Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rare coral found off Hawaii, judge strikes gay marriage challenge, police misconduct kept secret, health exchange to get cheaper, GOP wants people power, Kauai passes cat license bill, 100 testify on Maui GMO bill, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Department of Land and Natural Resources photo
Rare coral, courtesy Hawaii DLNR
A state research team has discovered a coral species that's new to the main Hawaiian islands. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said Wednesday that a team of divers along the Kona coast came across a large number of coral colonies they had never seen before. Associated Press.

DLNR image
DLNR coral image
A research team with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources discovered off the South Kona Coast a species of coral new to the main Hawaiian Islands. Tribune-Herald.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it removed nearly 1 million pounds of decades-old shipwreck debris from two remote national wildlife refuges in the Pacific. The agency said Wednesday the removal is the first phase of coral reef restoration work at Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef National Wildlife Refuges. Associated Press.

A state House committee deferred a series of bills backed by Niihau residents to sustain fishing and other marine life for future generations. The Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs plans to submit a short-form bill relating to ocean resources to provide funding to the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Chairwoman Rep. Faye Hanohano said the state agency needs money to study coastal resources statewide. Star-Advertiser.

Between 500 and 800 lanternfish and squid were found dead or dying in the Nawiliwili Harbor area on Monday, prompting in investigation by state and federal officials into what caused the die-off. Star-Advertiser.

A state Circuit Court judge on Wednesday sided with the state and threw out a House lawmaker's legal challenge to gay marriage. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii is the only state without any form of referendum, recall and initiative on a statewide level, so House and Senate Republican leaders are asking the public to rally behind legislation they’ve jointly introduced to change that. But will they get enough backing from the public to sway the state’s majority Democratic party, which holds all but one Senate seat and seven House seats in the 76 member body? Hawaii Reporter.

The cost of running Hawaii’s health insurance marketplace is likely to fall below its original projection of $15 million annually because of low enrollment, its executive director told lawmakers Wednesday. Associated Press.

As high-profile deliberations over whether there should be publicly funded preschool resume, some Hawaii educators and parents are growing frustrated with the limited attention that policymakers are giving to imminent changes to the state’s kindergarten age requirement. The changes are expected to shake up the entire public school system and leave thousands of families without a place for their children to study. Civil Beat.

Hawaii had one of the lowest rates of home “flips” in the United States in 2013, according to figures released by RealtyTrac. A “flip” is when someone buys a home and sells it in six months or less. Pacific Business News.

Oahu

On Sept. 23, 2011, Honolulu police officer James Easley was fired after a woman accused him of raping her on the hood of his patrol car. Easley's case illustrates how difficult it is for the public to check on police misconduct and whether police officials are effectively addressing it, including removing bad cops from the street. But some lawmakers hope to change that situation. They have submitted companion bills in the House and Senate that would require more detailed disclosure of police disciplinary records, although the bills maintain an exemption in Hawaii's public records law that protects cops from having to reveal details of most disciplinary actions. All other public employees are required by law to disclose information relating to suspensions and terminations. Civil Beat.

The state Attorney General’s office is asking for $1 million from the Legislature to pay for past and ongoing lawsuits and to investigate Matson for last September’s destructive molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor. Attorney General David Louie and First Deputy Attorney General Russell Suzuki submitted testimony to House Finance Committee on Wednesday afternoon, estimating that the total cost of “extraordinary litigation” in the next year and a half could exceed $3 million. Civil Beat.

Attorneys for a Virginia boy with cerebral palsy say his family and the Honolulu military hospital where he was born reached a tentative $9 million settlement. The amount, put on the record in federal court in Honolulu on Monday, is subject to final approval by the U.S. Department of Justice, said Loretta Sheehan, one of the family’s attorneys. Associated Press.

There were more employers competing for a shrinking pool of job seekers Tuesday at the state's largest job fair. The 161 companies and government agencies that manned booths at the Job Quest job fair was up from 150 that turned out for the same event a year ago. The job fair drew 3,400 job seekers, down from 3,500 in January 2013. Star-Advertiser.

Condominium towers could sprout in Kakaako just makai of Ala Moana Boulevard if a bill sought by the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs is approved by the Legislature. Star-Advertiser.

As has often been the case, there was a surge of hope when General Motors officials arrived in Honolulu in December 2010 to announce a partnership with The Gas Co. — now known as Hawaii Gas — that would "make hydrogen available to all of Oahu's one million residents by 2015." As part of the plan, as many as 25 hydrogen fueling stations would be built on Oahu to support as many as 10,000 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

Development of a public shooting range at Puuanahulu has slowed while organizers work out noise concerns with some of the neighbors. West Hawaii Today.

The winch for lifting boats at Mahukona in North Kohala has been out-of-service since being damaged by high surf in December, forcing some boaters to find alternate locations from which to launch their vessels. West Hawaii Today.

Maui
Nearly 100 people testified before a Maui County Council Committee on Tuesday on a hot topic bill to regulate pesticide and genetically modified organisms. Maui News.

Maui County Council Member Riki Hokama, the current first vice president of the National Association of Counties, is in line to become the group's president in the summer, a news release from NACo said. Maui News.

Haleakala National Park is implementing a plan to cut back on the number of commercial visitors that aims to ensure preservation of the resources at the park, Maui’s most popular attraction. Associated Press.

The governor announced the release today of $500,000 in funds for land acquisition at Līpoa Point on Maui. Maui Now.

Cultural practitioners working to restore and preserve traditional Hawaiian fishponds don't simply need to wrestle heavy rocks into place in waist-deep water. First, government agencies have them navigate a bureaucratic maze of permits and regulations. Maui News.

Kauai

Cat owners on Kauai would be required to get a license for their pet under a new program passed by the Kauai County Council. The Council voted 4-2 Wednesday to pass Bill 2517 to establish a cat licensing program to help tackle the overpopulation of free-roaming cats on the island. The measure will be sent to the mayor's office for consideration. Star-Advertiser.

The Kauai County Council approved a bill that will require pet owners to license their cats and set up spaying and neutering requirements for cats allowed to roam outside. The 4-2 vote was made during the seven-member board’s Wednesday meeting. Garden Island.

A slew of House bills aimed at prohibiting outsiders from fishing and harvesting opihi around the island of Niihau died in committee Wednesday. However, the discussion will continue. Garden Island.