Monday, February 3, 2014

Honolulu rail gets on track, Schatz, Abercrombie lead in money races, candidate filing begins, Hawaii income distributed more evenly, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

courtesy Hawaii Rail Authority
Honolulu rail project, HART courtesy photo
Until recently, Oahu's rail transit project was little more than a big idea — a concept debated for years on Internet comment boards, via the voting booth and in the courtroom. But in 2014, construction work is making rail a reality. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii lawmakers this week will consider a bill that could make lying to police illegal, and another that would give adopted children full access to their birth records once they turn 18. The highlights of the third full week of the legislative session, however, will focus on Hawaii’s position as a place susceptible to the ravages of heat, aging and climate change. Associated Press.

Unlike about half of the states, the 50th does not allow for initiative, referendum and recall, ways in which citizens can directly enact major changes in governance. We also don't place term limits on legislators, and we haven't had a constitutional convention in 36 years — the last time Hawaii dramatically overhauled its government. Civil Beat.

The state Senate launched a statewide videoconferencing testimony program last week that's designed to make it easy for residents to testify at a legislative hearing -- even from the comfort of home. But when the program debuted Monday at an Education Committee meeting, no one showed up on the video screen. Star-Advertiser.

Court hearings involving children whose parents are accused of neglect or abuse would be open to the public under a bill headed for a hearing Tuesday. Family Court cases in Hawaii, as in most states, are closed to protect the confidentiality of the children involved and to avoid stigmatizing them. But a growing number of states have opened them to the public while giving individual judges discretion to close hearings if it would be in the best interest of the child and the community.Star-Advertiser.

Proposed legislation would amend state requirements to allow undocumented residents to qualify for a driver’s license in the interest of public safety, identification and insurance coverage. Garden Island.

Ready or not, the 2014 election season officially kicks off Monday. Candidates can start filing to run for office. Paperwork will be available from the state elections office and through the county clerks. Candidates have until 4:30 p.m. on June 3, 2014 to get their paperwork done before the Aug. 9, 2014 Primary Election. KHON2.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and state Sen. David Ige take pride in Hawaii's economic turnaround, but they have competing storylines about exactly how state government was able to climb back into the black. Abercrombie has framed his re-election campaign on a recovery marked by an $844 million budget surplus, replenished emergency reserves, and the political will to confront the long-neglected unfunded liabilities in the public-worker health care and retirement funds. Ige, the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee who is challenging Abercrombie in the Democratic primary, insists that it was the state Legislature that had the prescription to close the projected deficit Abercrombie faced when he took office in 2010. Star-Advertiser.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie raised 10 times as much money as his Democratic primary challenger David Ige in the six months since the state senator announced his candidacy. From July 1 through Dec. 31, the governor reported $528,000 in campaign contributions, compared with just $56,226 raised by Ige, who unexpectedly announced he was joining the race on July 9. Civil Beat.

In the most heated Senate Democratic primary of 2014, Sen. Brian Schatz (D) has established himself as the financial pace-setter, and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is doing little to show she'll be able to close the gap. She raised $455,000 to Schatz's $705,000. Over the course of the entire cycle, Schatz has raised twice as much as Hanabusa. The Fix.

Hawaii Senate President Donna Mercado Kim made a splash in the 1st Congressional District's Democratic primary race, outpacing her opponents in campaign fundraising during the period from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, according to federal filings released over the weekend. Six candidates, so far, are vying for the chance to represent the party and try to retain the congressional seat that Colleen Hanabusa is vacating in her quest to oust Brian Schatz from the U.S. Senate. The winner of the Aug. 9 primary will face the eventual Republican candidate in the Nov. 4 general election. Kim hauled in nearly three times as much as anyone else in the CD1 race during the last quarter of 2013, banking $330,133. Civil Beat.

It was a little surprising to find U.S. Census Bureau data showing that income is distributed more evenly across the state than it is across the country as a whole. In other words, "you have less income inequality in Hawaii than you have nationally," Census survey statistician Kirby Posey told Civil Beat.

A long-awaited version of the farm bill is heading for the Senate this week. Hawaii Public Radio reports on the 5 year, $500 billion package, and how it will be felt here in Hawaii.

Dug-up bones and unidentified remains of Native Hawaiians may be reburied on an uninhabited island if a proposed law passes. Hawaii’s Senate is considering a bill that would designate the island of Kahoolawe as the resting place for unknown or “inadvertently discovered” Hawaiian bones when those remains can’t be reburied nearby. Associated Press.

Oahu

Attorney Linda Chu Takayama has been appointed to lead the city Office of Economic Development. She will be joined by Peter Tomo­zawa, who was appointed as executive director of Business Development; and Minnie Ko, executive director of international affairs. Star-Advertiser.

Two forested ridges in Aiea could become part of the growing zip line industry in Hawaii under a plan by a real estate development company for a site once eyed for residential development. An affiliate of Towne Development of Hawaii Inc. has filed a draft environmental assessment with the state laying out plans for a zip line attraction in Waimalu above the existing Royal Summit neighborhood. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii
The 2014 election season kicks off today with the beginning of the candidate filing period, which runs through June 3. Tribune-Herald.

This year, Hawaii Island voters will have their work cut out for them as they will be called upon to weigh in on a number of federal, state and county posts. Tribune-Herald.

Businesses on Hawaii's Big Island, education and state officials are working with the officials from the $1.3 billion Thirty Meter Telescope project to create a "workforce pipeline program" to create a path for isle residents and students seeking careers in technology and other jobs related to the planned observatory atop Mauna Kea. Pacific Business News.

Reducing the coffee berry borer population at the get-go and keeping the pesky bug at bay with a once-a-month spray of Beauveria fungus appears to give the best bang for the buck, a scientist told coffee farmers at an expo Friday in Kailua-Kona. West Hawaii Today.

Organic farmers could see some more green, and not just in their fields. Puna makai Councilman Greggor Ilagan introduced a bill that would give certified organic farms a break on their property taxes. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Campaign spending reports show that some politicians are faring better than others as the 2014 election season officially gets underway this week. Maui News.

A bill requiring the state Department of Education to name the planned Kīhei High School in honor of the late US Representative Patsy Takemoto Mink will surface for a hearing before the Senate Committee on Education this Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. Maui Now.

Kauai

Pacific Missile Range Facility members and equipment participated in the integrated maritime exercise Koa Kai 14-1, Jan. 24-31. PMRF’s airfield was used as a forward staging base for the U.S. Army’s 25th Cavalry Artillery Brigade and Marine Corps units conducting helicopter operations. In addition, portions of the water range were used by Navy surface ships, and PMRF’s Seaborne Powered Target boats played a key role in the weeklong training. Garden Island.