Article: Repeal drug mandatory minimums

Maile introduced SB 68 Relating to Sentencing:

Allows judges discretion in setting incarceration terms when sentencing drug offenders in certain class B and class C felony cases to make the length of the sentence proportionate to the offense and related conduct. Excludes certain offenses.

Repeal drug mandatory minimums

www.staradvertiser.com/…/20130218_

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Feb 18, 2013

Hawaii is one of the nation’s safest states from violent crime but prison walls have been spilling over to Arizona because of another policy: mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. A federal sentencing commission determined two years ago that such sentencing rules are “excessively severe” and studies in Hawaii agree. Putting offenders behind bars for a requisite period in drug cases is harsh, futile and expensive, and state legislators should put the mandate aside.

Congress approved mandatory minimum sentences as part of the “war on drugs” in the 1970s. Hawaii passed its mandatory minimum for drug offenders in 1986 and so did most other states. By the 1990s, then-U.S. Chief Justice William Rehnquist acknowledged that those measures were “perhaps a good example of the law of unintended consequences.”

Mandatory minimum sentencing laws eliminate judicial discretion, testified Kat Brady of the Community Alliance on Prisons at the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, which voted to advance the bill last week. “These laws are problematic because they tie the courts’ hands and mandate longer prison sentences, regardless of whether the court believes the punishment is appropriate, based on the circumstances and facts of the case.”

In Hawaii, drug offenders convicted of possessing a certain amount of drugs, a Class B felony, are sentenced to the minimum prison term of five years for possessing a certain amount of “dangerous” drugs, while distributing it to a minor is a Class A, which would automatically end with 10 years imprisonment.

But is that offense such a danger to society? Actually, in a 2006 case study in Hawaii, 97.6 percent of the drug offenses were not violent or personal crimes. The average drug offender spends an average of 39 months in prison, costing taxpayers an average of $85,000 per drug offender, according to a 2009 study by Thomas E. Lengyel of the American Human Association in Denver and University of Hawaii-Hilo sociology associate professor Marilyn Brown.

Lengyel and Brown figure that the net cost to the state for the 197 drug offenders’ total prison terms upon their release in 2006 had come to $15.6 million. “The cost of incarcerating drug offenders greatly exceeds the corresponding social benefit,” they concluded.

Many states now recognize that an expenditure is better focused on substance abuse programs than on lengthy imprisonment. The National Council of Sate Legislatures has concluded that sentences should reflect “the harm caused, the effects on the victim and the community and the rehabilitative needs of the offender.” Mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses don’t do that and should be eliminated, in favor of judicial discretion and refining justice

Minimum Wage Update: Measure to Increase; Exceptions to Minimum Wage

Note from Sen. Shimabukuro: There are exemptions to the minimum wage, in HRS 387-1 definition of “employee” and exemption in 387-9:
http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol07_Ch0346-0398/HRS0387/HRS_0387-0001.htm

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol07_Ch0346-0398/HRS0387/HRS_0387-0009.htm

Click here for SB 331’s homepage

Information provided by:

Bill Kunstman
Dept. of Labor & Industrial Relations

 William.G.Kunstman@hawaii.gov

830 Punchbowl Street #321
Honolulu HI 96813
Office: (808) 586-8845

Read my comments about the proposed wage hike:

Hawaii Senate committee pushes forward wage hike

By ANITA HOFSCHNEIDER
Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) – A Hawaii Senate committee is pushing to increase the state minimum wage by $2 to $9.25 per hour.

The move comes a day after President Barack Obama called for a federal wage hike from $7.25 to $9.00 in the State of the Union address.

Hawaii’s hourly minimum wage is set at $7.25.

The Senate judiciary committee voted Wednesday to increase the wage to $9.25 over the next two years.

The committee also voted to adjust the wage along with inflation starting in 2016.

Senate judiciary committee Vice-Chair Maile Shimabukuro says the increase is necessary to help Hawaii residents afford the state’s high cost of living.

Sen. Sam Slom was the only committee member to oppose the wage hike.

Slom is the only Republican in Hawaii’s 25-member state Senate.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Foreclosure Filed Against Owners of Shuttered Makaha Hotel and Resort

NEWS RELEASE

MakahaResort1

 

For More Information Contact:

Monica Salter

Monica@BennetGroup.com

808-265-0073

Foreclosure Filed Against Owners of Shuttered Makaha Hotel and Resort

Hotel closed since October 2011

HONOLULU – (March 1, 2013) A lawsuit seeking to foreclose on a mortgage was filed today against Makaha Hotel and Resort Inc. The 173-room hotel in Wai‘anae, Oahu has been closed since October 31, 2011. The legal action was taken by Hawaiian Golf Properties, LLC –dba Pacific Links Hawai‘i– which became the owner of approximately 400 acres in Makaha Valley – including the 255-acre Makaha Golf Club (West) acquired in April of 2011 and the 145-acre Makaha Valley Country Club (East) acquired in March of 2012. Hawaiian Golf Properties is seeking to foreclose on a mortgage loan under which it agreed to advance up to $6.8 million to Makaha Hotel and Resort Inc. The loan is secured by a mortgage that encumbers Makaha Hotel and Resort’s interests in the hotel. This foreclosure action only affects the hotel facility and has no impact on the ongoing operations at the golf courses or the golf course employees. “It is very unfortunate that Makaha Hotel and Resort was unable to secure the financing to reignite hotel operations,” said Micah Kane, chief operating officer of Pacific Links Hawai‘i. “However, we will use this as an opportunity to pursue a more comprehensive, community-based approach to developing a truly sustainable economic plan for Makaha Valley.” “Our commitment to the people of Makaha Valley and the Leeward Coast –and to revitalizing and protecting this culturally rich and environmentally stunning area– remains unchanged,” added Kane. “We look forward to continue working with the Makaha Valley community, and to helping create a vision that the people of Makaha can be proud of.”

About Pacific Links Hawai‘i

Founded in 2009 as Hawaiian Golf Properties, the organization changed its trade name to Pacific Links Hawai‘i in 2012 to connect with its parent company, Pacific Links International. Pacific Links International is a Canadian-owned golf corporation pursuing a strategy of acquiring signature properties in select world markets. Led by experienced industry executives, the company is focused on implementing a plan whose main feature is reciprocal access to multiple clubs around the world that have strong design and deliver a memorable golf experience. Pacific Links International currently owns or operates nine courses. In Hawai‘i, the company currently owns the Kapolei Golf Course in Kapolei, the Olomana Golf Course in Waimanalo and the Mākaha Golf Club West and Mākaha Valley Country Club East in Mākaha, while also operating the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club in Kailua. Pacific Links International also owns or controls The Golf Club at South Shore in Henderson, Nevada and Southern Highlands Golf Club in Las Vegas. It also owns the Pete Dye Golf Club in Bridgeport, West Virginia. In addition to its U.S. holdings, Pacific Links International owns The 27 Club, a 36-hole golf club in Tianjin, China, and is in the process of transforming the property into a six-star international golf resort and high-end residential community slated to open in 2015.

Why Labor Should Be Wary About “Wellness”

Article below relating to SB 1264, which I introduced this session concerning “Voluntary Wellness Programs”.
 thenation

http://www.thenation.com/article/173088/why-workers-should-be-wary-about-corporate-wellness

Why Workers Should Be Wary About Corporate Wellness

February 25, 2013

A growing number of US companies are now urging their employees to slim down, exercise more, reduce their cholesterol and blood pressure levels, or quit smoking—all socially desirable goals. But if these workers fail to cooperate with the new corporate “wellness” regime and adopt a healthier lifestyle (under the tutelage of their employer), the penalty, for many, will be higher out-of-pocket payments.

Corporate America has long been shifting the burden of medical costs onto workers. Cost-sharing negotiated with unions or, more commonly, imposed unilaterally by non-union firms has raised labor’s share of health insurance premiums to an average of 18 percent for individual coverage and nearly 30 percent for families. Workers or their dependents also face escalating deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance, which can add hundreds or thousands of dollars to their annual healthcare spending.

Now, under the banner of health promotion, management is making some workers pay more for their insurance based on individual differences in their medical condition or lack of adherence to “wellness” standards. This new, more individualized form of cost-shifting threatens to stigmatize and penalize the chronic health conditions of millions of workers, expose some to job discrimination and undermine labor solidarity in the process. In addition, workplace privacy advocates are warning about the invasiveness of so-called “health risk assessments”—now commonly required in corporate wellness programs—because these surveys probe off-duty behavior related to sex, drugs and alcohol.

Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), management can already compel some workers to pay up to 20 percent more than others covered by the same medical plan. According to Lewis Maltby of the National Workrights Institute, “all that is required is that the penalty be ‘designed to promote good health.’ The employer is not required to demonstrate that the amount approximates the increase in cost due to an employee who engages in any unhealthy behavior.” Under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, “this abuse will continue to grow,” Maltby predicts, “when the penalty employers can charge without justification increases to 30 percent” next year.

Among the other groups sounding the alarm about this trend are Families USA, Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart and Diabetes Associations. A report by the HPI at Georgetown called in February 2012 for new federal and state standards that will protect consumers from “programs that inappropriately punish workers in poor health, are overly coercive, or create perverse financial incentives that result in poorer health outcomes.”

As Cancer Society lobbyist Dick Woodruff told National Public Radio, “The whole point of healthcare reform is to make sure that everyone gets insurance. And if people have to pay more because they’re unhealthy, that’s a barrier. It defeats the whole purpose.”

California Nurses Association co-president DeAnn McEwan, a nurse for nearly forty years, sees great risk of “discrimination through backdoor redlining for individuals with pre-existing conditions and disabilities.” She points out that the workers “more likely to have the health conditions that wellness programs target are low-income individuals and racial/ethnic minorities.” By no coincidence, she says, they also “face barriers to health such as unsafe neighborhoods; poor air quality; substandard, decaying housing; and lack of access to affordable, healthy food.”

Despite these warnings, many other unions are buying into wellness schemes under management pressure for more costly contract concessions. Employers and their consultants pitch these programs, initially, as a way to provide “discounts” for workers who sign up for annual health evaluations, subsidized gym membership, smoking cessation classes or other forms of health counseling. In Chicago, for example, the Chicago Teachers Union returned from its inspiring strike last September with a freeze on insurance rates but a new wellness plan similar to the one covering 38,000 other city employees. According to one top CTU official, it “was definitely one of the least popular parts of the contract settlement” because of “concerns that what we’re seeing is just the thin edge of the wedge.”

The teachers’ program begins early this year with biometric testing for cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar levels, weight and body mass index. Teachers with an identified problem may be assigned a health coach who works for a third-party vendor. All must log into a wellness website, every month, earning points for reading articles or watching videos; the penalty for failing to do so will be $50 monthly fine. A family with two adult members that opts out of the program entirely will pay $1,200 more annually for their insurance. In the union’s next round of bargaining, this CTU leader worries that management “may try to attach penalties for being overweight or a smoker” in a profession where “many negative health outcomes have a lot to do with job stress.”

Efforts to promote better eating, more walking, bike-riding or working out at the gym would be quite positive—and far more effective—if they were part of a broader campaign that addressed the societal roots of bad nutrition, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart and lung problems. As CNA’s McEwan points out, many chronic, costly conditions have socioeconomic causes, including exposure to hazardous workplace environments. They’re not just the product of bad individual choices by workers or their family members—some of whom are just showing the side-effects of consuming their own employer’s heavily marketed food products.

Consider, for example, the chutzpah of PepsiCo’s insistence that its Teamster-represented drivers and warehouse workers in upstate New York pay a “sin tax” of $50 a month if they smoke or have weight-related medical issues like hypertension, high-blood pressure, and diabetes. As PepsiCo spokesperson Dave DeCecco told Bloomberg News in February 2012, “These programs enable our associates and their families to have a healthier lifestyle.” DeCecco didn’t say whether that lifestyle shift should also include not eating the salty, sugary, high-fat junk food that generates billions in profits for PepsiCo, while playing a major role in our national epidemic of obesity.

In California, such corporate hypocrisy takes a different form in healthcare. Some of the same hospital chains that have pushed hardest for “wellness” penalties don’t want to make changes in working conditions that would reduce job stress, fatigue, unsafe workloads and other causes of occupational illness and injury. Better nurse/patient staffing ratios, limits on forced overtime, guaranteed lunch and break time, and more lift equipment to reduce back injuries would all contribute to employee wellness (and lower healthcare costs, by increasing patient safety). But Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Dignity Healthcare and Daughters of Charity Health Systems all want to shift the focus, in bargaining, from their own unhealthy practices to the off-duty behavior of individual employees, reports John Borsos, a contract negotiator for the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which recently affiliated with the CNA

Borsos is particularly critical of the “Total Health Program” created at Kaiser Permanente (KP), with the backing of unions involved in Kaiser’s Labor-Management Partnership (LMP), led by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “Total Health” is being touted by SEIU as “a long-term business strategy for KP” that will give it a “competitive advantage” over other health maintenance organizations. If cost savings are achieved, Kaiser promises a monetary bonus for work groups that complete an annual health assessment, update their “biometric risk screenings,” and “maintain or make steady improvements on key biometric risks (weight, smoking, blood pressure and cholesterol).”

Individual compliance will be “encouraged” by a network of “Wellness Ambassadors”—derided as “wellness cops” by the NUHW– who will get paid time off from Kaiser for their activities. Borsos predicts that Kaiser personnel who decline to participate “will be subject to enormous pressure from co-workers when a portion of their future pay is tied to everyone’s participation.” For more on the NUHW-CNA critique of “Total Health” at Kaiser, see “Which Way to Wellness: A Workers Guide to Labor and Workplace Strategies for Better Healthcare.” (http://www.stopseiucuts.com/wp-content/files_mf/whichwaytowellnesswinslow.pdf). Labor Notes has also published an excellent guide for unions engaged in bargaining about wellness issues. (See http://labornotes.org/2013/01/what-do-when-boss-catches-wellness-fever.)

The danger of a membership backlash to the wrong kind of wellness plan is very real. In 2011, labor organizations represented on Oregon’s Public Employee Benefits Board (PEBB), agreed to a new “Health Engagement Model” (HEM), that required mandatory “risk assessments” (including waist measuring), plus penalties for non-compliance. According to one labor educator in the state, the HEM “riled up many workers, who turned their fury and frustration on the unions.” The Service Employees International Union was among those soon apologizing for “a poorly communicated change to our health plans that included a punitive surcharge” and “got us started on the wrong foot.” Labor officials later persuaded the PEBB that non-participants in “health engagement” should no longer be subject to the surcharge; instead, participants are now rewarded with an additional $17.50 per pay period. However, the health plan forces non-participating workers and their families to pay $100 to $300 more in deductibles, a “punitive aspect” still opposed by their unions.

A survey of 355 private companies by Towers Watson, a leading HR consultant, showed a 50 percent increase in their use of such financial incentives and penalties between 2009 and 2011 Thirty-eight percent of these firms reported further plans to penalize workers who fail to meet health improvement goals tied to their cholesterol levels or body mass index. Clearly, if unions don’t get their act together on “wellness,” their members are going to get rolled, one way or another.

The best labor response to these schemes would be to shift the terms of the wellness debate, at the bargaining table and in public policy arenas. Unions need to take a more holistic approach to their members’ health problems, one that doesn’t let Corporate America off the hook for its role in producing the social determinants of poor health, including poverty, inequality and unhealthy jobs.

Labor should also make wellness controversies a teachable moment for workers upset by punitive medical plan changes but not previously supportive of or well-informed about single payer healthcare. “Medicare for all” would eliminate job-based benefit coverage and the new forms of cost-shifting and differential treatment now being introduced under the guise of “getting healthy.” In nations with social insurance systems, health outcomes are better, in part, because achieving public health goals, like reduced obesity, isn’t left to companies more concerned about their bottom line than workers’ waistlines. American workers who don’t want their boss playing “wellness cop” need both short-term legal protection and a longer-term political solution.

* * *

( Steve Early spent many years helping members of the Communications Workers of America bargain about health care issues. He is the author, most recently, of The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor from Haymarket Books. He can be reached at Lsupport@aol.com)

Spring 2013 Career Fair

 

MCC_2013SpringCareerFair_trans

The Mānoa Career Center invites alumni to the Spring 2013 Career Fair on Tuesday, March 5, from
10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the UH Mānoa Campus Center Ballroom.

Network with potential employers from local and national organizations and be sure to bring extra copies of your résumé to apply for exciting opportunities!

For more information, including a list of participating employers, please visit:
http://manoa.hawaii.edu/careercenter/careerfair_participating_employers.php.

For disability accommodations or if you have questions, contact us at careers@hawaii.edu or
(808) 956-7007.

Sponsored by:
Mānoa Career Center
Careers begin here!

An Equal Employment Opportunity / Affirmative Action Institution