparent manner.”

Slom said that taxpayers and legislators should be outraged by the Connector’s lack of planning and money management. “This is not a partisan issue, this is an economic issue.”

Bill Will Compromise Civil Liberties

What will happen to our rights if a State of Emergency is declared?

What will happen to our rights if a State of Emergency is declared?

Despite a long list of good intentions and numerous supporters, House Bill 849 is a dangerous bill. Darryl Oliveira, Director of the County of Hawaii’s Civil Defense Agency, presented testimony in support, arguing that the bill will provide more power to the counties and clarify the powers of the Governor and Mayors, “simplify the law by placing all emergency management authorities in one chapter of the HRS, and establish the Emergency Specialist Reserve Corps (ESRC), “a low-cost surge staff to assist state and local government during emergencies … recruited from community members … fully trained and ready to respond during a disaster.”

The Chair of Maui’s County Council, Gladys C. Baisa, added her support, mentioning that “During a time of crisis, no other level of government has better access to critical real-time information than the county … The proposed measure will provide the mayors specific, important powers.” Also, “Civil Defense” is updated to the more contemporary “Emergency Management.” (“Out of the 54 states and territories, only Hawaii uses ‘civil defense…’”) William F. Anonsen, Chair of the Civil Defense Advisory Council, pointed out that the new bill updates HRS 127 (Disaster Relief) and HRS 128 (Disaster Emergency Act), which are actually over 60 years old … “written primarily to deal with Post World War II-Cold War nuclear attack threats and civil unrest.” Also, Hawaii’s population then was less than half of what it is today. Anonsen added, “Emergency Management is a top priority for the State of Hawaii, given our isolation and vulnerability to a myriad of potential threats both natural and man-made.”

The dangers inherent in the bill are the overly broad definitions of emergency powers. Elaine Dunbar of Lihue defined these as “sweeping powers … if it becomes law it can present seriously harmful repercussions with no recourse to undo in the likely event it is abused.” Her father was a JAG Officer with the Pentagon, her mother a WAVE and Executive Secretary for a U.S. Congressman, and her brother a former Navy SEAL. She remarked that “They did not serve the U.S. government to live to see these types of acts with the potential for so much harm and annihilation of their children’s rights nor those of any others’ children.” She added, “I sincerely believe there are far too many dangerous sections in the bill that need to have closer scrutiny. It is a long draft and maybe there has not been enough time for legislators to give it the attention it requires.” She commented also that the “Preliminary or interlocutory injunctions and temporary restraining orders” should read “Injunctive relief.” Her closing quote: “There are sections in this that have nothing to do with emergencies or national disasters and are simply power grabs. Legislation this broad needs more time. Please defer.”

Edward T. Teixeira, the former vice director of civil defense, strongly opposes the bill, calling it a “rushed and desperate attempt to reform the state civil defense system by a name change … There are other parts of the proposed bill that address many other critical functions and responsibilities, which should be studied carefully. Passing this bill out of your committee without a thorough review by your committees will be a disservice to the people of the State.”

Specifically, civil liberties may not be observed if an emergency is declared; compulsory immunizations and quarantines can be required; personal property can be “redistributed;” electronic media transmissions can be suspended; even county laws can be suspended. If someone is accused of “hoarding,” all emergency supplies may be taken by the government. The governor can declare any person, place, or situation a “public nuisance,” authorizing entry to private property without the owner’s permission. Any members of the military or National Guard who are called to assist civil authorities “engaged in emergency functions” can’t be held responsible, criminally or civilly for damage caused “in pursuance of duty …” The public right to gather may be restricted. Forced evacuations are permitted. “The governor or mayor shall be the sole judge” of any danger that would constitute a state of emergency. And during a state of emergency, the governor or mayor can take over any private property they choose to requisition; if the owner is unwilling to accept the compensation value offered, that person will be penalized by a 25% reduction in the compensation amount. If any person violates any emergency rule, they will be fined not more than $5,000, imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.

Then there is an extensive section defining theft and property crimes. Theoretically a hungry person who picks a mango from someone else’s tree can be accused of criminal property damage in the first degree. This section seems to favor the wealthy and persons with extensive property.

Hawaii residents can only hope that some of these issues will be edited and clarified in conference committee, as the resulting chaos could be catastrophic.

Massive Support for SB1007

Originally posted on Hawaii Senate Watchdog:

Can you hike this trail?

Can you hike this trail?

SB1007 has garnered massive support among outdoor enthusiasts, who are currently denied access to a number of trails and public lands due to the liability concerns resulting from the 2012 Brems fatalities on Kauai. The State was required to pay a $15.4 million settlement after two hikers misunderstood trail markers and fell from a cliff. As one supporter noted in testimony, “Let the public make up its own mind to use or not use a place after seeing a warning. Most of the time that will result in great recreation, exercise, and use of the outdoors. In the infrequent times when injury occurs, that remains the risk of the individual.” Senator Slom’s office has received a number of requests to pass SB1007 and let individuals decide for themselves whether or not an area comprises too much of a risk for their level of experience. Other…

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Demonstrators at Capitol Want to Keep Kaka’ako Residential

The call of conch shells echoed through the Capitol.

The call of conch shells echoed through the Capitol.

With conch shells, Hawaiian flags, posters, and a large group of flag-wrapped children, proponents of SB3122 demonstrated in the Capitol Atrium two weeks ago. Protestors who wanted to preserve their right to live in the contested neighborhood wore distinctive red t-shirts, while the haunting call of conch shells attracted even more attention. Senator Sam Slom supports the people’s position on this issue. For more photos of the demonstration, see the Senate Watchdog site at http://hawaiisenatewatchdog.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/protest-at-capitol-for-sb3122/ and add your comments.

Public Denounces Amended Drafts of SB2633 and HB1678

Rarely has a draft amendment created such a stir after the initial introduction of a bill—in this case, two similar bills. Both SB2633 SD1 HD1 and HB1678 HD1 SD1 attempt to amend the definition of “historic property” by exempting residential properties. Opposition has been voiced across the board, from testimony by architectural firms, archaeological societies, Hawaiian cultural groups, to concerned e-mail by private citizens from Waialea Bay to Kailua-Kona. And perhaps most significantly, as noted by Dr. Mark Nokes in a message to Senator Slom and his legislative colleagues, “The public were denied the opportunity to testify on these changes.”

The bills were originally introduced in an effort to protect culturally significant historic sites. However, the poorly constructed amendments are deeply flawed. “The SD1 version of this bill opens the door for all kinds of abuse by land speculators and developers,” wrote a concerned citizen. Glenn Mason, AIA, President of Mason Architects, submitted testimony pointing out two major flaws: “First, on its face it appears to establish that historic residences are less important than other properties, and … would set a dangerous precedent that is contrary to Federal preservation law and interpretations. The second major flaw is the assumption that the current law imposes onerous time delays in getting building permits. My own experience as an architect working on historic residences has shown this not to be true.”

Joe Ferraro, FAIA, LEED AP, Principal of Ferraro Choi, stated that “Hawaii’s historic houses are a significant part of our state’s historic and cultural resources. They are links to where Hawaii’s kupuna lived, where they raised their children, and the neighborhoods that were formed around them. They represent a building type that was in many cases designed by local and immigrant tradesmen rather than through architectural commissions. They are no less important than other architectural works and are irreplaceable treasures.”

Historic residential buildings in jeopardy.

Historic residential buildings in jeopardy.

Dr. Sara Collins, Legislative Chair of the Society for Hawaiian Archaeology, spoke for over 150 professionals when she wrote, “Residential construction projects can often have an effect on non-architectural historic properties, such as human burials or buried cultural layers, which are adjacent to the structures or are potentially disturbed during project related excavation.” In other words, as one protestor put it, “At the last minute the two above bills were radically changed to exempt burial sites, trails and heiau from Hawaii’s historic Preservation Law. The public was denied opportunity to comment on these changes. What kind of Democracy is that?”

Writing in strong opposition to SB2633 SD1, Executive Director of the Historic Hawaii Foundation, Kiersten Faulkner, noted that current regulations define “historic properties as any building, structure, object, district, area, or site, including heiau and underwater site, which is over fifty years old.” Unfortunately this definition disregards “two additional criteria used to screen properties: historic significance and integrity.”

“The historic and cultural resources of Hawaii are a great legacy and irreplaceable treasures. No less than other types of historic properties, the homes and neighborhoods of Hawaii depict the architectural, social and economic history of the Islands. The natural beauty of Hawaii is complemented by its neighborhoods, small towns, vernacular architecture, blend of indoor and outdoor design features, and other characteristics … The houses of Hawaii are a reflection of its physical setting and social history.”

The classic YWCA building is in the historic registry.

The classic YWCA building is in the historic registry.

Hawaii’s Thousand Friends provided two examples of two potentially devastating losses if the bills pass: “1) The former navy officer housing at Kalaeloa now owned by Hunt Corporation … has been allowed to deteriorate. The only thing keeping these residences from being demolished is their 50-year old status. Pass this amendment and they are gone. 2) In Maunawili Valley, on Oahu, the home where Queen Liliuokalani rested on her trips around the island and where she was inspired to write Aloha ‘Oe still exists … Will passage of this bill give the landowner the ammunition needed to demolish this historic residence?”

"Beautiful mansion bulldozed ..."

“Beautiful mansion bulldozed …”

Dr. Robert Fox of Honolulu commented, “Case in Point. Alii Nui Princess Ruth Kekauliki’s beautiful mansion in town was bulldozed and now all we have are postcards and old photos. Is this the way to treat the heritage of the Hawaiian state and its people? Please think for the long term …” Another example offered was the famous architect, Vladimir Ossipoff, who did create public buildings, yet the majority of his work—considered art—was residential. In another e-mail, a private citizen called the bills “a back door attack on cultural and environmental protections for the benefit of corporate and other big bucks speculation,” a motivation mentioned by many.

Perhaps the clearest, simplest objection voiced was: “Please respect cultural sites. Another Target or McDonalds we do not need.”

If you have strong feelings on these bills, please let Senator Slom know your views. As always, you can reach him directly on his cell phone, (808) 349-5438. As the Legislative Session winds down, time is running out.

Over 60 Staff Positions Vacant at Hawaii State Hospital

Individuals under subpoena wait to testify.  Mr. Elliot's attorney emphasizes the importance of protecting confidential personnel matters.

Individuals under subpoena wait to testify. Mr. Elliot’s attorney emphasizes the importance of protecting confidential personnel matters.

Senators Slom, Shimabukuro, Baker, and Co-Chairs Green and Hee received testimony from William Elliot, Acting Hawaii State Hospital Administrator, in another hearing of the Senate Special Investigative Committee. Five individuals had been issued subpoenas for the meeting on Wednesday, April 9, at 10 a.m. in Conference Room 16. However, for two and a half hours Senator Hee repeatedly queried Mr. Elliot, who has worked for the Hospital for 20 years, on his qualifications, job descriptions, and participation in hiring and overtime staffing decisions.

As accusations of nepotism in hiring practices at the State Hospital were alleged in earlier hearings, Mr. Elliot described the hospital’s current hiring protocol, but had been advised by his attorney to not address questions regarding personnel issues involving individual names or personal history in open session. To date, the testimony of other administrators remains to be heard. Though present, Dr. Mark Fridovich, Adult Mental Health Division Administrator; William Sheehan, Associate Administrator of Clinical Services; Linda Rosen, newly appointed Director of the Department of Health; and Lynn Fallin, Deputy Director of Behavioral Health Administration, did not have the opportunity to provide their perspective on the investigation of workplace safety for psychiatric workers and the ongoing allegations of administrative improprieties.

For approximately four and a half years throughout his tenure, William Elliot wore two hats, serving as both Acting Administrator and Associate Administrator for the Adult Mental Health Division’s Support Services. He acknowledged to Senator Green that the staff turnover rate remains approximately 12%, with approximately 60 direct and non-direct staff positions vacant and in continuous recruitment. “The process is pretty rigid,” said Elliot, acknowledging that it takes at least 66 working days to hire staff, according to a study performed several years ago. He admitted to Senator Slom that he is not usually directly involved in hiring decisions. Senators Green and Baker asked about disciplinary actions that would be taken if staff did try to hire relatives in contradiction to policy, and Elliot said the hospital uses a “progressive discipline” protocol involving warnings and suspensions before discharge.

The next hearing will convene on April 30th at 10 a.m., beginning with the testimony of Dr. Fridovich.

2014 Senate Minority Alternative Budget

Senate Minority Alternative Budget Briefing

The Hawaii Senate Minority Announces New Alternative Supplemental Budget

Senate Minority Caucus | 808 586-8420 | State Senator Sam Slom Prepared by Paul Harleman, Budget Director, Senate Minority Research Office

April 4, 2014 — The Hawaii Senate Minority Alternative Supplemental Budget for the fiscal years 2014-2015 reflects a decrease of $795 million in total funding compared to the proposed Senate Budget.

The Alternative Supplemental Budget proposes a comprehensive plan that will make Hawaii’s government less expensive, yet more effective, for our state’s taxpayers and small businesses by advancing two simple fiscal and economic objectives:

  1. Reduce the rising cost of living for Hawaii’s taxpayers and improve the deteriorating business climate through tax reform;
  2. Make government less expensive and more effective through budget cuts.

Three highlights of the Hawaii Senate Minority Alternative Supplemental Budget proposal:

I. BALANCE THE BUDGET IN THE LONG RUN BY USING CONSERVATIVE REVENUE ESTIMATES

In less than six months the state’s financial outlook has shifted from a proclaimed $844 million surplus to looming long-term budget deficits. Although the recent downgrade by the Council on Revenues has come as a surprise to some, the Senate Minority has long argued that the economy has not turned a corner and our state’s overall business climate has not improved.

  • To correct overly optimistic revenue projections, the Supplemental Alternative Budget is based on a more conservative set of long-term revenue projections.
  • Under both the more conservative revenue estimates as well as the current Council on Revenues’ projections, both the House and Senate Budgets are not in balance–and without any future adjustments are projected to deplete the state’s cash reserves as early as FY 2016.
  • The Senate Minority Alternative Budget is the only proposal that balances the state’s checkbook beyond the current fiscal biennium under both revenue assumptions.

II. REDUCE THE SIZE AND COST OF GOVERNMENT BY $795 MILLION IN FY 2015 AND LIMIT FUTURE GROWTH TO INFLATION ONLY

The Senate Minority Alternative Supplemental Budget clarifies the tough decisions that have to be made today to reposition Hawaii for a better tomorrow. The $795 million consists of $480 million in general funds and $315 million in special funds. This reflects a 7 percent decrease in comparison to the current Senate Budget.

The proposed budget cuts are derived from the following:

  • $17 million in general fund savings from discontinued programs
  • $110 million in general and special fund savings by removing vacant budgeted positions
  • $146 million in general fund savings through a 10 percent across-the-board cut in discretionary spending
  • $207 million in general fund savings from targeted cuts on various programs within the Department of Education, Health, and the University of Hawaii
  • $315 million in special fund savings with an across-the-board 10 percent cut.

III. LEAVE THE STATE TREASURY WITH A PROJECTED GENERAL FUND BALANCE OF $486 MILLION IN FY 2019

With the highest cost of living and the worst business climate in the nation, tax reform could reposition Hawaii’s economy to make it more competitive in the long run. Although revenue losses are often cited as a barrier to tax reform, the Senate Minority Alternative Supplemental Budget proves the contrary and shows that Hawaii could indeed move in a different direction, with sustained balanced budgets and lower taxes.

Tables:

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Downloads:

The Senate Minority Alternative Biennium Budget: For Fiscal Years 2014 – 2015

2014-Cover-500

The Senate Minority Alternative Biennium Budget: For Fiscal Years 2014 – 2015

SenateMinority_Alternative_Supplemental FY2015_Budget Worksheets (Excel File)

April 4, 2014 Press Release (PDF)

2013 Senate Minority Alternative Budget (Link)

Republican State Senator Proposes Smaller Budget (Hawaii News Now – AP)

GOP Senator Proposes Smaller Budget (West Hawaii Today – AP)

Niu Valley Middle School Band Honored by Hawaii State Senate

Niu Valley Middle School Band Honored

The Hawaii State Senate recognized the outstanding teachers and students of the Niu Valley Middle School Band during a floor presentation held at the opening of the regular Senate Session on Friday, March 28. More than 100 students and teachers in the music program attended the floor session, where Senator Sam Slom led the formal presentation with the help of Senator Laura Thielen, who spoke about the American School Band Directors Association.

Senator Thielen also introduced Brendon Burns, interim Principal; former Principal Justin Mew (now Principal of Kaiser High School); Kent Miyashiro, International Baccalaureate Coordinator of the school; Zachary Morita, music director; and Wayne Fanning, music teacher in the program.

Senator Slom introduced Kylie Nakano (clarinet), Dylan Poon (trombone), Dylan Wacksman (saxophone), Reina Yamashita (French Horn) and Cobe Yoshino (bassoon), who represented the student band members seated on the floor. The rest of the band sat in the Senate Gallery after performing for a half-hour concert prior to the floor session in the State Capitol’s atrium.

The Niu Valley Middle School Band was selected to perform at the prestigious American School Band Directors Association’s (ASBDA) National Conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Nearly 90 students and over 20 adults will travel to the conference in July to premier a new work by the world-renowned composer and conductor Brian Balmages.

Top photo: Members of Niu Valley Middle School Band pose with State Senators and Niu Valley music faculty and staff in this group picture taken after Senator Slom presented the band with a certificate commemorating their accomplishment. Photo courtesy Senate Communications Office. Additional photos below this text were taken by Noelani Bonifacio and Jerry Stanfield.

Article republished from text extracted from the Kuliouou Neighborhood Board #2 Report issued monthly by Senator Slom.

Honoring Niu Valley Middle School Band

Honoring Niu Valley Middle School Band

Honoring Niu Valley Middle School Band

In the Gallery with Niu Valley Band

Niu Valley Middle School Band

Niu Valley Middle School Band

Niu Valley Middle School Band

The 2014 Hawaii Medal of Honor Ceremony

In a joint session of the Hawaii State Legislature held in the House Chambers on Tuesday, March 25th, the public, families, and legislators gathered to commemorate the 2014 Recipients of the Hawaii Medal of Honor.

The medal was designed by Sergeant First Class Aaron Pollick, recently retired from the Hawaii Army National Guard.

The medal was designed by Sergeant First Class Aaron Pollick, recently retired from the Hawaii Army National Guard.

Speakers including Governor Neil Abercrombie, House Speaker Joseph M. Souki, Major General Darryll D.M. Wong, Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, and Kahu Kordell C.L. Kekoa honored the memory and families of four soldiers: U.S. Army Sergeant Tofiga J. Tautolo, U.S. Air Force Captain Reid K. Nishizuka, U.S. Army Sergeant Drew M. Scobie, and U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Edward Balli.

The traditional 3-Volley Salute was presented by the Hickam Honor Guard. Before the Retiring of the Colors, the Marine Forces Pacific Band played a moving rendition of Taps. We can only hope that after 12 years of continuous military engagement, the U.S. military and the Hawaii ‘ohana may begin a period of peace.

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Video

Video Link – A Better Day with Host Senator Slom and Michael N. Hansen

A group of Hawaii lawmakers are proposing a resolution that, if passed, would try to get Congress to allow foreign-built ships to carry cargo to Hawaii from the Mainland.

Senator Sam Slom is trying to get this one exemption to the Jones Act in an effort to lower shipping costs to Hawaii. The costs are five times more expensive, according to reports.

Senator Slom talks to Michael N Hansen President of the Hawaii Shippers Council.

A Better Day TV with Senator Slom

contributed by Michele Van Hessen