Monday, February 10, 2014

Break-in at Iolani Palace, Hawaii Legislature targets smoking, governor's travel records sketchy, state Supreme Court reaffirms shoreline access, HECO mulls liquefied natural gas, Honolulu owes feds $8M, appeals court rejects county's lowest priority marijuana law, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Iolani Palace (c) 2014 All Hawaii News
A woman, accompanied by a man, walked up the front steps of Iolani Palace at about 8 a.m. Saturday and kicked the door, cracking the glass of one of two left-side doors as they made their way into the historic building, said Kippen de Alba Chu, palace executive director. Star-Advertiser.

Authorities are investigating a break-in at Iolani Palace in which one of the original glass doors of the historic landmark was destroyed. The incident happened at around 8:10 a.m. Saturday.Hawaii News Now.

Plywood now covers the door where the glass was broken. Honolulu police say around 8 a.m. Saturday, a woman kicked the glass door in and shattered it. Palace officials can’t understand why. KHON2.

When the governor and his staff travel to places where they can advocate for deals to boost Hawaii’s economy or otherwise improve the lives of people in the Aloha State, there is a real potential value. But it’s hard to know if our taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely on these trips because there is so little public accounting. Civil Beat.

House lawmakers are again considering a bill that would ban smoking in all of the state's public housing units. The state came close to enacting a public housing smoking ban in 2012, but the housing agency asked Gov. Neil Abercrombie to veto the bill in order to give it more time to implement a ban as part of its administrative rules. Star-Advertiser.

A Senate bill that would raise the legal age to buy cigarettes in Hawaii — both tobacco products and electronic cigarettes — to 21 from 18 is moving through the Legislature, but another bill that would have placed an excise tax on e-cigarettes has stalled. Pacific Business News.

State legislators are looking for ways to regulate popular electronic smoking devices by treating them like the product they were modeled after: cigarettes. Star-Advertiser.

It’s no secret that electricity in Hawaii is expensive. But Robert Harris, the executive director of the Sierra Club’s Hawaii Chapter, raised eyebrows when he spoke at a Feb. 4 hearing at the Legislature. "Since 2009, the average electric rate has gone up 50 percent in Hawaii; the business model needs to be examined," Harris said. Civil Beat.

Hawaii would post cameras on state property and hire someone to coordinate anti-graffiti programs if lawmakers pass a bill they are considering. The bill, SB2602, says graffiti on buildings, walls, bridges, bus stops, trees, mail boxes and other surfaces is a blight on Hawaii. Associated Press.

The Hawaii Supreme Court reaffirmed its decades-old stance that the public is entitled to own and use as much of the beach as possible. The Jan. 27 opinion, issued in a case brought by Kauai residents, orders the state to consider historical evidence in determining shorelines, which become the starting line for building setbacks. Garden Island.

Is Tulsi Gabbard Hawaii's Invincible Rep.? Civil Beat.

Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui has $357,086 available as he enters this election year and attempts to retain the state's second-highest elected office. Maui News.

Human-Manned Subs Are Being Phased Out — But at What Cost for Hawaii? Civil Beat.

Big crowds flooded committee hearings last week at the Hawaii legislature to stump for better regulation of solar power and to push against taxes on electronic smoking devices. The bills that roused them to action (SB 2656 and SB 2495) will come up again in hearings this week. Other highlights of the fourth week of the session will include committee hearings on measures aimed at protecting against beach erosion and increasing the state’s minimum wage. Associated Press.

On Tap at the Hawaii Legislature: Feb. 10. Civil Beat.

State roundup for February 10. Associated Press.

Oahu

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is expected to put the squeeze on the city to return about $8 million in disputed grant money after the Caldwell administration's announcement late Friday that negotiations with Wahiawa nonprofit ORI Anue­nue Hale have ended. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii civil defense officials said Friday they’re launching a project to improve the security and resiliency of Oahu’s electrical grid. The state Department of Defense will work with Hawaiian Electric, IBM, U.S. Pacific Command and other entities on a study exploring options. Associated Press.

Hawaiian Electric Co. is in talks with the Navy about a plan to build the state's first liquefied natural gas import terminal at Pearl Harbor as part of the utility's effort to find a cheaper source of fuel for power generation. HECO has been seriously considering LNG as a potential fuel source since at least mid-2012 when Gov. Neil Abercrombie asked utility officials to investigate the feasibility of using natural gas as a replacement for fuel oil during the utility's transition to renewable energy. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

An appeals court has sided with a lower court’s ruling that the county’s voter-approved initiative making adult personal use of marijuana on private property the lowest law enforcement priority is unenforceable. The ruling opinion issued Friday by the state Intermediate Court of Appeals affirms the Jan. 28, 2013, ruling by Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura, who dismissed a civil lawsuit against the numerous county officials, which alleged they failed to implement and enforce the initiative passed in 2008 by a vote of 35,689 to 25,940. Tribune-Herald.

When NASA spacecraft phone home in the next decade, they could be communicating directly with one of Hawaii’s tallest mountains. The space agency is looking to replace radio communications with laser technology, and believes Mauna Loa could be the best location for one of its new ground stations, according to state officials. Tribune-Herald.

Downtown Hilo’s latest paint job ended right on time and is receiving mixed reviews. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Last year, there appeared to be little hope that taxpayers would see repayment of even a portion of the millions of dollars Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center owes Maui County for construction of the nonprofit's low-income housing projects. Maui News.

A lawsuit has been filed in federal court alleging First Amendment violations against Maui County. The suit stems from an incident reported in October of 2013 in which a pastor and his wife were distributing religious materials to the public on a sidewalk outside of the Maui Fair. Maui Now.

Kauai

Kauai residents continue to lighten the ecological footprint on the island. Kauai Island Utility Cooperative reported Friday that home energy use has dropped again for the sixth straight year. Residents have cut average monthly electric use by 10 percent in seven years. Garden Island.