Thursday, March 14, 2013

Revenue Council upgrades forecast, shield law in peril, corrections officer recruitment halted in wake of prison problems, state overpays workers $1.5M, feds investigate deaf/blind school, CIO lauded, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii economic workshop (c) 2013 All Hawaii News
The state Council on Revenues predicted Wednesday that private-sector economic growth in Hawaii would offset the drain from federal budget cuts due to sequestration, boosting the state's revenue forecast. Star-Advertiser.

A resurgent construction industry and booming tourism market have spurred the Council on Revenues to slightly upgrade its fiscal forecast for the state despite the uncertain impacts of pending federal budget cuts. Civil Beat.

The state Council on Revenues revised its forecast for Hawaii’s economic growth Wednesday upward by 1.6 percentage points to 6.7 percent for the current fiscal year. Pacific Business News.

The Hawaii House has passed its version of a $23.25 billion state budget for fiscal years 2013-2015 that secures funding for state departments and capital improvements but falls about $600 million short of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s proposal. Associated Press.

A coalition of media outlets set out in January to simply make the state’s Shield Law permanent by removing its sunset provision. But three months and a few House amendments later, the group is faced with a watered-down version of the original bill and an uncertain future in the Senate. Civil Beat.

A Native Hawaiian filmmaker who was one of the first non-traditional journalists to use Hawaii’s 2008 journalism shield law to protect his work, is asking Hawaii lawmakers to make permanent the journalism shield law before it sunsets this year. Hawaii Reporter.

Steven Tyler can feel more comfortable at his favorite vacation spot now that Hawaii's Senate has passed a bill known as the "Steven Tyler Act." USA Today.

State lawmakers will not prevent an increase in the unemployment insurance tax, a choice that will cost businesses $66 million for the next year but could strengthen the unemployment reserve. Star-Advertiser.

The state House Education Committee on Wednesday advanced a pair of bills intended to help the Department of Education regain control of skyrocketing school bus costs. Star-Advertiser.

Third- and fourth-graders in Hawaiian language immersion programs could soon be taking state assessment tests developed in Hawaiian — instead of controversial English translations — under a bill moving through the Legislature. Star-Advertiser.

The ability for the public to access the track record of adult care homes got a boost this week from a state Senate committee. Civil Beat.

The Hawaii House Committee on Health has voted to push forward a bill to stop people under the age of 18 from buying electronic cigarettes. Associated Press.

State Public Safety Director Ted Sakai has suspended recruitment of new corrections officers and postponed the start of the latest recruit class to beef up testing and training of the people who work in state prisons. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii residents and businesses, rushing to take advantage of a solar tax credit before it was reduced, added 108.7 megawatts of solar energy generating capacity to the grid last year, up 169 percent from 40.4 megawatts installed in 2011. Star-Advertiser.

Despite decades of efforts to trim the tab on costly payroll mistakes, some have still been able to walk away with a bundle. The state is chasing more than $1.5 million from its own staff who got paid too much. KHON2.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s office announced today that Hawaii’s Chief Information Officer Sanjeev “Sonny” Bhagowalia would be receiving a “Federal 100 Award” by Federal Computer Week magazine. Big Island Now.

Recent moderation in bunker fuel prices has prompted Matson to decrease its fuel-related surcharge by 3.5 percentage points. Tribune-Herald.

There is debate over a new energy experiment that could start on Oahu next month. According to Hawaii Gas, formerly The Gas Company, liquefied natural gas (LNG) will reduce the state's dependence on imported oil. Hawaii News Now.

University of Hawaii astronomers are using a $5 million federal grant to build a giant camera they say will be able to snap pictures of asteroids headed for Earth and warn of impending danger. Civil Beat.

Oahu

The Justice Department is conducting an investigation of allegations of assaults at the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind, the state Attorney General says in federal court records. Star-Advertiser.

The University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine moved up 17 places on a list of the nation's top medical schools to tie with four other schools at No. 66 in U.S. News and World Report's 2014 best graduate schools rankings. Pacific Business News.

The Honolulu Police Department will begin issuing a new type of semiautomatic pistol to its officers for the first time in more than two decades, Police Chief Louis Kealoha told the Honolulu City Council's Budget Committee on Tuesday. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Hawaii County firefighters worked Wednesday evening to assess whether any threat was posed to area residents in Kapoho after the Puna Geothermal Venture plant went offline and vented steam for 15-20 minutes. Tribune-Herald.

Puna Geothermal Venture’s geothermal power plant released about 125,000 pounds of steam, resulting in a brief power outage in the Puna area this afternoon, a spokesman said. Star-Advertiser.

For the last four years, a Big Island doctor received more money in speaking fees than any other Hawaii physician from drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline. West Hawaii Today.

After discussing whether a Hawaiian name would be more appropriate and if the public would ever break its habit of calling it anything but “Saddle Road,” the County Council on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution in support of renaming the island’s east-west connector “Daniel K. Inouye Memorial Highway.” West Hawaii Today.

Big Island commercial operators disposing scrap metal and those getting rid of motor vehicles will have to find another outlet starting March 28. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

The $72 million Downtown Kihei project cleared its environmental review Tuesday. Maui News.

The Maui Planning Commission granted a special use permit Tuesday for a bed-and-breakfast business in Launiupoko to host weddings, although the panel set more than a half-dozen restrictions. Maui News.

Several key Capital Improvement Projects on Maui were included in a budget appropriation approved today by the state House. Maui Now.

Maui hit a new high for the month of January with an average daily room rate of $289.98, which was in keeping with a record-setting month statewide, Hospitality Advisors and Smith Travel Research reported. Maui News.

Real estate, construction, politics and the development of Maui. Maui Weekly.

Kauai

Workers have removed an altar built two years ago where a shoreline path is being constructed in Wailua, Kauai. Star-Advertiser.

The sacredness of Wailua Beach is now gone, according to James Alalem, 55, of Wailua. Garden Island.

As the Lihu‘e Town Core Urban Design Plan moves forward, Lihu‘e will slowly change to accommodate more pedestrian traffic. Some of the changes just around the corner will include the elimination of parking alongside Rice Street, giving way to bicycle lanes. Garden Island.

The Electronics Benefits Transfer program will be back at select participating sunshine and farmers markets as early as March 25, said Frank Ranger, director of the Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank, Tuesday. Garden Island.

Molokai

A Talking Circle for Molokai practitioners, mediators, family members and anyone else interested will be March 19 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Molokai Community Health Center. The Talking Circle will allow everyone to share and compare different ideas related to the broad spectrum of problem-solving methods available in our multi-cultural community. Molokai Dispatch.