Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Is China spying on Hawaii? Top Hawaii news of the day, including gay marriage progress, Omidyar's and Ellison's plans, underwater electric cable, endangered species, hospital woes and more from all the Hawaiian Islands

People's Liberation Army-Navy ship Qingdao (DDG 113) as it arrives in Hawaii for a scheduled port visit Sept. 6, 2013
People's Liberation Army-Navy ship Qingdao (DDG 113) as it arrives in Hawaii for a scheduled port visit Sept. 6, 2013. Courtesy photo.
Media sources in Asia reported that a Chinese Navy spy ship has recently been placed near Hawaii in response to the continuing U.S. naval presence in the South China Sea and recent drills with Japan and South Korea. But U.S. Pacific Command said Tuesday that no People's Liberation Army ship was detected either within or just outside of Hawaii's 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone — leaving a bit of a mystery regarding the spy ship reports. Star-Advertiser.

U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, announced the launch of a bipartisan oversight effort entitled the HASC Asia-Pacific Oversight Series, which will focus on educating both Members of Congress and the general public about long-term national security challenges the United States faces in the Asia-Pacific. Hawaii Reporter.

The state Senate advanced a bill to legalize gay marriage during a special session Tuesday, sending it to a final floor vote that would get the legislation to the House. The final Senate vote is planned during a session that starts Wednesday morning. The bill is expected to pass there easily, then travel to the House where its prospects are less certain. Associated Press.

Expecting gay couples in Hawaii to travel to other states to marry in order to obtain federal tax benefits would impose a "heavy burden" and create an inequality compared to other married couples, state Attorney General David Louie has told state lawmakers. Louie submitted a seven-page analysis to lawmakers on Tuesday after facing questions from the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee on Monday about whether access to federal tax benefits for gay couples in Hawaii is as close as a trip to California or another state that has legalized gay marriage. Star-Advertiser.

The House Judiciary and Finance Committees will take testimony from 10 a.m. until midnight on Thursday, Oct. 31, at the public hearing on SB1 on equal rights. KHON2.

The House Finance and Judiciary committees are set to hold a joint hearing on the gay marriage legislation, Senate Bill 1, Thursday morning. To up the odds of defeating it, House Republicans tried to pull Rep. Cynthia Thielen from the 13-member Judiciary Committee. She’s the lone Republican in the Legislature who supports gay marriage. Civil Beat.

A power play to remove the sole House Republican who plans to vote for same-sex marriage stirred up controversy and political tension at the Capitol Tuesday, but failed. Hawaii News Now.

There were fireworks on the House floor Tuesday after Rep. Bob McDermott introduced House Resolution 5, which if passed, would have replaced the hierarchy of the Republican leadership with a more conservative faction and dissolved support by the Republican caucus for the current Democratic faction in power. Hawaii Reporter.

House Republican Bob McDermott introduced several resolutions that would change House committee assignments today. Speaker Joseph Souki and Scott Saiki also introduced their own committee assignment resolution to counter McDermott’s. Hawaii Independent.

A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaiʻi heads to the Senate for third and final reading at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. Maui Now.

In a major change that could effectively nix plans for the long-debated industrial-scale wind farm proposed for Lanai, state policymakers have in recent months shifted their interest toward connecting the Oahu and Maui electric grids. Civil Beat.

The University of Hawaii did not select an executive search firm Tuesday as planned to help with recruiting presidential candidates but said it will ask three finalist firms to make in-person presentations over the next two weeks. Star-Advertiser.

Time Warner Inc., the nation’s second-largest cable TV provider is doubling the download speed of its top-tier “Ultimate” service to 100 Megabits per second. The speed upgrade is being rolled out now to customers in Los Angeles and will come to New York City and Hawaii by the end of the year. Associated Press.

Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture now has a temporary name — NewCo — and a temporary home page as well as two more journalists — Dan Froomkin and Liliana Segura — who are now known to be affiliated with the project, according to The Omidyar Group website. Pacific Business News.

State roundup for October 30. Associated Press.

Honolulu

A plan to ask Oahu voters if they want to take away the Honolulu Board of Water Supply's ability to recover "back payments" from customers who are undercharged gained preliminary approval from the City Council's Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee on Tuesday. A number of Council members grilled board Chief Engineer Ernest Lau about a spate of estimated bills issued by the agency during the first nine months of the year. Star-Advertiser.

Problems created by the Board of Water Supply's estimated billing system came under scrutiny on Tuesday by a Honolulu City Council committee. After getting grilled by members, the agency's chief vowed to make changes to help prevent inaccurate estimates. Hawaii News Now.

Questions have been swirling about Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s plans to develop Kakaako, with many residents concerned about whether the area has adequate sewer, water and street capacity to handle new high rises and thousands of additional people. Civil Beat.

The Honolulu City Council Public Safety and Economic Development Committee Tuesday deferred Bill 59, which would ban lying down on sidewalks except under specific circumstances. Committee Chairwoman Carol Fukunaga said she wants to incorporate new language proposed by city attorneys that would limit the ban to only the Chinatown, Honolulu Capitol and Waikiki districts, and only between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. Star-Advertiser.

Seller, Beware! Discrimination Lawsuit Raises Eyebrows. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

Wildlife protection officials added 15 imperiled species to the federal endangered list Tuesday for Hawaii, where native plants and animals are among the most vulnerable to extinction in the nation. The species are all native to Hawaii island. Star-Advertiser.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined endangered species status for 15 species on the island of Hawaii. Thirteen plants, a picture-wing fly and an ultra-rare “anchialine” pool shrimp have gained final protection under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Big Island Video News.

Although the number of admissions to alcohol and drug abuse programs increased statewide between 2011 and 2012, they dropped in Hawaii County, according to data released Tuesday by the state Department of Health. West Hawaii Today.

Groups looking to restore historical Hawaiian fishponds need as many as 17 county, state and federal permits to do so, Department of Land and Natural Resources officials say. The permitting process itself could take years and cost as much as $50,000 to $80,000. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Maui County has settled a free-speech lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii and two Maui Peace Action members that will involve changes to the county sign ordinance. Maui News.

Kauai

A public hearing will be held Friday as part of the special legislative session to deal with a bill seeking an emergency appropriation to keep two Kauai rural hospitals afloat. House Bill 3 requests $7.3 million in stopgap funding to sustain Hawaii Health Systems Corp.'s Kauai regional health care system through next spring. The hearing will be held by the Senate Health and Ways and Means committees. Star-Advertiser.

The state Legislature’s Senate Committee on Water and Land will conduct a hearing today to consider Shawn Smith as the island’s representative to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources. Some have hailed Smith to be the right pick for the position based on his community service and balanced business approach, but others say his role as the general manager of Falko Partners, LLC, a land investment group, puts him at odds with his duties. Garden Island.

Water and agriculture have been identified by members of the Kauai Planning and Action Alliance as top issues impacting Kauai and its future. Both will be addressed during a panel discussion Monday as part of the KPAA’s fall membership meeting. Garden Island.

It didn’t matter that smart meters weren’t on the agenda. A handful of people still testified about them Tuesday during Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s regular board meeting. Garden Island.

Lanai
Island Air has been operating under a cloak of secrecy since billionaire Larry Ellison purchased the local interisland carrier in mid-February. It was no different Tuesday when CEO Paul Casey, the keynote speaker at the Pacific Asia Travel Association luncheon, spoke for less than four minutes and then dashed out from the banquet room without taking questions. Star-Advertiser.