Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Legislative session opens today, Furlough Fridays and other top news from around the islands


Hawaii lawmakers are returning to the state Capitol for the start of the annual legislative session this morning.

A resolution asking the state Legislature to let the county keep its transient accommodations tax revenues will be up for discussion Friday by the Hawaii County Council.

Central Maui lawmakers are echoing an emerging theme for legislators faced with the state's $1.2 billion budget shortfall - work to protect already-funded capital improvement projects in their districts.

Maui's state lawmakers are looking at ways to get public school students back into classrooms instead of using Furlough Fridays to help balance the state budget.

It was the most dramatic vote of last year's Legislature, and it resolved nothing: The impassioned debate at the Capitol over civil unions and gay marriage is back this week.

Drawn-out consternation over furloughs of public school teachers could add fuel to a proposal by Gov. Linda Lingle to make the schools superintendent a governor-appointed post.

Despite a reduction in instructional days for students via Furlough Fridays, interim schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said she is hopeful that the state will receive $78 million in the federal Race to the Top education competition.

There's a bill aiming to punish certain criminals if the crime they committed was near a school, public park or child care center. It's not only to be tough on crime but also to help students feel safe.

The Hawaii County Charter Commission will decide Thursday whether to put the land fund question back on the ballot.

A state judge on Tuesday granted a motion that will publicly disclose the amount the county has agreed to pay in the settlement for the civil cases of wrongful death and property damage surrounding the Ka Loko Reservoir failure nearly four years ago.