Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pay raises for government officials, more racism in the Hawaii capital, Lt. Gov. Tsutsui seeks $200k Maui office, defense contractor charged with spying, tourist tax deferred, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

USGS
Kilauea lava flow, USGS courtesy photo
South winds permitted clear views into one of Hawaii's natural beauties recently: the lava lake from Kilauea Volcano's active flow on the Big Island. Hawaii News Now.

The state salary commission voted Monday to recommend pay raises for the governor, judges and legislators, concluding that higher salaries are justified to attract the "best and brightest" to public service. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii lawmakers could soon get a huge pay increase. The state salary commission recommended legislators get a 21 percent raise this summer. KITV4.

Hawaii Fight Over GMO Labeling Turns Ugly. Environmental activist tells committee chair, "Go back to Japan." Civil Beat.

The attorney general is cautioning state senators that a House bill requiring genetically modified imported produce to carry labels would likely be struck down by the federal government if it becomes law. Star-Advertiser.

House Tourism Committee Defers Hotel Room Tax Hike. Hawaii Public Radio.

The record-breaking tourism industry has the Honolulu Mayor and the governor asking for a bigger piece of the pie. On Monday, they asked the state legislature to raise the hotel room tax. KHON2.

The Senate Education Committee voted Monday to move forward a bill that would allow the state to develop public school lands through private-public partnerships. Associated Press.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s three early education proposals are sailing through the Legislature, but the money he originally proposed to pay for the initiative’s first phase — the School Readiness program — got scrapped by the state House last week. Civil Beat.

Opponents of decriminalizing marijuana has a new partner -- a powerful national figure who has made it a point to fight legislation through education. KITV4.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is seeking to shore up its rules regarding coral damage in order to help protect the marine invertebrates. Tribune-Herald.

Push to create a statewide cell phone ban. KHON2.

State roundup for March 19. Associated Press.

Oahu

A defense contractor who works in intelligence at the U.S. Pacific Command has been charged with giving national security secrets to a 27-year-old Chinese woman with whom he was romantically involved, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday. Associated Press.

A civilian defense employee in Hawaii charged with leaking classified information about nuclear weapons, early-warning radar systems and other secrets to a Chinese national who was his girlfriend may have been targeted because he had access to such information, the FBI says. Star-Advertiser.

Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, a former U.S. Army officer who works as a civilian employee of a defense contractor at U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) in Hawaii, has been arrested on charges of communicating classified national defense information to a person not entitled to receive such information. Hawaii Reporter.

Oahu's residential electricity rates were higher in February and March largely because a coal-fired plant that provides the island's cheapest source of power was down for maintenance, Hawaiian Electric Co. officials said Monday. Star-Advertiser.

The city Board of Water Supply is offering up its sprawling main base of operations in Honolulu for lease and redevelopment in a move to earn income that helps pay for agency expenses and possibly reduces customer costs. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Hawaii County is poised to issue a 10-year contract to divert most of its waste from the county’s two landfills, a contract that would all but close the door on the prospects for a waste-to-energy facility that has been endorsed by Mayor Billy Kenoi. West Hawaii Today.

Campus administrators are keeping their fingers crossed after the Legislature dropped from a working version of the state budget a request for $38 million to fund a new pharmacy school building at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Tribune-Herald.

There are conflicting reports over whether the Kohala Watershed Partnership is using aerial hunting during its current feral goat eradication efforts. However, the partnership, which is helping to restore native forests in the watershed above Pelekane Bay, denies using such a method. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Plans to open a Maui office for the state of Hawaii's no. 2 executive will cost nearly $200,000. Hawaii News Now.

The Pan-STARRS space program, which operates the powerful PS1 telescope atop the summit of Haleakala on Maui is the recipient of an anonymous $3 million gift. Maui Now.

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii plans to open a 9,300-square-foot rehabilitation center in Central Maui this fall. Pacific Business News.

The drought watch for Upcountry Maui was officially lifted on Friday, March 15, after nearly four years of voluntary restrictions, said County Water Department officials. Maui Now.

Kauai

Approximately 150 people, mostly county officials and staff, gathered at the Mo‘ikeha building’s rotunda Monday morning for Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s fifth State of the County address. Garden Island.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s State of the County Address was presented Monday, March 18, 2013 in Moikeha Courtyard. Hawaii Reporter.

Recent samples taken from the inner wall of a Princeville water tank — part of a private water system — have been confirmed to contain the organic chemical polychlorinated biphenyls, according to state officials. While they say the water remains safe to drink, the source of contamination has yet to be determined. Garden Island.