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“Vote By Mail” pilot bill heads to final floor vote

The bill falls short of what advocates originally hoped for, but they're celebrating a step forward nonetheless and asking Governor Ige to sign it.

Illustration originally commissioned by Common Cause Hawaii and used with permission | Will Caron


HB1401 HD1, SD1, CD1, would create a Vote By Mail (VBM) pilot program across Kauaʻi County for all elections beginning with the 2020 cycle. Today, the bill was passed out of conference committee and will head to a final floor vote. After that, it will advance to Governor Ige for approval.

The original intent of this measure was to establish statewide mail-in voting. Despite the modifications, however, voting rights advocates hail the change and are hopeful that initiating this pilot program is the first step in implementing VBM throughout Hawaii in the future.

“Vote By Mail will provide more convenience for young people, members of our local military, homebound seniors and voters in rural areas who may not be able to visit the polls on Election Day,” said Janet Mason, Legislative Committee Co-Chair for the League of Women Voters of Hawaii. These citizens deserve ready access to the vote.”

She continued, “We acknowledge the Judiciary and Money Committees in both chambers who provided leadership for this reform and look forward to implementing statewide Vote By Mail following a successful Kauaʻi launch.”

States using a universal Vote By Mail system confirm an increase in voter participation and lower election administration expenses. Here at home, the Office of Elections predicts a cost savings of $750,000 per election cycle when Vote By Mail is implemented statewide. Under provisions of the bill voting in person will be possible at Voter Service Centers.

“We applaud legislators for recognizing Vote By Mail as a viable solution to restore balance to our democracy,” said Common Cause Hawaii Executive Director Corie Tanida. “With this bill the state is taking the first step toward reducing barriers to voting. But the legislature is far from the finish line when it comes to election modernizations. We will not relax our efforts until common sense reforms like Automatic Voter Registration and Vote By Mail are available to all eligible voters across Hawaiʻi.”

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Hawaii ties its electric utilities’ revenue to performance of key functions

These include service reliability, customer satisfaction and integration of renewable energy sources.

Today, Governor David Ige signed SB2939 SD2 into law as Act 5, which requires the Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission to create the framework that will tie electric utility revenues to performance metrics. Hawai‘i will be the first state to have performance based ratemaking mechanisms in statute, making it one of the most progressive states for energy policy.

“This is the next logical step in Hawaiʻi’s transition to a clean energy future,” said Marti Townsend, director for the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi. “Performance based rates bring the financial interests of the investor-owned utility in line with the public’s interest in cheaper, cleaner energy for everyone.”

“Performance based ratemaking is where the rubber meets the road for bleeding edge energy policy,” said Will Giese, Hawaii Solar Energy Association Executive Director. “If the 2045 Renewable Portfolio Standard was the vehicle to a clean energy future, then PBR is the engine that will get us there.”

The bill, also known as the Hawai‘i Ratepayer Protection Act, establishes performance metrics that the PUC will consider while establishing performance incentives and penalty mechanisms. They include: affordability of electric rates and customer electric bills; service reliability; customer engagement and satisfaction, including customer options for managing electricity costs; access to utility system information; rapid integration of renewable energy sources; timely execution of competitive procurement.

“The bottom line is that SB2939 is a victory for Hawai‘i’s energy consumers who will see more value for their hard-earned dollars. Through its expertise and oversight, the PUC will ensure that we move aggressively toward our renewable energy and consumer protection goals while maintaining a safe, reliable and resilient electric grid operated by a financially stable utility,” said the governor.

Variations on this bill have been heard at the legislator for over five years, and the PUC recently opened a docket to “investigate the economic and policy issues associated with performance-based regulation.” The preamble to SB2939 specifically references the Hawaii PUC’s “Inclinations on the Future of the Electric Utility” as a guiding document for the language of the bill.

Per the language of SB2939, the Hawaii PUC is required to establish performance incentives and penalty mechanisms by January 1, 2020 that directly tie an electric utility’s “revenues to that utility’s achievement on performance metrics and break the direct link between allowed revenues and investment levels.”

“By aligning the utility’s incentives with the consumer’s incentives, everyone wins,” said Sen. Stanley Chang, who introduced the bill. “Electricity bills will be based on performance: bringing renewable power sources online, upgrading the electric grid, ensuring reliability of the power supply, and even customer satisfaction. That’s good for consumers, good for businesses, good for the environment, good for the state and good for the utilities.”

“This bill aligns the interests of utilities and our communities they serve,” said Rep. Chris Lee, chair of the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection. “It is a big win for local consumers who will get improved electric services with more options for innovative renewables and batteries, and it is a responsible step forward helping our utilities transition to a sustainable business model that can survive disruption in the energy market.”

SB2939 was passed unanimously by the Hawai‘i State House and Senate. A diverse group of stakeholders supported the bill, including The Sierra Club of Hawai‘i, Blue Planet Foundation, The Alliance for Solar Choice, Organizing for Action, 350 Hawai‘i, Young Progressives Demanding Action and numerous individuals. The bill goes into effect on July 1, 2018.

“The Legislature has worked hard to establish regulatory policy that will better align electric utility incentives with customer needs and the State’s energy policy,” said Rep. Della Belatti. “The Legislature is confident that the Public Utilities Commission, as already demonstrated through the release of its April 18, 2018 docket related to performance-based regulation, will appropriately incorporate stakeholder input in identifying incentives that make sense and implementing these incentives that will minimize unproductive disruption and not result in unintended consequences. Through this collaborative, deliberative, and balanced process, the State will achieve the necessary update to our regulatory framework that ensures a safe, reliable, and resilient electric grid for all of our residents from our rural, agricultural communities to our most densely, populated urban areas.”

“If you were wondering how we get more renewables, cheaper electric bills and better utility grid reliability, this is it,” said Giese. “This is a landmark piece of energy policy and it is totally in line with the governor’s vision of a clean, sustainable Hawai‘i.”

“We are extremely grateful to Governor Ige for following through on his vision for a clean energy future for Hawaiʻi,” said Townsend. “After reviewing all of the evidence, Governor Ige made the right choice for Hawaiʻi’s ratepayers and environment.”

Making SB2939 law reduces electrical rates for Hawaiʻi residents, empowers the PUC to set strong, well-informed policies and encourages the utility to ensure clean energy for all of Hawaiʻi’s residents.

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“Why are there no evacuation plans for us?”

Hawaiʻi residents will hold public forum to discuss plans to prevent a nuclear holocaust in Hawaiʻi as the Trump Administration "gears up for imminent war with North Korea."

A public forum will be held on Saturday, March 10, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Church of the Crossroads (1212 University Ave., Honolulu) to discuss options for preventing war with North Korea.

Speakers will include Ralph Cossa of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Jairus Grove, Professor of International Relations at the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) at Manoa.

According to Grove, “there are clear signs that the Trump administration is gearing up for a war on North Korea.”

Since late-2017, the U.S. has set the stage for a war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). It has deployed the bulk of its nuclear submarine and aircraft carrier fleet to the Western Pacific. These have been reinforced by stealth joint fighter teams (including F22s), B2 stealth bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and F35s loaded with the critical software needed to use them. All munitions needed to arm soldiers, air and naval support have been moved to U.S. bases in South Korea, Guam and Okinawa. At the same time, the Trump administration is sabotaging efforts at diplomacy and building an international case to strengthen its case for an attack on North Korea.

Kim Jong-un has publicly pledged that he will use all means necessary to ensure the regime’s survival. With its vastly inferior nuclear weapons, air force and conventional fighting force, North Korea has only one option: raise the cost of further invasion such that the U.S. would willingly pull out. Grove says that makes Hawaiʻi a likely target. The full capabilities of North Korea’s nuclear program are unknown.

Yet, while the U.S. issued a “Non-combatant Evacuation Operations” memo on Feb. 25, 2018 with plans to evacuate U.S. citizens in South Korea, there are no plans to evacuate residents of Hawaiʻi.

“My friends, family and I are living in fear of a nuclear holocaust,” said Nandita Sharma, Associate Professor of Sociology at UH Manoa. “In fact, the ‘red line’ drawn by the Trump Administration does not include North Korea strikes on Hawaiʻi, but only on the continental USA. And, despite claims that interception missiles will save Hawaiʻi, the current U.S. success rate to intercept North Korean missiles is, at best, 30 percent. And, the most recent test in Hawaiʻi failed.”

Hawaiʻi has no approved public bomb shelters. Instead, we are told to “shelter in place,” even though most Honolulu homes are made of wood and do not have basements. People in Hawaiʻi have nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. Having recently received a taste of what it is like to wait for unstoppable death with those we love most, residents have decided to hold a forum to demand immediate and emergency actions to stop the impending war with North Korea that could lead to the nuclear destruction of Hawaiʻi.

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