Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Legislature settles on $23.8B biennium budget, Hanabusa-Schatz showdown creates wide-open House seat, Oahu smoking ban expands, GMO bills die, Honolulu officials lobby Washington for rail, iconic lifeguard shacks to be removed, Maui chips away at unfunded liabilities, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

courtesy AARP-Hawaii
Hawaii Capitol, courtesy AARP-Hawaii
State House and Senate negotiators reached agreement Tuesday night on the final draft of a two-year state budget. The state would spend $11.8 billion in fiscal year 2014 and $11.9 billion in fiscal year 2015. The budget is slightly more than Gov. Neil Abercrombie had proposed for 2014 but less than the governor had requested for 2015. Star-Advertiser.

State budget negotiators on Tuesday passed a $23.8 billion biennium budget three days ahead of their internal deadline, but they were unable to agree on how much money to put toward economic growth and early education initiatives. Civil Beat.

The debate over whether genetically modified produce sold in Hawaii should be labeled as such came to a close at the state Capitol this week with the House snubbing a Senate resolution that called for several state agencies to study the issue. Star-Advertiser.

A Honolulu city councilman and others have raised late objections to a bill that would authorize the private development of public school land, undermining its chances as state House and Senate negotiators approach a deadline on Friday. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii lawmakers are trying to iron out key differences between the House and Senate versions of legislation to develop school lands so the state can generate revenue to fix ailing educational facilities. Civil Beat.

As U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa readies a campaign to take on appointed U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in 2014, potential successors to her U.S. House seat are preparing for what promises to be a wide-open primary contest. Star-Advertiser.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee plans to back Hawaii U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in his bid for re-election next year amid a primary challenge from U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a spokesman said Tuesday. Associated Press.

Brian Schatz may have been appointed to the U.S. Senate rather than elected, but national political analysts say he is slightly favored to win a 2014 primary contest against U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. Civil Beat.

It’s a heavyweight bout in which the loser could go home for good. That’s how one political analyst is describing the upcoming race for U.S. Senate. KHON2.

Her camp isn't confirming, but reports say U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa will challenge Brian Schatz for his seat in the U. S. Senate in 2014. "The profile of both of these candidates are about the same," political analyst Dan Boylan said. Hawaii News Now.

The Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, a key research entity that has existed for nearly four decades and is aimed at helping to oversee Hawaii’s attempts to wean itself from imported oil, is in serious jeopardy of losing crucial funding from the state’s so-called barrel tax. Pacific Business News.

Historic preservation supporters, archaeologists and Native Hawaiian groups celebrated Earth Day on Monday by rallying at the state Capitol to demand that legislators shelve a bill that would allow for archaeological inventory surveys to be done in phases while construction work is ongoing. Star-Advertiser.

The Public Land Development Corp. has been repealed and a bill to create a similar agency has died in the state Legislature. But the debate over what to do with underutilized public lands remains anything but settled. Tribune-Herald.

A conference committee composed of House and Senate members will meet tomorrow, 4/24/13, at 10:30am in room 325 at the State Capitol, to attempt to address differences in SB946 SD1 HD1 relating to the unfunded liability of the Employee Union Trust Fund (EUTF). Hawaii Reporter.

Does the state ethics law prohibit use of the University of Hawaii’s email system to criticize or attempt to roll back decisions of the faculty union without obtaining its prior permission? That’s the rather startling claim made by the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly as it defends against critics of its recent decision to cut decades-long ties to the National Education Association as of Sept. 1. Civil Beat.

The recently signed compassionate care bill was the top priority for women lawmakers this session… but there are more bills they want passed in the final days before adjournment May 2nd. Hawaii Public Radio.

Lengthy delays are not expected at Hawaii’s airports despite thousands of air traffic controllers nationwide being forced to take furloughs because of budget cuts. West Hawaii Today.

The state’s No. 1 industry, which has led Hawaii’s economic recovery while posting record numbers, could see a drop in arrivals in the second half of the year as airlines cut back on seats flown to the islands. Star-Advertiser.

State roundup for April 24. Associated Press.

Oahu

A bill that would ban smoking at all 293 Honolulu city parks and beaches gained preliminary approval Tuesday from the City Council Public Safety and Economic Development Committee. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and other officials said they were encouraged about continued federal funding for the city’s rail project after meeting with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on Tuesday. Civil Beat.

City leaders looking to keep the Honolulu rail project's federal funding on track met Tuesday in Washington, D.C., with top Obama transportation officials and the members of Congress whose continued support they'll need. Star-Advertiser.

With the popularity of cell phones these days, emergency call boxes along Oahu's roadways are becoming obsolete. During the last six months, the Hawaii Department of Transportation removed approximately 276 roadside phones along freeways and highways. Hawaii News Now.

There’s a ray of hope for more than 200 Tesoro workers who are about to lose their jobs. Both the union and the company say there are possible buyers. KHON2.

Chevron Corp. is expanding its renewable energy effort in Hawaii with the planned development of a utility-scale solar photovoltaic project near its Campbell Industrial Park refinery that would provide up to 1 megawatt of generating capacity for Oahu's electrical grid. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii
The island’s iconic wooden lifeguard shacks are slated for removal to be replaced with fiberglass units manufactured on the mainland. West Hawaii Today.

Mayor Billy Kenoi says he doesn’t want it and his finance director says the county can’t afford it, but the county Salary Commission is proceeding with a meeting Thursday to consider a $22,000 raise for the mayor and raises up to 19.8 percent for some department heads. West Hawaii Today.

A federal appeals court has ordered a new trial in a lawsuit filed by the family of a Texas soldier who was killed and others who were injured during a live-fire training exercise in Hawaii. Associated Press.

Department of Water Supply officials are hoping to reopen the Hawaiian Ocean View Estates well fill station at noon today, after a three-week outage. West Hawaii Today.

Former Council Chairman Dominic Yagong and former County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi acted against a Human Resources Department opinion in firing several elections workers last year, the attorney for the reinstated Elections Division chief says. West Hawaii Today.

Maui


Maui County faces $330 million in unfunded pension liabilities and $610 million in liabilities for retiree health benefits as of the end of last June, according to state officials appearing before the County Council on Monday. Maui News.

Hawaii legislators charged with negotiating the state budget have agreed to a $23.8 billion biennium budget proposal -- including $130 million for the Kihei high school. Maui News.

The Kihei, Lahaina and Pukalani satellite offices of the Division of Motor Vehicles and Licensing will be closing early this week so that staff can attend union ratification meetings, according to a county news release. Maui News.

Kauai

Kaua‘i Beekeepers Association Chair Jimmy Trujillo said local folks are “concerned about the health of bees,” as well as the dependency on chemical farming. Garden Island.

The Solid Waste Division recently awarded $40,000 in recycling and waste diversion grants to local organizations. Garden Island.

A five-star rating for a senior health care plan has an asterisk when it comes to serving Kaua‘i. Garden Island.