Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Rats! All over Waikiki. GMO state override bill fails, tour company death lawsuit settled, Hawaiian Home Lands wants pass from public records laws, greenhouse gas, toxic emissions regulations mulled, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Waikiki (c) 2014 All Hawaii News

Waikiki's rodents in residence. Budget cuts have let rats proliferate in the tourist mecca, much to residents' dismay. Star-Advertiser.

The Department of Education will again review Pono Choices after complaints from a state House lawmaker and several parents that the sex education curriculum is medically inaccurate and not age-appropriate for middle-schoolers. The department informed the state Board of Education on Tuesday that it is in the final stages of putting together a working group of educators, medical and public health professionals, parents and community leaders to review the curriculum. Star-Advertiser.

A bid to override county regulations on genetically modified crops failed to make it past a crucial Senate committee Tuesday. Hawaii Sen. Clarence Nishihara, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, originally introduced the bill amending the state's Right to Farm Act through Senate Bill 3058 last month. That bill would bar counties from enacting laws that limit farmers’ use of certain biotechnology. Both the Big Island and Kauai approved laws last year that, among other things, imposed regulations on genetically modified crops. Civil Beat.

Right-to-farm legislation is likely dead for this session after the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday failed to get enough votes for a procedural move to keep the idea afloat. Sen. Clarence Nishihara, the committee's chairman, tried to insert right-to-farm language into a bill that was carried over from last session, a tactical move intended to get a public hearing. But the committee was split 3-3, so the move failed. Star-Advertiser.

With little or no warning, a second bill aimed at stripping the ability of counties to restrict farming beyond state and federal law popped up in the Hawaii Senate this week. Same language. Different approach. Both pushed forward by Sen. Clarence Nishihara. But the new measure, which some quickly called political maneuvering, died just as quickly as it was introduced. Garden Island.

The Senate committee on agriculture held a public decision-making session on whether to “insert substantive provisions” into short-form bill SB110 earlier today. The vote ended in a tie, meaning the measure died in committee. By amending the Hawaii’s Right to Farm Act to “ensure that counties cannot enact laws, ordinances, or resolutions that limit the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices,” SB110 would have prevented any county legislation that would prevent biotech companies from creating GMO seeds and growing plants from them from being passed. Hawaii Independent.

A bill that would allow Hawaii lawmakers and citizens to better scrutinize police officer misconduct in annual reports to the Legislature cleared its first hurdle Tuesday. But there were also glimpses of possible future barriers to the measure, particularly from the state’s powerful police union. The Senate Public Safety Committee passed Senate Bill 2591 late Tuesday afternoon 3-1, with Republican Sen. Sam Slom the only dissenting voice. Civil Beat.

Nearly two months ago, new rules that would curb the state's greenhouse gas emissions landed on Gov. Neil Abercrombie's desk for his signature. The rules are still waiting on the Democratic governor. And so are environmentalists, who worry that Abercrombie's slowness to pick up his pen might be the result of pressure from influential companies that would be affected by the legislation. They're also concerned about two bills introduced last month by state lawmakers that could, they argue, help gut Hawaii’s greenhouse gas law. Civil Beat.

A total of 37 facilities in Hawaiʻi reported a combined 2.7 million pounds of toxic chemical releases during 2012, according to new information provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Maui Now.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is asking the Legislature to create a special exemption to the state's open-records law, making all government documents related to the agency's homestead lessees and applicants confidential if the records include personal information. Star-Advertiser.

A bill to shield most documents and correspondence relating to residential leases issued by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands from public disclosure will get a second look from the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs on Wednesday. Senate Bill 2837, which would prevent public disclosure of most lease records except for the actual lease documents, was proposed by DHHL and is included in Gov. Neil Abercrombie's legislative package. Civil Beat.

Hawaii may be getting ready to spend half a million dollars to remind its aging population: start saving now for long-term care. Lawmakers on Tuesday considered SB2346, a $7.1 million Senate bill for elder care and education. If passed, it will put $4.2 million toward the state’s kupuna care program and $1.9 million toward the disability resource center. It will also pay for a $500,000 public education campaign to encourage Hawaii residents to plan for their long-term care. Associated Press.

State Rep. Mark Takai's campaign distributed an election video last week. He's running in a crowded field for the 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. Civil Beat.

At least 10 U.S. states, including Hawaii, are considering bills to legalize or expand Internet gambling this year, according to a group that tracks gambling-related legislation worldwide. Associated Press.

CVS Caremark, the parent company of Longs Drug Stores in Hawaii, is kicking the habit of selling tobacco products at its more than 7,600 drugstores nationwide as it focuses more on providing health care. The company said today that it will phase out cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco by Oct. 1 in its 7,600 stores nationwide, in a move that will help grow its business that works with doctors, hospitals and others to improve customers' health. Star-Advertiser.

The state's public middle and high schools will be legally required to provide at least 990 hours of instruction beginning next school year, the first time in history Hawaii has implemented a minimum number of student learning hours for secondary schools, according to a state Department of Education report presented to lawmakers Friday. Maui News.

State roundup for February 5. Associated Press.

Oahu

About a half dozen federal employees at the historic U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building downtown blame mold there for asthma and other life-threatening health problems they have suffered for nearly three years.  While federal ICE officials denied there are serious environmental problems with the building, some employees said they have faced retribution for filing illness claims. Hawaii News Now.

It's a neighbor's nightmare, hoarders living right next door and the Honolulu City Council is looking to clean up the problem but they're finding it's a sensitive area. Hawaii News Now.

UPS once used it as storage space. Now part of a nondescript Kaka­ako warehouse is slated to be transformed into a pavilion for artistic events and a public gathering place. Star-Advertiser.

Nordstrom, which on Monday confirmed its move to the Ewa end of Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, is expected to have a Whole Foods Market below its new store, sources close to the situation told Pacific Business News.

Hawaii
Mayor Billy Kenoi has a plan to take out the trash. Kenoi told the County Council on Tuesday he will soon begin to pursue a waste-elimination project to address the Hilo landfill’s capacity problems. That could include a waste-to-energy incinerator, an idea the council rejected in 2008 under a previous administration. But Kenoi said he doesn’t intend to pursue any particular technology, an approach that appeared to receive the full support of the council members. Tribune-Herald.

With oo in hand, nine dignitaries, government officials and future homesteaders turned fresh dirt Tuesday signaling the start of construction of infrastructure that will eventually become the home for 117 Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries in Kona. West Hawaii Today.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a New York teenager swept out to sea during a Kealakekua Bay hiking and kayaking tour has been settled. Michael Madoff, the father of 15-year-old Tyler Madoff, said Tuesday he hopes tours will be run more carefully in the future. Associated Press.

Maui

Kaupo, Kahikinui, Kapalua and the Paia-Haiku areas have been identified by an "internationally recognized" energy resource consultant to be potential wind farm sites on Maui. Maui News.

Kauai

The Maui-based attorney who filed a protest against Kauai County’s search for pro-bono legal services to defend Ordinance 960 is taking his case to a state agency after a county official rejected his complaint. That protest, filed by Lance D. Collins of Wailuku last week, claimed legal cost requirements outlined in a solicitation to defend the county’s law on genetically modified organisms and pesticides use were unethical and violated state law. Garden Island.