Friday, January 24, 2014

GMO battle moves to Hawaii Legislature, tax breaks for the dead, lawmaker promotes Hawaii marijuana brands, Gore to speak, breastfeeding moms could skip jury duty, Honolulu affordable housing plan falls through, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

University of Hawaii research
GMO corn research in Hawaii, courtesy photo
 The fight over genetically engineered crops is spilling over onto the floor of the Hawaii State Capitol. On Thursday, state lawmakers filed a bill that would prohibit counties from restricting farming practices, including the use of genetically modified organisms, seen as a response to GMO-related laws Hawaii and Kauai counties adopted last year. Tribune-Herald.

Two state lawmakers want to strengthen Hawaii's Right to Farm Act by preventing counties from restricting agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices that are allowed under federal and state law. The bill was prompted by a Kauai County law that regulates genetically modified organisms and pesticide use and a Hawaii County law that bans new GMO crops. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Rep. Richard Onishi from the Big Island has introduced a bill that would give Hawaii’s 2001 Right to Farm Act more teeth. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Island House of Representative Richard H.K. Onishi (Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown, Pahala, Honoapu, Volcano) is calling for stronger protections for Hawaii’s farmers and ranchers by introducing a bill to strengthen Hawaii’s Right to Farm Act. Hawaii Reporter.

She promised she hasn’t inhaled, but House Majority Floor Leader Rida Cabanilla said she hopes to legalize cultivation, manufacturing and exporting of Marijuana and Marijuana food products in Hawaii to pay off the state’s billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities as well as make infrastructure repairs and fund public education and human services programs. Hawaii Reporter.

Imagine a day when Maui Wowie and Kona Gold are legitimate marijuana brands sold around the world, when Hawaii factories create legal products such as Maui Wowie cookies, cannabis-infused ice cream and marijuana macadamia nut chocolate candies. That day might not be far off if state Rep. Rida Caba­nilla (D, Ewa Beach-West Loch Estates) has her way. The lawmaker has introduced a bill that would lead to a plan to legalize cultivation of marijuana in Hawaii for sale and export to countries where usage is lawful. Star-Advertiser.

The state House of Representatives has introduced a package of bills aimed at improving operations of the Hawaii Health Connector, including one that would move the nonprofit organization under state control, House lawmakers said Thursday. Pacific Business News.

Leaders of two key committees in the Hawaii House say they plan to introduce a package of bills to help fix the state’s troubled health care exchange. The online insurance marketplace under President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul has had numerous problems, including a late start to open enrollment and few sign-ups. Associated Press.

Republican leaders in the Hawaii House say they're hopeful their package of bills proposing everything from voter referendums to limits on fee increases will be heard in a chamber dominated by Democrats. Associated Press.

A Hawaii House committee plans to debate a bill that would exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty. The bill is part of a package of measures from the Women's Legislative Caucus, a group of women who are lawmakers in the Senate and House. Hawaii News Now.

They are on the front lines protecting children against predators online.  But, here and elsewhere nationwide, those teams battling back child porn are often sorely underfunded and ill-equipped. KITV4.

Former Vice President Al Gore will visit Oahu in April to give a free public lecture on climate change as well as energy and water matters, University of Hawaii officials and Sen. Brian Schatz' office announced Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

An employee can collect workers' compensation for exposure to vog that aggravates an asthma condition, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The Department of Education and the Labor Industrial Relations Appeals Board both denied a claim by Lynedon Van Ness. But in a 51-page unanimous ruling, the high court held that worsening of the 54-year-old man's asthma from the volcanic smog was related to his employment. Star-Advertiser.

In August, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration  renamed one its facilities in Alaska that’s designed to warn large swaths of the coastal U.S. about impending tsunamis. The West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center would from then on be known as the National Tsunami Warning Center. The name change caused some angst within the ranks of NOAA, particularly for those who worked in the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii. Not only were there initial concerns about operations, but there was also worry that Hawaii’s center might not get as much funding anymore. Civil Beat.

The old saying that “land is power” is still relevant today, and is particularly true out here in the middle of the Pacific, where Hawai`i represents one of the smallest US states by land area. Here’s a brief look at how land is distributed across the main Hawaiian islands, and how it is used. Big Island Now.

Oahu

A $142 million deal to sell Honolulu’s public housing projects to a private developer collapsed Thursday, leaving gaping holes in the city’s budget and potentially submarining Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s ambitious plan to get some of the most chronic homeless off the streets. Civil Beat.

It’s a blow to a key Caldwell initiative, but it may be good for affordable housing. The city’s planned sale of its affordable housing properties has failed. Hawaii Independent.

The state has hired a mainland law firm to handle millions of dollars in environmental legal claims against Matson for last fall's massive molasses spill. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii House Majority Leader Scott Saiki has followed through on his promise to scrutinize the Hawaii Community Development Authority, introducing eight legislative measures that range from curbing the authority of the agency to getting rid of it altogether.  The state organization which manages development in Kakaako and Kalaeloa has been harshly criticized in recent months for approving a slew of new projects last year in Honolulu’s urban core. Civil Beat.

Glenn Martinez spent two days burying the hundreds of tilapia and koi that lived in a pond on his Wai­ma­nalo farm after the fish —worth thousands of dollars — mysteriously died Wednesday in one hour. Star-Advertiser.

It may not be the most pleasing to the eye, but sand bags strapped over large tarps equaled success at keeping scarce sand up against North Shore homes. KHON2.

Mall site blessed despite lack of lease. Construction on the first phase of the 1.4 million-square-foot regional mall Ka Makana Ali' in East Kapolei isn't slated to start until late this year. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii
When Ben Franklin said, “nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes,” he apparently wasn’t talking about Hawaii County. A comparison of property owners claiming the county homeowner’s exemption against vital statistics from the state Department of Health has discovered 1,200 deceased people benefiting from the exemption, some for as long as 10 years. That’s according to county Real Property Tax Administrator Stan Sitko. West Hawaii Today.

A Big Island charter school principal says bullying is a growing concern on campus, but not among students or teachers. Connections Public Charter School principal John Thatcher said the Hawaii State Ethics Commission and its executive director, Les Kondo, have been so aggressive in their years-long investigation into a conflict-of-interest case that it amounts to bullying. Civil Beat.

Hualalai Academy will close its doors to students in all grade levels at the end of this school year. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa announced he will deliver his 2014 State of the County Address on Wednesday, Feb. 5, from 5 to 6 p.m. in the McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. Maui Now.

Faced with a tight deadline, Maui County Council members wrestled well into Wednesday evening with a number of issues arising from the proposed 203-home Kahoma Village fast-track affordable housing project in Lahaina. Maui News.

Eight prosecutors from Mongolia are on Maui to learn about the U.S. judicial system and observe 2nd Circuit Court proceedings, as their country looks toward judicial reform. Maui News.

Kauai

Plans for the nearly 3,000 acres of Kauai agricultural land recently purchased by Tennessee billionaire Brad Kelley, one of the largest private landowners in the United States, call for keeping it predominately the way it is, the president of Kelley’s real estate holding and development company told Pacific Business News.

Green bulbs, shielded lights and a “common-sense,” turn-them-off approach. These are some of the tools Pacific Missile Range Facility is using in its continued effort to protect Kauai’s native and threatened seabirds. Garden Island.

The Department of Parks and Recreation invites the public to a meeting to discuss the restoration and future use of the Hanalei Courthouse facility. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Hale Halawai Ohana o Hanalei Community Center, 5-5299 Kuhio Highway. Garden Island.