Watching and reporting about Hawaii from Washington Place to Washington, D.C.

5:55 p.m. $14M for Hawaiian Health Care

Dan Akaka and Dan Inouye say health care and wellness programs for Native Hawaiians will receive more than $14 million this fiscal year.

The funds will be used to provide preventative care, traditional healing practices and general health services.

3:33 p.m. Senate Rejects Obama, Ryan Budgets

The Hill reports that the U.S. Senate voted unanimously against considering the $3.7 trillion budget plan the Barack Obama sent to Capitol Hill in February:

Democratic aides said ahead of the vote that the Democratic caucus would not support the plan because it has been supplanted by the deficit-reduction plan Obama outlined at a speech at George Washington University in April.

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) demanded a vote on Obama’s budget to show that Democrats don’t support any detailed budget blueprint.

Dan Akaka and Dan Inouye were among the 97 senators voting “nay” (three senators were absent).

Meanwhile, the Senate also rejected the House-passed budget sponsored by Paul Ryan that calls for significant cuts to future Medicare benefits. Akaka and Inouye were among the 57 “nay” votes.

Akaka issued a statement on that vote:

“Our kupuna are dealing with rising medical costs and decreased access to quality health care. We cannot pass a plan which places the profits of insurance companies ahead of the well-being of our seniors, while eliminating thousands of Hawaii jobs in the process. We need to reduce our deficit responsibly, not by cutting benefits that our seniors need to survive.”

2:30 p.m. NASA, Hawaii, the Final Frontier

NASA and the state today announced an agreement to collaborate on human and robotic exploration of space.

Neil Abercrombie and NASA official Rebecca Keiser signed the two-year agreement — called a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement Annex — during a ceremony this afternoon in the executive office.

The agreement, according to a press release, establishes a partnership between NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., and Hawaii “to explore and test new technologies, capabilities and strategies supporting America’s space exploration and development goals.”

The governor said:

“Hawaii has been part of America’s space activities from the beginning of the space program when Apollo astronauts trained in the islands for their historic missions to the moon. This partnership with NASA will broaden educational and employment opportunities for our local families and bring dollars into our economy.”

Abercrombie gave special credit to George Ariyoshi for his longtime leadership concerning Hawaii’s role in space exploration.

The state’s Office of Aerospace Development will be the lead state agency for the project.

Today is the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy‘s announcement committing the country to land an American on the moon and return him safely before the end of the 1960s.

11:30 a.m. Fed Grants $13M for Local Venture Capital

Neil Abercrombie apologized for beginning his 11 a.m. press conference late today.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, every one, but it’s worth the wait — a $13 million wait,” he said.

The $13 million has been awarded by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to support small business through DBEDT’s Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation.

The venture capital funds, said the governor, are expected to be matched 10-to-1 by private investors over the next seven years — effectively making for a $130 million infusion into state industries ranging from transportation to energy to agriculture.

Abercrombie said that this July 1 — when the new fiscal year starts — will mark the beginning of his administration’s “official term in regards to acting with executive authority, and this is a tremendous first step.”

10:30 a.m. Former Big Isle Mayor Yamashiro Dies

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that Stephen Yamashiro, former mayor of Hawaii County, died yesterday at age 69.

Yamashiro was mayor from 1992 to 2000 and previously served on the Hawaii County Council. He had been ill for several years.

Neighbor Isle Gov’t News

The Maui News reports that, in a “sharply divided” vote yesterday, Maui County Council members scrapped a plan to increase the minimum property tax — “but they cut deeply” into a number of programs in order to make up for the lost revenue:

Grants for Special Olympics, Hospice Maui and Project Graduation were among those eliminated in the cuts, while the Maui Visitors Bureau, Maui County Farm Bureau and other programs saw their funding reduced. Council members cut a total of $2.4 million in spending to pay for the decision to keep the minimum property tax at the current level of $150, rather than double it, as previously proposed.

Council members voted 5-4 to keep the minimum tax at $150, with Council Members Gladys Baisa, Bob Carroll, Don Couch and Mike White voting in opposition.

The Garden Island reports that the Kauai County Council will vote on a resolution today supporting “a trapping, neutering and return method” (aka TNR) of controlling the island’s feral cat population:

But the TNR plan — considered the more humane way of dealing with the homeless cat problem — may not mitigate threats to Kauai’s endangered species, such as the Hawaiian monk seal.

“It started out to be, I thought, something relatively minor, but I know several of the council members have some serious concerns,” said Councilman Mel Rapozo, who introduced Resolution 2011-51 as an alternative to euthanization.

West Hawaii Today reports that “almost 29.3 percent of the entire county’s total property value” is in North Kona County Council District 8, “home to just 12.3 percent” of the population:

That’s no surprise to North Kona Councilman Angel Pilago, who says it’s high time for a “reformation” of the property tax system to ensure the 22,817 people living in his district get all the government services they’re paying for.

“It does show a very blatant disparity in how taxes are levied,” Pilago said of statistics showing West Hawaii accounts for more than three-quarters of the property value in the county.

No Women in Budget Talks

The Huffington Post has an item titled “Women’s Voices Missing From Federal Budget Negotiations.”

The bipartisan talks, led by Joe Biden, involve a handful of lawmakers including Dan Inouye.

Amanda Terkel observes:

There hasn’t been a single woman given a seat at the budget negotiating table, despite the fact that many proposed cuts would hit programs that disproportionately affect women.

On Tuesday, six female and two male Democratic senators held a press conference to discuss how the (Paul) Ryan budget would affect women of all ages.

“The Ryan budget continues the Republican attack on women,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.). “They started this in H.R. 1 [the FY 2011 continuing resolution], by trying to take away our health care, our family planning and our Pell Grants. Now they’re back again.”

Yesterday, HuffPo reports, a coalition of women’s organizations sent Biden and Barack Obama a letter requesting a meeting with them to discuss how the budget cuts will impact women and families.

An item in Roll Call today by Kate Ackley — which is also about the lack of women in budget talks — notes, “A spokeswoman for the vice president said the administration has not forgotten about women’s issues in the budget fight.”

Hee and Disclosure

If you haven’t been following it, check out Ian Lind‘s reporting on problems with Clayton Hee‘s financial disclosure forms.

Excerpt:

For years, Hee has filed reports that simply reported “None” for most categories of interests for himself and his wife, shielding his financial interests from public scrutiny and apparently flouting state law in the process.

The omissions became apparent when compared to the disclosure filed independently by his wife, Lynne Waters, after she was appointed to a high-level public relations position in the University of Hawaii system earlier this year.

Today’s update is here.

Where’s Neil?

Here’s Neil:

• News conference: U.S. Department of Treasury grant, Executive Office, 11 a.m.

• Brief remarks: American Council of Engineering Companies of Hawaii, Hale Koa Hotel, noon to 1 p.m.

• News conference: NASA agreement, Executive Office, 2:30 p.m.


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