Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wilson nominated to Hawaii Supreme Court, big wins for Honolulu rail, PUC's Morita in trouble, Department of Education focuses on Hawaiian immersion, more accuse Rep. Hanohano of racism, lawmakers mull drones, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Supreme Court justice nominee Michael Wilson poses with Gov. Neil Abercrombie
Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Tuesday announced the nomination of Circuit Judge Michael Wilson to fill an upcoming vacancy on the state Supreme Court. Wilson would replace Associate Justice Simeon Acoba, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 in March. Wilson's nomination for a 10-year term on the court is subject to confirmation by the state Senate. Star-Advertiser.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today appointed a man of many hats to the state Supreme Court. Michael Wilson, a judge with Oahu’s First Circuit Court since 2000, will replace Associate Justice Simeon Acoba, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 next month. Big Island Now.

The Board of Education adopted sweeping changes on Tuesday to two policies governing Hawaiian education and immersion schools, a move that garnered the support of hundreds of advocates who hope the revisions will address many of the issues that have plagued the programs for decades. Civil Beat.

In what Hawaiian language advocates called a bold and monumental step, the Board of Education on Tuesday made substantial policy changes to its Hawaiian language immersion program, including a mandate to create an Office of Hawaiian Education under the schools superintendent. Star-Advertiser.

Hanohano
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources on Tuesday complained about the behavior of state Rep. Faye Hano­hano, portraying the representative as "abusive in authority, racially discriminatory and inappropriate" to the department's staff. House leaders have said they intend to assign a special committee to look into Hano­hano's conduct after receiving several complaints. Star-Advertiser.

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it illegal for police to monitor people with unmanned aircraft without due process. Police, hobbyists, filmmakers and regulators told lawmakers Tuesday that the state should protect people's privacy. But they urged lawmakers not to curtail the many uses for unmanned aircraft beyond police surveillance, including commercial photography, search and rescue operations, resource management and recreational use. Associated Press.

Opponents fighting a proposed state ban on unmanned aerial vehicles packed a capitol hearing room today. Hawaii Public Radio.

A measure now before Hawaii lawmakers would restrict the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to law enforcement, and only if the search warrant calls for the technology. KHON2.

Hawaii has the lowest number in the nation of enrollments through its Obamacare exchange, Hawaii Health Connector, according to a Feb. 12 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report. Hawaii Reporter.

Hawaii Public Utilities Commission
Morita 
Hermina Morita, who was tapped by Gov. Neil Abercrombie three years ago to lead the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, won’t be nominated for a second term, according to the senator who chairs the committee that oversees the commission. Sen. Roz Baker, who heads the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, told Civil Beat Tuesday that she asked to meet with the governor after hearing reports that Morita wouldn't be reappointed, but he refused. Star-Advertiser.

House Bill 1499, which has a hearing today, proposes a constitutional amendment to ask whether freedom of speech should include spending money to influence elections. Civil Beat.

Equality Hawaii, channeling resources from several gay rights and civil liberties organizations, directed more than $509,900 worth of lobbying to help pass a gay marriage law in a special session of the state Legislature last fall. State lobbying disclosure reports filed with the state Ethics Commission show that Equality Hawaii spent more than $101,600 of the money on media advertising. Star-Advertiser.

Thanks to a new law in Hawaii, the public can examine the financial interests of state lawmakers before elected officials take action on legislation that might personally benefit them. In the past, the public generally had to wait until the legislative session was over to view lawmakers' financial disclosure statements. That made it hard to spot potential conflicts of interest and raise objections when it matters most. But last year the Legislature finally passed a bill that moved the filing deadline up four months, from May 31 to Jan. 31, barely two weeks after the 2014 session opened. The session will wrap up May 1. Civil Beat.

Hawaii News Now has discovered a potential problem with the state's new vehicle safety sticker program.  A Kalihi mechanic worried that if he can easily wipe numbers off the sticker decals, crooks can as well.

Scientists in Hawaii are seeking the public’s help in documenting locations where the state butterfly can be found, saying they don’t believe the insect’s population is doing as well as it should be. Associated Press.

State roundup for February 19. Associated Press.

Oahu

Two federal court rulings Tuesday all but assured Honolulu’s $5.2 billion rail project will be built between East Kapolei and Ala Moana Center. Not only did judges in the U.S. District Court of Hawaii and 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals find that the project complied with federal law, but the plaintiffs in the cases, who have been fighting against rail for decades, have said they don’t plan to appeal the decisions. Civil Beat.

With two new decisive court wins, Oahu's rail transit project is poised to take shape along the island's southern coast without more roadblocks from its staunchest opponents. A federal appeals court panel unanimously ruled Tuesday that the 20-mile, 21-station elevated rail line complies with environmental law. On a lower court level in the same case, visiting Judge A. Wallace Tashima ruled Tuesday that transit officials followed proper procedures in choosing a rail route to Ala Moana Center instead of a route to the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu’s $5.16 billion rail transit project received a green light Tuesday in separate rulings from the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court. Pacific Business News.

If there’s one thing that the Hawaii Community Development Authority can’t be faulted for, it’s a lack of transparency. Hawaii Independent.

A decades-long debate over the best way make more homes available to the neediest families continues at the Hono­lulu City Council on Wednesday. Three resolutions aimed at creating more affordable housing units for those most in need are on the Council's agenda. Star-Advertiser.

City Councilman Ron Menor wants to make it easier for those at the lowest income levels to benefit from rules that require developers to set aside affordable housing units. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

A compromise by the developer of the luxury Kohala Kai subdivision was enough to get a thumbs-up Tuesday from the County Council Finance Committee. West Hawaii Today.

A proposed North Kona development hit a new roadblock Tuesday afternoon, when the county’s Planning Director announced he couldn’t find any authority to expand an urban area into an agricultural area. West Hawaii Today.

Coffee growers are hoping for a venti-sized check from lawmakers this year as the coffee berry borer spreads to all corners of the Big Island. On Thursday, the state’s House Finance Committee will consider a bill to provide $3 million to help farmers fight the beetle, triple the amount allocated or approved last year. Tribune-Herald.

Driving down Queen Kaahumanu Highway at 45 mph, residents and visitors may not realize how much water flows beneath the barren-looking lava fields, Fred Cachola told County Council members Tuesday morning. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

A series of community meetings to discuss proposed permitting and scheduling improvements at Park facilities in Maui County is scheduled to take place in February and March. Maui Now.

Maui County high school students are invited to take part in the inaugural Congressional Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Academic Competition, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announced. Maui News.

Kauai
A member of the Kauai Police Commission is a target of a federal investigation into illegal gambling. FBI agents searched 37-year-old Bradley Chiba's home in Lihue on Super Bowl Sunday on the suspicion he was booking illegal bets on football games. Hawaii News Now.

The smell of rotten eggs, county officials admit, has been a longstanding and uncomfortable problem that has plagued businesses and residents in the Wailua Houselots area for several decades. Garden Island.

Molokai

Island Air, which has been focusing its resources on Lanai, said Tuesday it will discontinue service to Molokai. The last flights will be on April 1. Star-Advertiser.

Island Air, the Hawaii interisland airline owned by Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison, will discontinue service to Molokai effective April 2, the airline said Tuesday. Pacific Business News.

The Molokai Planning Commission, a board of volunteer residents tasked with reviewing land use ordinances and amendments, is seeking to revise and update its 25-year-old administrative rules. Maui News.

Niihau
It appears the island of Niihau will remain part of the County of Kauai, at least until the end of the decade. Instead of moving forward with establishing a new, independent county, a trio of committees in the Senate voted Tuesday to create a five-member working group to study the proposal. Garden Island.