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Ian Lind • Online daily from Kaaawa, Hawaii

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A bit of morning calm on Tax Day

April 15th, 2014 · Kaaawa, Photographs

Yes, I’m one of those tax procrastinators working madly this morning to double check tax forms, print everything out, then walk down to the little Kaaawa post office to get them in to the mail.

The result–no time right now for a regular post.

Instead, a few calming photos of Kaaawa taken in the past several days.

The sun is now appearing early enough that it’s already breaking the horizon when we first get down to the highway in front of Swanzy Beach Park. Pretty soon the sun will be up before we even leave the house. That’s the part of the year when we see more of our friendly dogs across the neighborhood.

Swanzy

I like this next shot of a puddle on Polinalina Road. It might be called, “the sky below.”

Street scene

Last night’s total lunar eclipse was obscured by clouds in Kaaawa. But this morning’s sunrise displayed a bit of the coppery color we had been hoping for from the eclipse.

Street scene

As usual, click on any photo to see a larger version.

Now, off to finish the taxes.

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More on the question of legislative conflicts

April 14th, 2014 · Ethics, Legislature, Politics

If you keep track of blog comments, you may have noticed that some folks strongly disagreed with my post here on Friday (“Ethics law doesn’t support complaint against Rep. Luke“).

Here’s a comment that came in yesterday:

Ian, please take a look at the House Rules, pages 49-51 (rules 60.2, 60.4(1) and (6), 60.5, 60.6.

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2013/docs/2013HouseRules.pdf

Fair enough. Rule 60.5 seems to be the most directly on point. It reads:

60.5. If the member has a conflict of interest in legislation, the member shall disclose to the presiding officer (the committee chair or the Speaker, depending on where the vote is taking place) the conflict of interest prior to voting on that legislation. For the purposes of this rule, a “conflict of interest” means that the legislation affects the member’s direct personal, familial, or financial interest except if the member, or the member’s relative, is part of a class of people affected by the legislation.

The caveat is important. Interests are unavoidable and obviously not undesirable. We typically gravitate towards elected officials who share our own interests, and we hope–sometimes demand–that they represent those interests. On the other hand, we oppose those who reflect different interests. That doesn’t make their interests illegal.

What creates a conflict of interest between for a legislator is when he or she takes action on matters that impacts a private financial interest in a manner more direct than its effect on others in similar positions. So legislators don’t face conflicts when considering tax legislation simply because they are taxpayers. However, if they were considering a tax break that would benefit only a specific company in which they have a financial interest, that would be a different story.

This is a common way of looking at conflict of interest. The conflict must be direct and not simply the result of being part of a class of people or businesses that are impacted.

Here’s a table showing the definitions of conflict of interest in the 50 states.

No, I haven’t read and digested all of them. But I started at the top, and it’s clear that the House rules are right in the mainstream.

For example, Alabama:

A conflict of interest involves any action, inaction, or decision by a public official or public employee in the discharge of his or her official duties which would materially affect his or her financial interest or those of his or her family members or any business with which the person is associated in a manner different from the manner it affects the other members of the class to which he or she belongs.

Alaska:

Unless required by the Uniform Rules of the Alaska State Legislature, a legislator may not vote on a question if the legislator has an equity or ownership interest in a business, investment, real property, lease, or other enterprise if the interest is substantial and the effect on that interest of the action to be voted on is greater than the effect on a substantial class of persons to which the legislator belongs as a member of a profession, occupation, industry, or region…

Arizona is much the same.

A personal financial interest exists if it is reasonably foreseeable that an action in the discharge of his official duties will have a material financial benefit or detriment either directly or indirectly on the member, his spouse or any minor child of whom he has legal custody, except that no personal financial interest exists if the legislator or such member of his household is a member of a class of persons and it reasonably appears that a majority of the total membership of that class is to be affected by such action.

As I said earlier, I haven’t seen the actual complaint filed against Rep. Luke, so don’t know the specific allegations except as reported in the news. Those reports have pointed to her private employment as a personal injury attorney, but have not alleged that her practice would be impacted differently than all the other personal interest lawyers practicing in Hawaii. Hence, no conflict as defined by House rules.

I have to repeat the underlying point that it’s a mistake to view legislation as tainted if it reflects interests of particular legislators short of the direct conflicts that would set them apart from the “class” of people impacted by the legislation. It’s not illegitimate for legislators to see things from their own experience, colored by their education, training, work experience, neighborhood, voluntary associations, etc. We may oppose them because our interests are different. Sorting out those differences is what politics is all about, isn’t it?

And it should not be forgotten that strange things happen to bills heading into conference for various reasons. Sometimes its a matter of bargaining. A chair might take a bill with lots of support, and make it a bargaining chip in conference, something to be threatened in order to gain leverage on another bill, for example. Just a thought, although I don’t have any insider knowledge about the specific bill at issue.

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Bills that survived the 2nd Crossover deadline

April 13th, 2014 · Legislature, Politics

There’s less than two weeks before the legislature’s April 24 final decking deadline for most bills, which have to be in their final forms and ready for the last up-or-down votes by the full House and Senate. Joint conference committees are hard at work trying to hammer out remaining differences between House and Senate versions of bills that met the 2nd Crossover deadline and still have hopes of final passage.

Here’s a digest of all house and senate bills that crossed back to the originating body in time to beat that deadline. They are sorted by bill numbers, which link to status page for each bill. This digest was prepared by the Senate.

It provides a very good review of what’s still to be decided in the final two weeks of this 2014 legislative session.

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Kapiolani CC student newspaper to be shuttered in a few weeks

April 12th, 2014 · Education, Media

Here’s another entry for the “media is dying” file.

Kapiolani Community College is killing off its student newspaper, Kapi‘o, at end end of the current semester.

The decision was apparently made at the administrative level. While the name and online platform will still be used to publicize news selected by administrators and faculty, it will be without student involvement.

The news was announced the the Kapi‘o News Facebook page.

With heavy hearts, we are sad to announce that the Kapi‘o News has met its end.

On May 16 this student run campus publication will be departing Kapi‘olani Community College forever. This decision was made by the school administration who wanted to move Kapi‘o in a new direction. In the future, the Kapi‘o is turning into a place to post outstanding student work, and other events as deemed important by the school. This way a writing/editing staff is no longer needed. All decisions are going to be made by KapCC faculty and staff – therefore we will no longer be a student publication.

We are currently putting together a farewell issue to be distributed the week of April 28. We would like to share the thoughts of our readers and Kapi‘o alumni about the matter in it. If you are interested in being quoted, please respond to this post.

Thank you all for being wonderful readers of the Kapi‘o News.

The news has drawn a number of comments, like this one:

Robert Lopez That is terrible! I’m an investigative reporter at the Los Angeles Times and my first reporting experience was at Kapi’o. It all began there for me at KCC’s Diamond Head campus under Winnie Au … Is the student body planning to protest?

It’s a sad story, and a sad statement about education, journalism, news, etc.

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Mr. Duke welcomes you to another Feline Friday

April 11th, 2014 · Cats, Photographs

Mr. DukeIt’s been nearly four years since Duke was first diagnosed with feline diabetes. He’s been on twice-daily insulin injections since then. In a couple of weeks, he’ll be 12 years old. All things considered, he’s doing pretty well!

He sure looks good, although he eats way too much. He’s smart, too, and figures out how to sneak around and clean up the other cats’ food without me catching him. We have a constant contest. I try to pick up uneaten food, and he tries to eat it before I take it away. He probably wins more often than not.

His most recent surprising move has been to join in the defense against Black Cat. Now that Romeo has to stay inside, Toby and Duke have started looking around for Black Cat when they are outside. So far, no real fights have resulted. But they are definitely on guard when in the yard. Today’s Feline Friday has one photo of Toby under the stairs checking for unwanted visitors.

Other news…I’m holding off on starting Harriet on her prescription of anti-depressants. When I processed that these are really a drug, and once you start, you have to basically be weaned off of the drug over a period of time. That sounds like a drug of last resort, so I’m holding off to see whether any other approaches might work. I’m trying to pay more attention to Ms. Harry, and stepping in when she’s getting picked on. This weekend, I’ll be looking for some of that Fellway spray to see if it makes any difference in her case. In any case, on further reflection, I would like to stay off the more serious drug if it can be avoided.

In any case, all seven of the cats checked in for this week’s Friday fotos. Just click on the link below!

–> See all of today’s Friday Felines!

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