Wednesday, September 16, 2009

State elections chief in hot water, budget crunch hits schools, other top Hawaii news

Although she expressed serious concerns and a lack of con- fidence in the state Office of Elections' ability to carry out next year's elections, the head of the Senate's money com- mittee stopped short of saying the agency's chief should be fired.

A tentative agreement for public teacher furloughs could shorten the school year by as many as four weeks.

A state Board of Education committee rejected a more than 100 percent increase in school bus fares yesterday, but Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto said she will have to look elsewhere for the money that would have been raised, and "that creates challenges."

Hawai'i's health insurance premiums grew an estimated 3.7 times faster than worker earnings during the past decade, according to a new report from a group advocating affordable health care.

The state Health Department is seeking a $43,500 fine from the Chevron Hawaii Refinery for alleged water quality violations.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. signaled his support for a stalled bill that would outlaw plastic checkout bags at retail stores across Kaua‘i, sending a letter to the Kaua‘i County Council that counters business community opposition that caused a deferral last week.

An alternative rail plan advanced by Kamehameha Schools could save money in the short-term but would create safety, traffic and other problems, according to the city.

About 30 people spoke up Monday night at a special hearing on a proposed reorganization of the Hawaii County Council, with nearly as many in favor as opposed.

Opponents of a County Council reorganization slightly outnumbered supporters Monday evening during a public hearing that brought several first-time testifiers to the microphone.

Maui Planning Commission members were unable to agree where to designate growth boundaries in South Maui, but they did make some progress in Kula.