Tuesday, March 2, 1999

Hawaii State Seal

Ballots will be
electronically recounted
this weekend

See below: Medical marijuana;
Auto taxes; Terrorism controls

By Craig Gima


An electronic recount of the 1998 general election is scheduled to begin this weekend at Aloha Stadium.

Linda Aragon, a spokeswoman for the Office of Elections, said the review of the election results will take place in the hospitality room of the stadium.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature A briefing is scheduled on Friday for the oversight committee, official observers and the media to explain the process and to run tests on the electronic counting system.

The recount, using the high-speed ballot machines used to count absentee ballots during the election, should begin Saturday morning and continue through Sunday night.

Selected races will be audited by hand during the week following the electronic recount.

Last month, the Legislature passed a resolution calling for the review of the election results after machines in seven of 334 precincts statewide malfunctioned and miscounted votes.

The machines used in the recount are different from the precinct counting machines that malfunctioned. The company that supplied both machines under contract to the state, Election Systems & Software, is paying for the cost of the review.

Because the results of the election have already been certified, state law does not allow for changes in the results even if the recount finds a different outcome in a race.

State auditor Marion Higa said her office has been preparing to oversee the recount and has been working with chief election officer Dwayne Yoshina and representatives of the Federal Election Commission and the nonprofit Election Center, which will also oversee the review.

"It's been mostly learning as much as possible in the short time," Higa said.

Higa said she has hired a former deputy in her office who retired last year to do research because her current staff is working on other projects.

The Office of Elections is expected to hire its own security to guard the ballots.

Aragon said the review of the election should not interfere with the swap meet which takes place in the stadium parking lot on Saturday and Sunday.

Patients lobby for
medical marijuana

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Glenn Robinette displays a piece of his spine that was taken
from his back after a car accident. He and others from the Big
Island lobbied at the Capitol yesterday, calling for hearings on
legalizing marijuana for medical uses. Robinette, of the group
Cannabis for Health, said medical marijuana
could help alleviate his back pain.

Governor’s auto taxes
would target private
vehicles, rentals

By Mike Yuen


Gov. Ben Cayetano's proposal to impose new auto-related taxes has veered onto a rocky road.

At a joint hearing yesterday before the Senate Transportation and Ways and Means committees, the proposal was opposed by the the nonprofit Tax Foundation of Hawaii and the state trade associations for automobile dealers and real estate agents. The bills also drew sharp questioning from lawmakers, including Sen. Randy Iwase (D, Mililani).

1999 Hawaii State Legislature The measures that came under fire would:

bullet Require the counties to impose a 1 percent tax on all vehicles except for ambulances, limousines, rentals, commercial vehicles and cars more than 10 years old.

bullet Increase the surcharge on rental cars from $2 a day to $3.

Combined, both measures are estimated to raise an additional $81 million annually, with much going into the state's cash-strapped general fund and also to help the counties, whose state subsidies from the hotel room tax were drastically cut back under a new formula lawmakers approved last year.

Cayetano also wants to have used car sales between two individuals who are not licensed auto dealers subject to the 4 percent general excise tax, which would raise an estimated $16 million a year.

Tax Foundation President Lowell Kalapa was especially critical of the proposed surcharge increase on rental cars, branding it part of a "shell game" to create the illusion that taxes are not being raised to keep the general fund solvent. Cayetano's proposal moves revenue from the rental surcharge from the highway fund to the general fund, and the hole in the highway fund is to be filled by the new tax on vehicles that would be paid largely by isle families, since virtually all commercial and rental vehicles would be exempt, Kalapa noted.

"Tax savings that those families are supposed to realize under the personal income tax cuts adopted last year will now go to pay for a new ad valorem (value-dependent) vehicle tax," he said. "For the taxpayers, the net gain in all of these shifting of the shells is zero, if not negative."

Budget Director Earl Anzai said the intent of the two bills is to generate general funds "to address the loss of general funds from the administration's proposals to reduce taxes." The result, he added, "is a wash."

"If you want to see some changes, you've got to take some risks. Otherwise, things will not change," he said.

"This is not a sham," Anzai insisted. The proposed rental surcharge increase is meant to shift more of the tax burden to tourists, he said.

Iwase questioned the legality of the administration measure that would compel the counties to impose the new 1 percent tax on autos. How could that be done without the counties enacting legislation, Iwase asked Anzai.

David Rolf, an Hawaii Automobile Dealers' Association manager, said members have sold 4.3 percent, or 1,800, fewer cars last year, compared to 1997.

The proposed tax would mean even fewer car sales, Rolf asserted.

Terrorism controls
found lacking

Officials say Hawaii needs
training and funds

By Terrence Lee


Hawaii is not fully prepared for terrorism, despite satisfactory handling of last week's anthrax hoaxes, state officials say.

Representatives from the state's fire, Civil Defense, health and related agencies at a House hearing yesterday said more funds and programs are needed to adequately prepare Hawaii for terrorist acts.

Letters with notes that they contained anthrax were opened last week in a doctor's office in the Ala Moana Building and the city Division of Motor Vehicles and Licensing.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature Officials said they need communications equipment, expansion of anti-terrorism training, public affairs programs to handle the media and disseminate information, and coordination of a comprehensive plan combining information from county, state and federal agencies.

Hawaii also needs to increase its supplies of chemical detection equipment and pharmaceuticals and extend anti-terrorism awareness and training in public and private sectors, and on the neighbor islands, officials said.

Illustrating the current level of chemical detection equipment, Honolulu fire Capt. Carter Davis noted that on-site identification tests used for the recent anthrax threats produce correct results only about 25 percent of the time.

One of the key needs of the state is for a National Guard rapid assessment and initial detection team, said Gen. Edward Richardson, state Civil Defense director.

Currently, 10 states field the 22-member teams providing training and support in identifying and dealing with chemical and biological agents. Five more RAID teams are expected in the year 2000, and Hawaii is hoping to field one.

House Public Safety Chairman Nestor Garcia (D, Waikele) said he will introduce a House resolution urging the federal government to establish a RAID team in Hawaii.

Additionally, Garcia said he plans to encourage federal funding for stockpiling related medical supplies and anti-terrorism public awareness programs.

Garcia said the anthrax threats had some merits in terms of gauging Hawaii's capabilities. "I'm pleased to the extent that we were able to be prepared. I think the anthrax situation last week showed that we have resources, various training in place to deal with it."


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