BY SEN. SAM SLOM – Looking forward to seeing all my friends in the Kona Tea Party this Saturday, 1 pm at the Kona Rec Center.

Will not be adding to Hawaiian Airlines baggage fee largesse-can you believe nearly 50% of the carrier’s profits, $54 million, now come from baggage fees (a 40% increase since last year)?  It’s ok though; the cheapest round trip fare I could score for a 3-hour Kona visit Saturday was $175. YIKES!

A few months ago I reported that the Foodland in Koko Marina was going to move but at the last minute, a lease agreement was reached. Apparently not.  I was wrong. News broke Monday that lease negotiations ended and Foodland will vacate the 36,000 square foot space in a month. Walgreen’s reportedly taking the location after an attempt by Aina Haina Shopping Center to get the drug store failed. This will tighten Safeway’s hold on Hawaii Kai shoppers.

Matson, always first to raise shipping rates impacting Hawaii’s consumers, sent notification to its customers this week announcing yet another new rate increase because of the Hawaii law that removes general excise tax exemptions “temporaraily” (don’t hold your breath) from Hawaii businesses.

The bill, passed overwhelmingly by the legislative majority party (and opposed by SBH), SB 754, will have devastating fiscal impacts on air carriers, water carriers, subcontractors and sub lessees. That part is true. The loss of these exemptions with cost the business community-and consumers-$400 million. Matson announced a $52 per container fee effective July 10. As of early this week, the Governor had not actually signed the bill into law. Most believe he will. It is effective July 1.

PAYCHECKS HAWAII, the private, non-partisan political action affiliate of Smart Business Hawaii, released its 2011 legislative business rankings for all 76 state lawmakers. Few did very well for improving Hawaii’s business and investment climate. PAYCHECKS has been issuing its ratings since 1986. See the complete listing on the SBH site, www/smartbusinesshawaii.com  or on HawaiiReporter.com.

The Governor announced the formation of the state Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) working group, part of a national effort to reform judiciaries in the 50 states. The local group which first meets on June 28 at the Capitol, will work to analyze our criminal justice system with the goal of reducing spending on corrections while reinvesting a portion of the savings in strategies that will have a more significant impact on reducing crime and increasing public safety. As a member of the group, I will keep you posted on the progress and suggestions.

Listen to  Malia Zimmerman of Hawaii Reporter.com, daily (M-F) on the Rick Hamada Show, KHVH radio on 830 AM at 6:20 am. Malia also reports on Kauai’s KKCR with Sandy Brodie on Tuesday mornings, on the station’s “Morning Paper.” She will report the news behind the news for you.

A blow to lovers everywhere, especially us seasoned citizens: Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner, 85, and playmate Crystal Harris. 24, called off their wedding scheduled for this weekend. TMZ reports that the couple got into a nasty argument over the weekend on the phone. Whether it involved business, money or other issues was not disclosed.

On Friday, September 16, the Small Business Hawaii Entrepreneurial Education Foundation will hold its annual small business awards banquet at the Waialae Country Club. Know of a business, or businessperson, who has made major contributions to Hawaii’s business climate during the past year? You can still nominate Hawaii businesses for various awards. Call Darlyn at 396-1724.

An experienced leader of government technology oversight, Sanjeev “Sonny” Bhagowalia, was named last week as Hawaii’s first full-time chief information officer. Gov. Neil Abercrombie chose Bhagowalia for the job of upgrading the state government’s aging computer and technology systems. Bhagowalia will lead a seven-person information technology office tasked with improving public online services, making government more efficient and saving money. Bhagowalia currently serves as deputy associate administrator for the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies in the U.S. General Services Administration.

BHAGOWALIA starts his job, which pays a $179,700 salary, this month. He will prepare a plan for improving the state’s information technology by the time the Legislature convenes in January, 2012 Abercrombie said. Potential changes he could enact include enabling more electronic transactions with the government, digitizing unemployment check printouts, improving computer communications among state departments and creating a government data center.

Abercrombie also signed a bill into law spending about $1.2 million annually for operations of the state Office of Information Management and Technology. The office also received $3 million in startup money in the form of a grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Omidyar Ohana Fund, established through the support of eBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam.

Hawaii had one of the nation’s poorest-performing economies last year, registering growth of just 1.2 percent, the U.S. Commerce Department reported last week. Hawaii’s growth rate was the 44th lowest out of the 50 states and was well below the national average of 2.6 percent when adjusted for inflation, according to the report. The Commerce Department measured Hawaii’s economy focusing on 21 areas of economic activity, 11 of which were positive and 10 negative. The biggest contributors to Hawaii’s economic growth were accommodations and food service, the real estate sector and retail trade. The largest drags were construction, nondurable goods manufacturing and agriculture, the Commerce Department reported.

Plan to attend the next monthly SBH SUNRISE Networking Breakfast meeting on Thursday, June 30, from 7-8:30 am in the Pineapple Room, Macy’s Ala Moana Center. Complete buffet breakfast, networking, introductions and special guest speaker Tech Expert Jay Fidell. Fidell is the Founder of Think Tech Hawaii, a Technology Advocate, and Attorney. His topic is: “What is the State Department of Business Talking About?” Don’t miss this provocative meeting. Bring a friend. Call Darlyn @ SBH, 396-1724.

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