Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wide open race for Congress, back pay coming to substitute teachers, mayors fight for TAT, Caldwell's state of the city today, Deedy transcripts unsealed, new auditor for Hawaii County, Ellison plans Lanai hydroponics, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

copyright 2014 All Hawaii News
Matson container ship at Hilo Harbor (c) 2014 All Hawaii News
Two sticky messes cut into Matson Inc. profits by more than half in the fourth quarter, though Hawaii's largest ocean cargo transportation firm still increased full-year earnings. Star-Advertiser.

Mayors and county council members pleaded with state lawmakers Tuesday to give them millions of dollars in extra hotel tax money Hawaii collects each year. The House Finance Committee passed a bill that would lift the cap on the counties’ share of the Transient Accommodations Tax, which the Legislature imposed in 2011. Civil Beat.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa told the state House on Tuesday that counties will be under increased pressure to raise taxes and fees unless the state lifts the cap on the counties' share of hotel room taxes. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii lawmakers want the chance to research police misconduct without being told an officer’s disciplinary file has already been destroyed. On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that seeks to increase transparency about bad behavior inside Hawaii’s county police departments by forcing agencies to include more information in annual misconduct reports to the Legislature. Civil Beat.

State Rep. Richard Fale said Tuesday that he intends to challenge state Sen. Clayton Hee in an election that could serve as a referendum on gay marriage. Fale, a Mormon, was one of the most vocal opponents of gay marriage during the special session last fall. The Republican believes lawmakers should have let voters decide the issue through a state constitutional amendment. Hee, chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, helped craft the gay marriage bill. Star-Advertiser.

A simple test that can save babies lives isn't mandatory in Hawaii. Last year, a measure that would have required newborns to be screened for congenital heart defects before leaving the hospital didn't make it through the House's health committee. More than 30 states have already enacted similar measures. Hoping to resuscitate the issue, a constituent approached Sen. Mike Gabbard about writing and sponsoring a bill, Senate Bill 2194, with more precise language than last year's bill, which some lawmakers believe was so broad that it resulted in its demise. Civil Beat.

More than 7-thousand children enter the state’s Juvenile Justice System each year and many require treatment and services that are currently nonexistent.  As HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, lawmakers are considering funding these services before it’s too late.

Checks are on the horizon for an estimated 10,000 Hawaii substitute teachers who are owed a share of a $14 million settlement for back-pay claims from more than a decade ago. Star-Advertiser.

Howard Green thought he was helping farmers, such as himself, sell more of their products directly to customers. Instead, the bill he offered to lawmakers raised concerns the state Legislature might again be trying to undermine county regulations on genetically modified crops and pesticides for the second time this session. Tribune-Herald.

The Democratic primary races for governor and U.S. senator are closely fought contests, as Civil Beat reported this week.Gov. Neil Abercrombie and state Sen. David Ige are tied, as are U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. That's not the case in the race to replace Hanabusa in the 1st Congressional District. But two of the seven candidates — Donna Mercado Kim and Mark Takai — lead the pack with 25 percent and 20 percent of the vote, respectively. All other candidates we surveyed are in single digits, and over one-third of those polled are unsure of who'll they vote for.

A little more than two weeks after vandals broke a priceless window at Iolani Palace, an influential senator wants to change law enforcement jurisdiction there to the state Sheriff's Division. Hawaii News Now.

On Tap at the Hawaii Legislature: Jan. 26. Civil Beat.

Oahu

Mayor Kirk Caldwell is expected to announce in his State of the City speech Wednesday that he plans to eliminate 618 vacant positions and cut funding for additional slots, moves intended to free up $37 million annually in the city's $2 billion operating budget. Star-Advertiser.

When Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell delivers his second State of the City address today, it won't be at Honolulu Hale, or even Kapolei Hale in the  "Second City." For the first time, it will be delivered at McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Park. Hawaii News Now.

A bill allowing Oahu residents to once again set off sparklers and other novelty fireworks legally to ring New Year's Day and the Fourth of July was deferred by the City Council Public Safety and Economic Development Committee Tuesday due to technical reasons. Star-Advertiser.

A key committee in the Hawaii Senate has given its stamp of approval to two bills aimed at mitigating erosion on Oahu’s North Shore. Senate Bill 3035 sets aside money to realign Kamehameha Highway that runs by Laniakea Beach. Civil Beat.

Honolulu Community College says its accrediting agency reaffirmed its accreditation this month. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges at the Western Association of Schools and Colleges also removed the school's warning status. Associated Press.

A state judge has granted a request by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to release the transcripts of closed court proceedings before she declared a mistrial in federal agent Christopher Deedy's murder case. Star-Advertiser.

Deedy Transcripts Revealed: 'Not Something We See Every Day' Civil Beat.

More than $90,000 was spent to improve Koko Head Shooting Complex, after reports of stray bullets flying into homes and cars. But some residents say the repairs are not enough. KHON2.

Olive Garden Italian Restaurant — which is postponing the opening of its first Hawaii location, as I reported on Monday — on Tuesday launched the “most comprehensive menu evolution in its history.” Pacific Business News.

The latest installment of Jurassic Park is set to film in the islands and a local talent agency tells KHON2 that the film’s casting department is looking for local extras to be a part of the movie.

Hawaii

Hawaii County may soon have a new legislative auditor, more than a year after the position became vacant. Bonnie Nims, a senior performance auditor who worked for 16 years for the state of Washington and more recently, as a performance auditor supervisor at the American Samoa Government Territorial Audit Office, would be appointed in Resolution 313, scheduled to be voted on March 7 by the Hawaii County Council. If the resolution is passed, she will begin work May 1. West Hawaii Today.

Three County Council members are toting armloads of questions and ideas on their trip this weekend to the National Association of Counties conference in Washington, D.C. West Hawaii Today.

Nearly every school on the Big Island will benefit in some way from the recent release of $62.4 million in capital improvement project monies for Hawaii Department of Education facilities. Tribune-Herald.

Kamehameha Schools does not currently have a plan to open a K-12 campus in West Hawaii, a spokesman said Tuesday morning. West Hawaii Today.

Using local products to feed fish and animals could help the Big Island’s food sustainability and self-sufficiency. That was the conclusion of a draft environmental assessment prepared by the Oceanic Institute of Hawai‘i Pacific University for its long-planned Feeds Research and Pilot Production Facility, which it would build at the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Farm Laboratory at the Panaewa Agricultural Park. Big Island Now.

Maui

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa today announced the county’s purchase of more than 148 acres of land at Launiupoko as part of the planned “Pali-to-Puamana” parkway. The parcel is one of two being acquired for a total price tag of $13 million, following an agreement reached with the seller, Makila Land Co. LLC, and approved by the Maui County Council in December. Maui Now.

While tiger sharks along Maui's coastline recently have captured the attention of marine experts statewide, research biologist Robin Baird has been focusing on other sea creatures, tracking whales and dolphins in hopes of understanding where they travel and why. Maui News.

The county Department of Housing and Human Concerns is proposing the construction of a 64-unit affordable housing project in Pukalani. The Kulamalu project is proposed for construction on more than four acres of land, bounded by ʻŌhiʻa Kū Street and ʻAʻapueo Parkway, and located west of the Kula Highway. Maui Now.

A new program that offers grants or loans to growing and stable businesses and nonprofit organizations in Maui County rolled out last week through the Mayor's Office of Economic Development. Maui News.

Kauai

A federal judge on Monday granted a Kauai councilman’s request to dismiss a civil suit that claimed he was the target of illegal prosecution by the county over zoning law violations. Garden Island.

Some local residents and environmental groups are voicing concerns about Hawaii Dairy Farms, the $17.5 million dairy planned for Kauai’s South Shore. Garden Island.

Kaua‘i GMO legal bout enters round two. National non-profits the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice enter the ring on behalf of Kaua‘i County and its under-siege law. Hawaii Independent.

Lanai

Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison, the majority owner of the Hawaiian island of Lanai, plans to build a facility that would house aquaponics and hydroponics sustainable food systems to produce fresh produce and fish for Lanai residents visitors. Pacific Business News.