Friday, December 20, 2013

Feds will have no egrets, Hawaii Supreme Court reinstates Kauai trail protection, unemployment tax break for businesses, Big Island raises tobacco age, geothermal hazards at issue, firefighters get 18% pay hike, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Egrets in Hilo (c) 2013 All Hawaii News
The Federal Government may soon declare open season on birds you see just about everywhere…cattle egrets. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has published proposed rules that would allow state and federal agencies to euthanize egrets and also barn owls. Hawaii News Now.

For the first time in five years, Hawaii businesses will see their unemployment tax bill go down thanks to progress made in replenishing the trust fund used to pay jobless benefits.The average annual payment per employee will drop to an estimated $591 next year from $887 in 2013, a decline of nearly 35 percent, officials from the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations announced Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

A state judge ruled Thursday that the private citizens who are suing five Oahu churches for underpaying for the use of public school facilities did not provide enough detail to support their fraud claim. Because of that, Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall ordered the dismissal of the complaint filed by Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of Church and State founder Mitch Kahle and his wife, public advocate Holly Huber. Crandall did, however, say Kahle and Huber can refile an amended lawsuit. Star-Advertiser.

President Obama and his family will be in Hawaii for their annual holiday vacation. The first family will be staying in their usual private location in Kailua away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but the buzz is already in the air. KITV4.

Obama's Hawaii Vacation Home And The Luxury Rentals Of Kailua. Huffington Post.

A University of Hawaii press release is describing Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s most recent budget proposal as “an early Christmas gift” for students who are in the thick of end-of-semester exams. The $24 billion supplemental executive spending plan, unveiled earlier this week, “gives them hope for their future and the future of their university,” the press release says.  The plan honors the $14 million university regents requested in their own proposal to restore UH faculty salaries to pre-recession levels and another $19.5 million for the 3 percent faculty raises that were negotiated for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. Civil Beat.

David Lassner has spent much of his University of Hawaii career in the virtual world: Information technology, his specialty, is like that. He believes IT can continue to expand the reach of the state's largest educational institution and wants to go back to it, once his temporary position in the top UH office comes to a close. Star-Advertiser.

A state lawmaker suing the state for legalizing same-sex marriages says a controversial sex education program being taught in some public schools is inappropriate because it promotes a "homosexual lifestyle as a positive or 'pono' choice." Huffington Post.

Hawaii entered 2013 as a changed state — a state in mourning — and now we leave it, still changing — but with celebration in the air. The state has just completed its first year in a half-century without the leadership of the late-Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. And, after more than two decades of debate, gay marriage finally became legal in early December. A look back over the last year makes clear that there were plenty of other important issues in Hawaii. Civil Beat.

Oahu

City firefighters will see their base pay rise by about 18 percent through the next three years under a wage package that will cost taxpayers an estimated $88 million more under a binding award issued by a state arbitrator last month. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu transit officials on Thursday touted their plan to debut the island's elevated rail system with four-car trains instead of two-car models, telling the board overseeing the project that the change would save millions of dollars and provide better customer service. Star-Advertiser.

Today is the last day to buy permits to set off firecrackers on Oahu on New Year's Eve. The permits, which will be available until 4:30 p.m. at satellite city halls around the island, are required to buy firecrackers from licensed retailers. Star-Advertiser.

Scientists have found evidence that strong earthquakes in the Aleutian Islands could send an extreme tsunami that could bring huge waves through Waikiki and cripple Oahu's main electrical power plant. The study from the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology at the University of Hawaii and the National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kauai stemmed from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan and caused damage in Hawaii. Hawaii News Now.

Two laws banning smoking at city parks and bus stops take effect Jan. 1, and city officials began installing signs on Wednesday as a heads up. Mayor Kirk Caldwell, flanked by several City Council members and community groups supporting the new laws, climbed a ladder to post the first no-smoking sign at Thomas Square. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Mayor Billy Kenoi on Thursday signed a bill raising the tobacco sale age to 21, effective July 1. West Hawaii Today.

A game of bureaucratic pingpong has Mayor Billy Kenoi taking matters into his own hands and asking for an environmental assessment of an old Puna geothermal energy site leased by the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. West Hawaii Today.

The same day the CEO of the Hu Honua Bioenergy plant in Pepeekeo said developers were forced to “hit the pause button” on construction because of the slow pace of regulatory permit approvals, a subcontractor said it’s owed more than $215,000 for bills allegedly unpaid between January and October. Honolulu attorney Patricia Kehau Wall filed Wednesday in Hilo Circuit Court for a mechanic’s and materialman’s lien on behalf of Wesco Distribution Inc. Tribune-Herald.

The Big Island’s unemployment rate inched down in November while the state’s rate held steady, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial relations. West Hawaii Today.

Maui
Council Member Mike White wants Mayor Alan Arakawa's administration to negotiate a deal to only buy a portion of the 186 acres in Launiupoko that landowners are offering for $13 million. Maui News.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed an age discrimination lawsuit Wednesday against Maui County, claiming a 45-year-old Hawaii resident was denied employment as a police officer because of his age. Maui News.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against the County of Maui, alleging that a qualified candidate was not hired by the Maui Police Department due to his age. County Corporation Counsel Pat Wong issued a comment in response, saying the allegations are “false” and “without merit.” Maui Now.

The unemployment rate for Maui for November was 4.9 percent, which was 0.6 percentage points lower than the same month last year, the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said Wednesday. Maui News.

Kauai

The Hawaii Supreme Court reinstated a circuit court lawsuit Thursday seeking to protect a historic trail from a development on Kauai's south shore. Star-Advertiser.

Isolation, limited fleets, taxes and high demand make car rentals a rare commodity during the holidays on Kauai, and it is reflected in the prices and availability. Garden Island.

Molokai

The remains of St. Marianne Cope, who cared for thousands of Hansen's disease patients on Molokai, will return to Hawaii, her religious order announced Thursday. Star-Advertiser.