Friday, February 28, 2014

Hawaii economy growing beyond tourism, Obama to help Hawaii's ailing Health Connector, Alaska wants humpbacks delisted, minimum wage bill closer to agreement, Lanai plane crash aftermath, Clayton Hee building war chest, nurses get raises, Mufi Hannemann disliked, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

courtesy Pacific Whale Foundation
Maui whale count courtesy Pacific Whale Foundation
The state of Alaska has filed a petition to remove some North Pacific humpback whales from protections granted under the federal Endangered Species Act, saying the whales are thriving and no longer need them. The petition filed Wednesday with the National Marine Fisheries Service aims to delist humpbacks that feed in Alaska in the summer and breed in Hawaii in winter, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Associated Press.

University of Hawaii economists are predicting the state's economy will grow slightly faster as the recovery expands beyond the tourism industry. The university's Economic Research Organization said in a report Friday Hawaii's gross domestic product is likely to grow 2.9 percent this year, up from 2.6 percent last year. Hawaii News Now.

Following two years of record-breaking growth, tourism officials say Hawaii’s tourism economy is starting to plateau. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, while visitor arrivals in January are on pace with last year’s numbers which contributed to a record of 8.2 million annual visitors, expenditures were down 4.7 percent compared to the same period last year. KHON2.

States such as Hawaii that have experienced technical problems running their own health care enrollment websites are getting some help from the Obama administration. Associated Press.

In a potential framework for an agreement, the state House Finance Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour by January 2018 and expand the tip credit to $1 while shielding low-income workers. The $7.25-an-hour minimum wage would gradually rise to $10 an hour over four years, giving businesses time to absorb the increase. The 25-cent tip credit — the amount businesses can deduct from the minimum wage for workers who earn tips — would rise to $1 over three years. Star-Advertiser.

Facing a key internal deadline Friday, state senators and representatives are trying to reach agreement on a minimum wage increase and tip credit. A Senate committee on Thursday deferred decision making on its version of a wage hike until Friday morning — the second delay on a vote this week. Civil Beat.

Debate will continue today over how much Hawaii businesses should compensate their minimum-wage employees. The state’s benchmark has remained at $7.25 an hour — the same as the current federal minimum — since 2007. Tribune-Herald.

State Sen. Clayton Hee has more than $460,000 in cash on hand, meaning he has the money to help stave off challengers or run for higher office. Hee told Civil Beat the money gives him the “flexibility” to consider a run for governor or lieutenant governor, but that he hasn’t made a decision yet.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie Thursday declined to say whether he plans to reappoint Hawaii Public Utilities Chairwoman Hermina Morita when her term ends June 30. Morita's future as head of the regulatory agency was thrown into doubt recently after an Abercrombie staff member reportedly said the governor did not intend to reappoint her. Star-Advertiser.

Elwin Ahu, a former state judge who serves as senior pastor at New Hope Metro, announced Thursday that he would run in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor. Star-Advertiser.

A bill aimed at establishing a community food forest program within the state Department of Agriculture is headed to the House floor. Garden Island.

A bill currently going through the state Legislature would require mediation be sought before arbitration in determining the sale price or lease rental of state lands. Tribune-Herald.

A state program aiming to help low- and moderate-income families send their children to a licensed preschool is opening its doors to new applicants. Hawaii News Now.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association unit representing registered professional nurses has ratified a new two-year contract with pay raises. The unit, which covers about 1,700 public-sector nurses, agreed to a 4 percent pay raise retroactive to January and a 4.3 percent raise effective in July. The government will also cover 60 percent of health insurance premiums. Star-Advertiser.

DBEDT has released two new applications showing demographic information for Hawaii's legislative districts. Hawaii Reporter.

On Tap at the Hawaii Legislature: Feb. 28. Civil Beat.

Oahu

A new Civil Beat Poll shows nearly 60 percent of Oahu voters have a negative impression of former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann. Just 32 percent view him in a positive light. Asked whether they would vote for Hannemann were he to run for political office this year, 28 percent said "very unlikely" and 20 percent said "somewhat unlikely."

A Honolulu City Council committee is putting off decision-making on a request to raise the height limit for a second hotel-condominium tower on Kuhio Avenue to be operated and managed by the Ritz-Carlton chain, following objections raised by the project's neighbors. Star-Advertiser.

State senators Thursday agreed to revive a bill that could enable the state to acquire undeveloped North Shore land owned by Turtle Bay Hotel and Resort through eminent domain. Star-Advertiser.

The state Supreme Court has agreed to consider a lawsuit protesting a plan to build a 3,500 homes on farmland in Koa Ridge in central Oahu. The development by Castle and Cooke Hawaii would turn 576 acres of prime agricultural land into master-planned suburban community more than two miles away from the nearest planned rail station. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) executive director Anthony Ching said in a public meeting that there would be an announcement about a new, projected preschool-kindergarten building as part of the Kakaako redevelopment plan. Hawaii Independent.

Hawaii

A former Puna councilman is ready to throw his hat in the ring again — it’s just a matter of which ring. Fred Blas has filed to run for two offices, Council District 4, which covers eastern Puna and is currently represented by Greggor Ilagan, and House District 4, also in Puna, currently represented by Faye Hanohano. West Hawaii Today.

Mayor Billy Kenoi provided some insight Thursday into why he signed a controversial measure banning new genetically modified organisms from growing in Hawaii County. West Hawaii Today.

The UH Board of Regents recently approved a sublease for the planned Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea on Hawai’i island. Hawaii Public Radio.

Maui
The logistics of travel and communication and how Maui County serves its four-island community will likely be on the public agenda in the wake of Wednesday night's fatal plane crash on Lanai. Star-Advertiser.

A small plane crashed and burst into flames shortly after takeoff from Lanai, killing three people and leaving three others injured, authorities said Thursday. Associated Press.

“This is a tragedy that has stunned our community, but we are also thankful for those whose lives were spared,” said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa who hosted a press conference to share information on Wednesday’s deadly plane crash on the island of Lānaʻi. Maui Now.

Grief and relief rose as the dominant emotions Thursday in the aftermath of a charter plane crash that left three people dead and three others injured in charred grassland in central Lanai. Two of the dead and three of the injured were Maui County employees on Lanai to attend a planning commission meeting Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

The surviving passenger who is credited with pulling two others from the burning wreckage of Wednesday’s plane crash on Lāna‘i has released a statement to reassure family and friends of his condition. Maui Now.

After a small chartered aircraft carrying Maui County officials crashed near the Lanai Airport on Wednesday night, a deputy attorney for Maui County called 911 to alert emergency officials to the crash and then pulled two other victims from the wreckage, friends and coworkers tell Hawaii News Now.

The Maalaea small boat harbor on Maui could receive up to $4 million in improvements under legislation being considered by the Hawaii Legislature. Pacific Business News.

The Maui Planning Commission unanimously approved a new, family-focused, 200-room hotel in Wailea. Maui News.

Kauai

Representatives of Hawaii Dairy Farms spent Thursday evening laying out their plans for the $17.5 million, 582-acre dairy in Mahaulepu. Garden Island.

The Honolulu firm of McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon has been selected to represent Kauai County in a lawsuit filed by seed four seed companies that want to block the implementation of a new ordinance regulating pesticide use and genetically modified crops. Star-Advertiser.

The Honolulu firm of McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon LLP has been selected to represent the County of Kauai in a lawsuit filed by four biotech seed companies relating to Ordinance 960, regulating GMO and pesticides. Garden Island.