Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Schatz-Hanabusa still tied for Senate, GMO could be on Maui ballot, food safety rules tighten, Hanohano meets with speaker, minimum wage opposed, Kauai mulls redistricting, drones on the Big Island, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, Hawaii
Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa
Just five months before the first votes are cast, likely Democratic primary voters are evenly split on who to support for the U.S. Senate. A new Civil Beat Poll shows U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa with 40 percent each. Another 20 percent are not sure who they'll vote for. This is the third time Civil Beat has polled the Schatz-Hanabusa matchup in eight months, and there has been very little movement in either direction for either candidate.

Scientists revealed the results of a comprehensive study relating to the levels of radiation in the Pacific Ocean as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. As it relates to Hawaii, the findings were positive. Hawaii News Now.

A new wide-ranging set of food safety rules went into effect Monday for some 10,000 restaurants, lunch wagons and food establishments in Hawaii, but the state Health Department will not begin enforcement until June. Peter Oshiro, state environmental health program manager, said inspectors will visit every food establishment in the state to explain the new rules before enforcing regulations that require everything from gloves for those who handle food to patron notification of the risk of eating raw and undercooked food. Star-Advertiser.

The Senate Health Committee held an emotional hearing Monday as senators began vetting Gov. Neil Abercrombie's appointee for director of the Department of Health — a position left vacant when Director Loretta Fuddy died in December after a plane crash off Molokai. Star-Advertiser.

State Rep. Faye Hanohano met privately Monday with House leaders to give her side of the controversy that has swirled around her conduct. Hanohano, who had postponed two previously scheduled meetings with House leaders last week, spoke with House Speaker Joseph Souki, House Vice Speaker John Mizuno, House Majority Leader Scott Saiki and others for about a half-hour. Rep. Marcus Oshiro accompanied Hanohano in what he described as "moral support." Star-Advertiser.

The public may soon see more timely and detailed reports from people who are paid to try to influence policy decisions in Hawaii. That’s good news for a state with lax lobbying laws. A nationwide survey conducted two years ago found Hawaii lagging far behind — especially when it comes to disclosure — and the Legislature has done little since then to address the problem. Civil Beat.

Senate Bill 2609, which raises the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017 and eliminates the tip credit, has a hearing set for Wednesday in Senate Ways and Means. Civil Beat.

Mentally and physically debilitated prisoners in Hawaii are likely to gain easier access to parole hearings under changes state agencies are making. Associated Press.

Six of the seven announced Democratic candidates for Hawaii's 1st Congressional District seat stepped up efforts to separate themselves from the rest of the field during a forum Monday, while attempting to make special appeals to a largely older crowd. Sponsored by the Hono­lulu-based Kokua Council, which advocates for seniors, the forum drew about 50 people to Harris United Methodist Church in lower Nuuanu. Star-Advertiser.

Candidates in the crowded race for Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa’s seat met for the first time today in a face-to-face political forum hosted by the Kokua Council in Honolulu. Hawaii Public Radio.

In the months since the Sandy Hook mass shooting that left 26 students and staffers at the Connecticut elementary school dead in December 2012, Hawaii has stepped up its security and safety training at public schools to prevent similar tragedies here, school officials told lawmakers Monday. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii lawmakers want to help the state’s seniors avoid a situation where they’ve fallen — and can’t get up. The Legislature plan to allocate $80,000 for a new “fall prevention coordinator” position in the state Department of Health’s Emergency Management Division. Hawaii Reporter.

In the last seven years there have been 13 security breaches at Iolani Palace or on the palace grounds. Some of the incidents have resulted in the destruction of irreplaceable treasures. Civil Beat.

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs is trying to make it easier to check whether a professional in Hawaii is licensed. The department said Monday more than 375,000 Hawaii licenses can now be accessed on mobile devices. Associated Press.

State roundup for February 25. Associated Press.

Oahu

Proposed military cuts could have negative impact on Oahu. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii Pacific University has completed a draft environmental assessment for its proposed conversion of Aloha Tower Marketplace into an extension of its downtown Hono­lulu campus sprinkled with some retail and restaurant use. Star-Advertiser.

Walmart plans to hire 150 people for its new Downtown Honolulu store, which will open this summer in the former Macy’s department store, the discount retail giant said Monday. Pacific Business News.

Plan expands types of events OK'd for Stan Sheriff Center. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii
Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Hilo announced Monday that the Federal Aviation Administration granted a Certificate of Authorization for the use of an unmanned aircraft to assess wiliwili trees on the Big Island. Tribune-Herald.

Earlier this month, five men stood outside of the University of Hawaii at Hilo, their gaze locked on what resembled a miniature spaceship hovering above their heads. The object: a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), or drone. Its implications: many. Tribune-Herald.

The Hawaii Pacific University Oceanic Institute’s long-planned $5 million Feeds Research and Pilot Production Facility to be developed at the University of Hawaii at Hilo on the Big Island is finally getting some traction with the filing of a draft environmental assessment. Pacific Business News.

Kamehameha Schools will be buying the Hualalai Academy campus, the closing school’s board president says. West Hawaii Today.

Access to water in dry Kawaihae was one of the top concerns about the state’s proposal to add water lines to the small boat harbor under construction there. A Department of Hawaiian Home Lands official noted the draft environmental assessment, issued in December, said the water line and road construction project will increase demand on the region’s water system. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Come November, the citizens of Maui County could be voting on a temporary suspension of all genetically modified crop production in their county. The only thing standing in the way of a public vote on the matter is the collection of 8,500 signatures. Kauai County Councilman Tim Bynum said it is a more comprehensive moratorium than the one proposed in the original version of Bill 2491, which would have placed a moratorium on field expansion. Garden Island.

The battle against genetically modified farming is heating up on Maui, where residents are pushing a citizens’ initiative to temporarily ban the use of such biotechnology. While Hawaii doesn’t allow residents to bring statewide ballot initiatives, the Maui County Charter has a provision for county-level efforts. Civil Beat.

Four Upcountry farms and one farm labor contractor were fined by the United States Department of Labor last year for violating minimum wage and other federal standards for migrant fieldworkers, prompting Maui County to adopt a code of conduct for agricultural employers. Maui News.

The Maui County Council on Friday passed a bill to honor raises in five departments and appropriated $864,000 to assist with the costs of landfill operations and refuse collection and Department of Environmental Management compliance with regulations. Maui News.

A total of 24 Maui residents have pulled papers for the upcoming 2014 elections since the candidate filing period began on Feb. 3. Maui Now.

Three people were appointed to the Molokai Planning Commission and a longtime Maui educator was named to the Maui Planning Commission as the Maui County Council approved the mayor's nominees to various boards and commissions Friday. Maui News.

The Maui County Department of Water Supply filed a draft environmental assessment for a 1.44 million gallon per day exploratory well in West Maui. Maui Now.

Kauai

A coalition of Kauai residents and public interest groups, represented by the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, filed papers in federal district court Monday to intervene as defendants in the legal challenge of Ordinance 960, formerly Bill 2491, which regulates pesticides and GMOs on the island. Garden Island.

Bob Stout minces few words when it comes to proposals to raise Hawaii’s minimum wage: It’s not a good idea. Garden Island.

The County of Kauai Charter Review Commission will consider five redistricting proposals next month, when its members will decide whether voters will take up the question during this year’s general election. A report released by a special Charter Review Commission committee Monday suggested that the entire governing body reconsider its initial proposal to establish seven geographic districts and elect Kauai County Council members based on the district in which they both reside. Garden Island.