Thursday, March 11, 2010

State lawmakers continue dealing with grim economic figures, Kauai flora, fauna, added to endangered list, fees going up, more top Hawaii news

State spending cuts significantly have worsened the effects of the global economic downturn in the Islands, according to several Hawai'i economists who spoke to more than 150 advocates, lawmakers and others at the state Capitol yesterday.

Lawmakers appear poised by the end of the legislative session in April to approve a bill to increase the "facility charge" all customers have to pay on their car rental bills from the current $1 a day to $4.50 a day.

Nearly one out of every six Hawai'i workers was either unemployed or underemployed last year

The state's resort real estate market is not out of the woods yet, but Honolulu analyst Ricky Cassiday said he believes he has detected signs that it finally touched bottom in the last quarter of 2009.

Maui's hotel occupancy rate jumped to 67.5 percent in January from 59.8 percent in the same month last year. For the state as a whole, occupancy rose from 63.1 to 66.5 percent.

As a Child Welfare Services specialist on the Big Island, Patrice Bell has seen spending restrictions and budget cuts reduce her office size by about one-third.

For more than 15 years, medical hope for House Clerk Pat Mau-Shimizu was sitting next to her on the House floor — C.J. Leong, House assistant clerk.

The federal government added 48 species found only on Kauai to the endangered species list yesterday, boosting the number of species classified as such by the Obama administration from two to 50.

Native flora and fauna on the verge of extinction for more than a decade have officially been added to the federal list of threatened and endangered species, according to a press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wednesday

Mitsuo "Mits" Shito, a strong public housing advocate at the state Legislature, died of natural causes last month. He was 79.

Fire rescue crews say tiger sharks are hampering their search for a missing surfer on Oahu's North Shore.

State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa formally filed nomination papers Wednesday morning to run for the First Congressional District in a special election.

Hawaii County's cost to prepare for the recent tsunami threat: $274,067.

In stark contrast to last year, only one Hawaii County Council member is attending the National Association of Counties convention in Washington this week

Reacting to a study saying Kona coffee farmers lose $14.4 million to blenders each year, some processors and sellers claim changing state law to ban the practice of blending Kona coffee or require more Kona coffee in blends would negatively impact farmers, jobs and profits.

The $39 million project will take two years to complete and there will be construction delays, but the end result should be shorter commute times for those driving between Puhi and Lihu‘e, state officials said.

Starting May 11, Hawaii Island builders will have to observe a newly enacted county code that demands higher energy efficiency in newly constructed houses and, in some cases, in older houses undergoing renovation.