Thursday, August 22, 2013

Congressional delegation split on domestic spying, shark victim dies, Hawaii lags in college readiness, gay marriage bill in the works, Honolulu struggles to pay union wages, another Sunshine Law lawsuit on Maui, no bingo for Hawaii County, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands


Obama inauguration
Hawaii's U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono at Obama inauguration
As more revelations come out about the NSA’s controversial domestic surveillance program, Hawaii’s congressional delegation is taking an array of different stands on the issue. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted to just kill it. Other members want to reform it. But to varying degrees, they differ in where they think the balance between privacy and national security should be. Civil Beat.

State House Speaker Joseph Souki said Wednesday that a majority of House lawmakers supports gay marriage, but he wants to make certain the vote count is firm before informing Gov. Neil Abercrombie. The governor is waiting for word from the House before deciding whether to call a special session on gay marriage. The state Senate has the votes to pass a gay marriage bill. Star-Advertiser.

The ACT Wednesday released the results of the graduating Class of 2013’s performance on its college-readiness standardized exam, which is administered across the United States. A  majority of Hawaii’s Class of 2013, similar to the rest of the nation, did not meet the test’s college-readiness benchmarks. Hawaii graduates who tested as juniors in the spring of 2012 posted a statewide average composite mark of 20.1. The national average composite score was 20.9.  Star-Advertiser.

In Hawaii, it pays not to work. A new report by Cato Institute, which examines the state-by-state value of welfare for a mother of two, said benefits in Hawaii average $49,175 — tops in the nation. Michael Tanner, co-author of the Cato study, said that since welfare isn’t taxed, a person would have to earn $60,590 in Hawaii to take home the same $49,175 a person on welfare would. Hawaii Reporter.

As Hawaii’s debate about GMOs rages, the editorial board of Scientific American has come down strongly against a policy requiring labeling of genetically modified ingredients in foods.  (A statewide policy requiring GMO labeling failed to pass the Hawaii legislature this past session.) Civil Beat.

Starting this fall, Hawaii drivers will likely have to pay a few dollars more to get their vehicles inspected for registration. But with a new electronic filing system, they won't have to worry about those inspection records getting to the Department of Motor Vehicles weeks after the fact, state officials and local inspectors say. Star-Advertiser.

University of Hawaii Board of Regents member Eric Martinson has resigned, a year before his term was set to expire. Martinson was appointed to the board in 2009, and was elected chairman in 2011 and again in 2012. John Holzman was named chairman in July. Star-Advertiser.

New group pushes for open records enforcement. Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest to ensure law-mandated transparency. KITV.

Scientists have developed a more accurate way of measuring populations of opihi, a Hawaii delicacy and fixture of first birthday baby luau and graduation parties in the islands. Associated Press.

Oahu

Honolulu City Council members questioned the wisdom of plans by the administration to curtail some city services to make up for a projected $26 million shortfall in the recently adopted $1.8 billion operating budget. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu needs to cut $20 million from its operating budget even though the city isn't even two months into the current fiscal year. A satellite city hall in Kailua will close, the size of new recruit classes for police and firefighters will shrink, the ocean safety lifeguard program and tree trimming services will face reductions. Civil Beat.

Leaky pipes at city pools pouring money down the drain. KHON2.

Pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers would need to file standardized electronic transaction reports into an online data system and meet other stricter regulations under two bills now going through the Honolulu City Council. Star-Advertiser.

The Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., on behalf of Paulette Kaleikini, is in settlement negotiations with the state after filing a lawsuit last week alleging a breach of its settlement agreement from a lawsuit involving the development of the Walmart and Sam’s Club stores on Keeaumoku Street in Honolulu, an attorney involved in the matter told PBN. Pacific Business News.

There were concerns almost as high as the condos themselves. Kapolei residents voiced fears with a proposed plan that would build the tallest buildings in Leeward Oahu. Hawaii News Now.

The owner of Ward Centers now has approval to begin developing three condominium towers at its 60-acre property in Kakaako, after a state agency authorized high-rises Nos. 2 and 3 on Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Hawaii County Council members have a lot of suggestions for the state Legislature to consider when it meets in January, but allowing the counties to opt into high-stakes bingo won’t be one of them. The council, meeting in Kailua-Kona, voted 7-2 Wednesday to strike that resolution from a list approved to submit to the Hawaii State Association of Counties for presentation to the Legislature. West Hawaii Today.

The drive from Kona to Hilo will get 18 minutes shorter Sept. 7. That’s when the new Saddle Road alignment, bringing the intersection with Mamalahoa Highway seven miles closer to Kailua-Kona, opens. That day, officials will dedicate the road in the morning, opening it at 3 p.m. to traffic under its new moniker, the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, federal transportation officials said. West Hawaii Today.

A federal task force agent was hurt Wednesday when he stepped on a booby trap while chasing a suspect through a Puna marijuana patch. Star-Advertiser.

South Kohala residents have had five years to attend meetings about the proposed Waimea District Park. For the next 30 days, they get another chance to offer their input on the long-awaited recreational area, through the comment period for the project’s draft environmental assessment. West Hawaii Today.

Big Island Candies celebrated the opening of its new 17,000-square-foot warehouse on Wednesday with a special lunch catered by Hilo-born chef Sheldon Simeon, a finalist last season on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef.” Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Weeks after a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that Maui County Council members violated the state's "Sunshine Law" by circulating written memoranda among themselves in 2008, Kaanapali time-share owners are making a similar claim in a legal challenge of their property tax rates. Maui News.

A German woman who lost her arm in a shark attack died Wednesday, one week after she was bitten while snorkeling off Maui. Jana Lutteropp, 20, who had been on life support, died at Maui Memorial Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Carol Clark said. Associated Press.

A 20-year-old German visitor died Wednesday at Maui Memorial Medical Center a week after a shark bit off her right arm while she was snorkeling at Palauea Beach Park. Maui News.

US Senator Mazie Hirono is on Maui today, where she plans to attend a function tonight honoring the late US Senator Daniel Inouye. Maui Now.

Kauai

Recently KHON2 uncovered an extreme backlog at the Department of Education when dealing with complaints that rise to the level of investigations, with just one permanent position in the administration-level unit dedicated to the task. It’s part of a deep divide centered at one Kauai school.

If people start with a genuine and deep respect for one another, unbelievable things can be accomplished, according to Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. That is something Hale Opio Kauai has been doing for nearly four decades. Garden Island.

The Kauai County Council’s Finance Committee by a 3-2 vote approved Wednesday a bill that raises dog license fees, but included an amendment to soften the blow on hunters. Garden Island.