Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hawaii lawmakers grill Obamacare health exchange head, Trump developer sued, campaign finance in federal court, Awana fined again, truancy can't be stopped, Oahu charities get grants, Hawaii County can't help department head, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Obamacare courtesy House Majority
Hawaii Health Connector briefing courtesy House majority
The head of the $205 million Hawaii Health Connector pledged to get medical plans and prices on the state’s health insurance exchange by Tuesday, two weeks after the Oct. 1 scheduled start of open enrollment. Executive Director Coral Andrews apologized Wednesday for the software problems that continue to plague the website where consumers were supposed to be able to compare policies, get rates and enroll as of last week. Star-Advertiser.

It's been more than a week since the Hawaii Health Connector launched with a major glitch -- no way yet for consumers to compare and buy health insurance and avoid federal penalties. On Wednesday, lawmakers grilled them about what went wrong, while the Connector says a fix should be up within a week. KHON2.

One week after the debut of the Hawaii Health Connector, its Executive Director sat before a Senate Health Committee, apologizing and asking for understanding. KITV.

A three-judge federal appeals panel on Wednesday heard a challenge to Hawaii's campaign-finance law, questioning lawyers about the ban on political contributions by state and county contractors and the spending threshold for triggering disclosure requirements. Legal experts caution against reading too much into the judges' questions at such hearings. But the judges did appear skeptical about claims that the contribution ban on contractors, passed by the state Legislature in 2005 in response to the "pay to play" scandals, is unconstitutional. Star-Advertiser.

Awana
The state Campaign Spending Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to fine state Rep. Karen Awana $8,590 for campaign finance violations. The fine — Awana's fourth since 2011 — was for filing false or inaccurate disclosure reports, untimely deposits of campaign contributions and failure to keep campaign finance records. The representative was urged to pay the fine within a year. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission on Wednesday fined state Rep. Karen Awana for the fourth time since 2011. The four-term Oahu Democrat had just paid off the last $800 that she owed from previous fines, completely draining her campaign account this week and paying a portion out of pocket. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Campaign Spending Commissioners sanctioned Rep. Karen Awana on Wednesday, issuing the maximum fine of $8,590 against her for 54 violations of the state’s campaign spending law. Hawaii Reporter.

Teachers, in many cases, can't do much about frequently truant students. That is because few schools have a mandatory attendance requirement and teachers are expressly prohibited from grading students based on attendance. It might seem surprising, but the Hawaii Department of Education doesn’t specify a minimum number of instructional days that middle and high school students must be present in order to be eligible to pass their courses. Civil Beat.

In 2043, Honolulu will probably be off-the-charts hot — permanently. Oahu’s residents and its unique, fragile ecosystem will likely enter a scorching new reality with grave impacts to the natural environment. That’s according to a University of Hawaii study on global warming that started as a graduate-level course project and now is getting national attention. It pinpoints the probable dates for when cities and ecosystems around the world will regularly experience hotter environments the likes of which they have never seen before. Star-Advertiser.

Climate change will begin within a generation, according to a study published Wednesday by researchers at the University of Hawaii. The UH group determined that the world's climate will change sometime in the year 2047. Hawaii News Now.

University of Hawaii’s Michael Liu said his team of astronomers’ latest discovery of an exotic young planet not orbiting around a star will lead to more discoveries in the future. Tribune-Herald.

The number people in Hawaii suffering liver damage linked to taking a dietary supplement for weight loss or muscle gain is now at 30, with the majority of cases on Oahu, state Department of Health officials said Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

Some 20,000 civilian Department of Defense employees in Hawaii -- and more than 350,000 workers nationwide --- shouldn't have been ordered off the job last week due to a new law that provided for funding for their pay, according to Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa. Hawaii News Now.

Members of the military have been neighbors in the islands since long before Hawaii was a state. And today, they continue their presence around the islands. Hawaii Public Radio.

Oahu

Eleven Oahu nonprofit agencies learned Wednesday they will get a slice of the city’s $5.1 million grants-in-aid pie because of a City Council decision to increase the number of organizations selected to benefit from the new fund. Forty-one other nonprofits that had already been awaiting grants found out their slices of the pie will be considerably smaller than expected under the plan proffered by City Council Chairman Ernie Martin and approved Wednesday with a 7-1 vote. Star-Advertiser.

Donating to charity is supposed to be a fuzzy, feel-good experience. This hasn’t been the case at Honolulu Hale. A protracted political debateover which nonprofits are worthy of taxpayer subsidies has soured relationships inside city hall. It’s also raised questions about equity and fairness. Civil Beat.

One month after 233,000 gallons of molasses spilled into Honolulu Harbor, Department of Land and Natural Resources officials are continuing to evaluate the full scope of damage to coral, fish and other marine life. Star-Advertiser.

One month after 233,000 gallons of molasses spilled into Honolulu Harbor, researchers have learned a little more about its impact on the coral and underwater ecosystem, but studies are ongoing to determine the full scope of damage. Hawaii News Now.

The buyer of four units at the Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk is suing the developer, Los Angeles-based Irongate, for breach of contract, claiming the developer failed to return the excess deposits and refused to instruct the escrow company to release the funds, according to a lawsuit filed recently in 1st Circuit Court in Honolulu. Pacific Business News.

Last night members of the Ko‘olau Loa communities from Kahuku to Ka‘a‘awa came to the Kahuku Intermediate School cafeteria to give testimony on Bill 47 before the Honolulu City Council Zoning and Planning Committee, chaired by Ikaika Anderson. If passed, the bill would put the Ko‘olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan into place. Hawaii Independent.

Hawaii

Although the mayor appointed her and the County Council confirmed her to head the Department of Environmental Management, Bobby Jean Leithead Todd must go it alone defending her qualifications for the position before a 3rd Circuit Court judge. Judge Ronald Ibarra on Sept. 26 denied Hawaii County’s motion to intervene in the challenge to Leithead Todd’s job that was filed by Councilwoman Brenda Ford, who represents South Kona and Ka‘u. West Hawaii Today.

A possible burial site is likely the cause of the latest delay in the Kawaihae Road intersection work at Queen Kaahumanu Highway. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

August's continuing trend of lower occupancy coupled with higher daily room rates in Maui resorts is part of a "stabilization" of the tourism market on the island, said the executive director of the Maui Visitors Bureau. Maui News.

County officials have announced a fall schedule for restroom repairs at four park facilities 0n Maui. The repair work will result in the closure of restrooms at respective locations, with portable toilets provided for public use during the repairs. Maui Now.

Kauai

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s recommendation that the Kauai County Council defer Bill 2491 for two months stirred up a wide range of reactions Wednesday. If passed in its current form, the bill would require Kauai’s largest agricultural companies to disclose the presence and use of genetically modified crops and pesticides. It would also establish buffer zones around schools, hospitals, homes and other areas, and require the county to conduct a study on the health and environmental impacts of the industry. Provisions deleted from the bill last month include those that would have prohibited open-air testing of experimental pesticides and genetically modified organisms, established a permitting process and placed a temporary moratorium on the expansion of GMO fields. The Kauai County Council will resume its discussion of Bill 2491 at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the History County Building. Garden Island.

Representatives for CVS Longs Drugs overcame public opposition and a 13-hour meeting Tuesday to secure a set of permits from the Kauai Planning Commission to build a 23,200-square-foot retail store in Kapaa. Garden Island.

The coastal and nearshore areas surrounding the privately-owned island of Niihau may be considered for inclusion in the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Garden Island.

Molokai

Five members from Sisters of the Sacred Hearts from Rome, Italy — the same Catholic congregation as St. Damien — arrived on Molokai Thursday, Sept. 27, as part of their trip to visit other Sacred Heart provinces across the world. Molokai Dispatch.