Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hawaii Senate to hear GMO bill, agencies decry personnel cuts, judge rules online travel sites owe state $70M, Honolulu mayor to tackle ethics, Volcano House opens, editor named to Kaui newspaper, alleged spy caught in honeytrap, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

photo courtesy GMO Justice Coalition
GMO protestors, courtesy GMO Justice Coalition
State senators, buckling to public pressure, agreed Tuesday to hold a hearing on a bill that would require the labeling of genetically modified produce imported to Hawaii. Star-Advertiser.

Heads of Hawaii state departments urged senators to reverse the state House’s decision to cut more than 900 vacant positions from department budgets. Associated Press.

Hawaii Board of Education members at a budget hearing Tuesday urged officials to get a better handle on the millions of dollars that could be chopped from the state’s education budget in July should predicted sequestration cutbacks and preliminary state funding proposals take effect. Civil Beat.

The Department of Education says it has serious concerns over its ability to meet student achievement goals and special-education needs under the reduced state budget moving through the Legislature. Star-Advertiser.

State librarian Richard Burns says the house draft would cut $2 million from his budget and eliminate 47 positions. KITV4.

The Hawaii State Board of Education and state Department of Education are launching a new initiative to focus on developing effective school leadership in the nation’s only statewide school system. Pacific Business News.

Thousands of kids are arrested each year in Hawaii for cutting class, only to be thrown through the revolving doors of the juvenile justice system, officials say. Civil Beat.

A Hawaii judge has ruled that online travel companies such as Expedia, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Orbitz, Travelocity and Priceline owe the state of Hawaii $70 million in penalties and interest for failing to file Hawaii general excise tax returns or paying the taxes over a 10-year period. Pacific Business News.

The University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine has been addressing the state’s doctor shortage and need for primary care physicians, and efforts seem to be paying off. Pacific Business News.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has nominated the former head of Kaneohe Ranch, a retired Hawaii Island businessman and the executive director of the Maui High Performance Computing Center to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents. Star-Advertiser.

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents has a proposal for helping retire the athletic department's $11.3 million deficit. Hawaii News Now.

State briefs 3/20. Associated Press.

Oahu

The deep spending cuts coming out of Washington, D.C., known as sequestration could mean a reduction in federal dollars spent this year on Hono­lulu's elevated rail project, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said Tuesday. Star-Advertiser.

A spike in ethics complaints spurred an ambitious funding request to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, and it appears he might deliver. Civil Beat.

The city Department of Planning and Permitting on Tuesday gave conditional approval to a controversial condominium-hotel project in Waikiki, ordering its developers to make significant design changes to "soften the appearance of the tower and reduce its apparent mass" before they can proceed. Star-Advertiser.

The Honolulu City Council is expected to make a historic decision tomorrow … by confirming the appointment of a person who is considered the 4th most powerful government official in the state … behind the governor, lieutenant governor and the Mayor of Honolulu. Hawaii Public Radio.

Members of (de)Occupy Honolulu are holding a 24-hour slumber party protest at City Hall. They've set up tents on the front lawn to protest new sidewalk bills they call unconstitutional. Hawaii News Now.

Benjamin Pierce Bishop's arrest for allegedly passing classified information has left neighbors stunned at the accusations leveled at the "nice guy" they knew, and wondering about a possible other side of Bishop that they never saw. Star-Advertiser.

What happened to turn Benjamin Pierce Bishop -- an Army Reserves lieutenant colonel and defense contractor -- into an alleged conduit of secret information for China? KHON2.

University of Hawaii at Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple is defending the decision to set the proposed salary for Manoa's incoming head librarian at $195,000, saying the candidate was being pursued by other institutions and the salary is commensurate with peer universities. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Almost 10 years after it was constructed, a $1.9 million water tank still sits unused at the corner of Komohana and Kawailani streets in Hilo, as contractors try to repair yet another problem with the ill-fated project. West Hawaii Today.

Legislation seeking to change regulations regarding geothermal development remains alive though it’s not quite the same bill with which lawmakers started. Tribune-Herald.

Federal officials say a DNA-based water quality test, recently approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, could save health departments and other governmental agencies time, allowing government officials to close beaches more quickly in the event of a bacterial outbreak. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii Island residents and visitors will once again have the opportunity to test their mettle, when Volcano House opens its guest rooms this month to the public as it completes renovations that began last year after a near three-year search for a concessioner that left the historic facility closed since Jan. 1, 2010. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

A draft environmental assessment has been filed for the planned Consolidated Rental Car Facility proposed by the state Department of Transportation for the Kahului Airport. Maui Now.

The descendants of a family with ties to the gunner for King Kamehameha I at the battle of Kepaniwai and Kihapi'ilani, one-time king of Maui, will be caring for a family grave site March 30 in West Maui as part of the 21st annual Celebration of the Arts cultural festival at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. Maui News.

Kauai

The Garden Island has hired Bill Buley as its editor-in-chief. He will assume the new post April 15. Garden Island.

A new view for Wailua Beach is under way, and should be ready sometime in April. Much of the view of the beach from the highway will be obstructed by a three-foot, six-inch-tall cement wall extending almost the entire length of the beach. Garden Island.

County Department of Water officials announced Monday the completion of a large scale capital replacement project for the Lihu‘e water system. Garden Island.