Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hawaii boosts net worth, state Legislature tries to preempt county GMO laws, UH faculty complaint delays smoking ban, push for cool schools, design errors delay new UH Hilo building opening, state's first private Post Office to open on Maui, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii cattle (c) 2014 All Hawaii News
Introduced by Sen. Clarence Nishihara, the Agriculture Committee chairman, and backed by several powerful senators, SB 3058 appears to be an attempt to exert state control over counties like Kauai and Hawaii that have moved to dramatically curb the use of pesticides and GMOs. But the bill faced referral to three joint committees as well as a fourth referral — a high hurdle — and as of Monday SB 3058 did not have a hearing scheduled before Thursday's triple-referral deadline. Solution? Take the key language of SB 3058 and place it into another bill related to ag — in this case, Senate Bill 110, a short-form bill held over from last year. And give it a hearing at the last minute. Civil Beat.

The state closed the last fiscal year with a net gain in assets for the first time since 2006, another mark of the state's economic recovery. Star-Advertiser.

Gov. Abercrombie Monday announced the first increase in state government's net worth in years as two top state senators – including one challenging Abercrombie's re-election – said lawmakers also deserve credit for the state's improving financial situation because they rejected Abercrombie's tax hike proposals and cut his budget. Hawaii News Now.

The push to cool public school classrooms got a boost Monday as the state House Education Committee advanced a bill that would dedicate $25 million to air-condition schools next school year. The measure still faces the House Finance Committee, which will need to prioritize a long list of competing interests for state funds this year. Star-Advertiser.

State Rep. Bob McDermott, who enrolled his eight children in Hawaii’s public schools, doesn’t want his 11-year-old son exposed to a controversial taxpayer-funded sex education program. That program is taught in 12 public schools across the state, and the Hawaii Department of Education is planning to expand the curriculum to others. Hawaii Reporter.

State lawmakers have scheduled a hearing today on a bill aimed at putting pressure on Hawaiian Electric Co. to be more responsive to its customers' demanding lower electricity prices. The measure, HB 1999, would empower the Legislature to review the franchise granted by the state that allows the HECO companies to operate as a regulated monopoly on all major islands except Kauai. Star-Advertiser.

People who work but are still homeless would get help moving into rooms for rent in private homes if Hawaii lawmakers pass a bill expanding a state housing program. A bill before the state House (HB1841) could widen Housing First, a program that aims to find permanent housing for homeless people. Associated Press.

State Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland wants to boost Hawaii’s affordable housing stock by convincing the Legislature to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize rentals for low-income Hawaii residents. Sen. David Ige, who leads the Senate’s budget committee, says there’s not a chance that her bill will receive that level of funding. But Chun Oakland is still pushing the ambitious proposal, reflecting her efforts over two decades to make housing for the poor into a legislative priority. Civil Beat.

The Hawaii Health Connector launched a new statewide enrollment drive Monday in preparation for the March 31 deadline to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The state-based online insurance marketplace has created new advertisements and online tools and will host a number of events to encourage uninsured residents to sign up for coverage through the Connector's community outreach partners known as Kokua. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

A smoking ban at the University of Hawaii Manoa that was supposed to start in February has been delayed because of a complaint filed by the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly. KITV4.

Chancellor Tom Apple wanted the campus-wide smoking ban to begin Jan. 1, but the faculty’s union filed a complaint about it late last year. KHON2.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told law students at the University of Hawaii on Monday that the nation’s highest court was wrong to uphold the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, but he wouldn’t be surprised if the court issued a similar ruling during a future conflict. Associated Press.

Loathed by oh-so-many liberals, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia waded into the deep-blue Aloha State Monday for a talk with law students at the University of Hawaii. The surprise for much of the audience wasn't that the supremely self-confident Scalia stated his constitutional judicial philosophy with authority; it was his edgy wit. Civil Beat.

Affordable housing slated for Hawaii Kai site. Hawaii News Now.

Less than six years after opening its store at Ala Moana Center, Nordstrom Inc. announced Monday it is moving to another location in the mall. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

The stalled Hu Honua Bioenergy project in Pepeekeo ran into more trouble, as three creditors say they’re owed delinquent unpaid bills, including one for more than $35 million. Three applications for mechanic’s and materialman’s liens were filed last month in Hilo Circuit Court. The largest, filed Jan. 30 by the project’s main contractor, Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co., claims Hu Honua owes $35,166,862.50. Another, claiming an unpaid bill of $1,303,976.45, was filed Jan. 29 by American Electric Co. The third, filed Jan. 16 by General Supply and Services, dba Gexpro, seeks payment of $53,286. Tribune-Herald.

The University of Hawaii at Hilo’s new Student Services Building has appeared to be complete for months now, but it has yet to open for business. Administrators and staff hoped to move into the building in the fall of 2013, after primary construction was completed during the summer. But in an email sent Friday in response to questions, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Luoluo Hong reported the university now expects full occupancy not to occur until late this summer. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

The US Postal Service will open its first Village Post Office in the state this week at Hanzawa’s Variety Store in Haʻikū on the island of Maui. Village Post Offices are owned and operated by third party businesses and “complement the Postal Service’s own network” of service locations. Maui Now.

Maui professor Kaleikoa Ka‘eo delivered this alternative to the Governor's State of the State address at the "People Not Profits" rally. Hawaii Independent.

Servco Automotive has purchased Maui’s Island Subaru dealership in Kahului from Kitagawa Motors, the company said Monday. Pacific Business News.

Kauai

Smart Growth America announced that the County of Kauai was selected to receive free smart growth technical assistance through a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program. The county is one of 18 communities out of 100 applicants and the only Hawaii community that will receive a one- or two-day training session with an expert from Smart Growth America. Garden Island.

Support strong for Kokee council. Bill to end advisory group runs into opposition. Garden Island.