Monday, March 3, 2014

Developer tax break could boost tourism, GMO battles on two islands, property tax hike for Oahu, bill privatizing hospitals advances, Hawaii Island's tech gap, Ige opens Honolulu campaign HQ, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii lawmakers are considering giving a tax break to hotel developers to help expand the state’s lucrative visitor industry. The industry pulled in more than $14 billion in 2012 but a recent report by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization suggests that the industry’s growth rate is on the decline. Civil Beat.

The legislative calendar is littered with deadlines, and a big one looms this week: first crossover. If one chamber (House or Senate) is going to send a bill to the other chamber to become law, it has to pass the originating chamber by first crossover on Thursday. To allow time for possible amendments, both chambers will be racing Tuesday to vote on their bills before sending them over. Look for lengthy floor sessions in both chambers that day. Associated Press.

There are no bills, resolutions, hearings, briefings or events scheduled for Monday at the state Capitol. That’s because senators and representatives are preparing for voting tomorrow and Thursday, the 25th and 26th days of the 2014 session. Civil Beat.

It's been three weeks since Hawaii news outlets began reporting on complaints about state Rep. Faye Hanohano alleging abusive behavior and racial prejudice. And yet, the Puna lawmaker still chairs the Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs. While House leaders have expressed a desire that Hanohano step down from her position, as of Sunday she had not. Civil Beat.

Several of Hawaii’s religious leaders are supporting the effort by Democratic legislative leaders to increase the state’s minimum wage. Hawaii Reporter.

Hawaii’s minimum wage would rise by almost $3 in three years under a bill the state Senate advanced Friday. Associated Press.

A proposal to raise the fee distributors pay for the recycling of nondeposit glass containers appears to have stalled in the state Legislature, leaving the collection of those bottles in limbo for another year. The problem is that the 1.5-cents-per-container fee for wine bottles and other glass containers not included in the HI-5 beverage container program doesn't come close to covering the cost of recycling, officials said. Star-Advertiser.

A movement to commercialize breadfruit in the isles has slowly been taking root in recent years, and a bill moving through the state Legislature aims to give a much-needed boost to the fledgling industry. Senate Bill 3023 proposes appropriating an unspecified sum in the upcoming fiscal year for research, development and marketing of breadfruit, or ulu. Star-Advertiser.

The seed research and development industry in Hawaii shriveled a bit over the last two years following a decade of robust growth, though the unique sector of farming remained the state's biggest crop by value. Recent estimates by the Hawaii field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service put the value of seed company spending statewide at $213 million for the 2012-13 season ended in June, down 10 percent from $238 million in the 2011-12 season. Star-Advertiser.

David Ige's quest for governor may lack a lot of campaign funding. But the opening of his campaign headquarters didn't lack political power. Hawaii News Now.

Commentary: Abercrombie gains an edge in wider gubernatorial field. Star-Advertiser.

The nominating committee for the state water commission is meeting this week to review applications to fill a vacant seat. The committee will send a list of at least three qualified people to the governor. The governor will nominate one person from the list to fill the position. The Senate will vote on the nomination. Associated Press.

Bank of Hawaii is closing the accounts of Iranian nationals living in the state, a move that is angering Iranian activists and civil rights supporters. The bank cites U.S. sanctions against Iran, issued from the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the agency responsible for regulating the economic sanctions between the U.S. and Iran. Civil Beat.

Territorial Savings Bank has received regulatory approval to convert to a Hawaii-chartered savings bank from a federal savings bank. The state's fifth-largest bank had been organized first in 1921 as a mutual building and loan association. Star-Advertiser.

State roundup for March 3. Associated Press.

Oahu
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell wants to raise tax rates on owners of luxury homes and hotel/resort properties to help close a $46 million revenue "gap" and balance a proposed $2.15 billion operating budget for next year. Star-Advertiser.

Los Angeles developers seeking the city's permission to exceed a Waikiki building-height limit and other concessions for their controversial Kuhio Avenue hotel-condominium project have given more than $100,000 to Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Honolulu City Council members' political campaigns since 2011, campaign finance records show.  Civil Beat.

The last remaining businesses at the Kapalama Military Reservation near Honolulu Harbor have been given a month-long reprieve before they have to leave to make room for a major renovation that will turn the complex into a shipping container terminal. Pacific Business News.

After several years of service complaints from riders, Honolulu City Councilman Breene Hari­moto says he will introduce a resolution in the next few weeks that would compel a management and operational audit of the Handi-Van system. The program is run by Oahu Transit Services, a nonprofit entity that's partly a city entity and partly an independent operator. Star-Advertiser.

Former state Rep. Tommy Waters, who left the House of Representatives in 2008, wants to return to public service. Waters, an attorney, is seeking the District 4 seat being vacated by Councilman Stanley Chang, who is running for Congress. He joins a field that already has Natalie Iwasa and Trevor Ozawa. A fourth potential candidate, Scot Johnson, has pulled election papers. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

Mayor Billy Kenoi on Friday unveiled his biggest budget yet, for the first time asking the County Council to spend more than the previous administration spent. The $412.6 million budget is 4.6 percent higher than last year’s, and 2.3 percent higher than the budget in place when Kenoi took office in 2008. West Hawaii Today.

Lorraine Inouye wants a rematch. After losing narrowly to state Sen. Malama Solomon in the 2012 Democratic primary, Inouye of Paukaa is challenging her again for the 4th District post. Tribune-Herald.

Nearly three decades after signing 99-year leases with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, several dozen homesteaders in this arid and isolated region of the Big Island still are waiting for the agency to deliver the one thing critical to their ranching and farming lots: water. Star-Advertiser.

Cable outage exposes islandwide flaw. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii could issue up to $50 million in special purpose revenue bonds to support a company’s plans to turn agriculture waste into biofuel and animal feed. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

A group of Maui residents has launched a petition drive to put before voters a proposal to suspend all farming operations involving genetically engineered crops in Maui County. Some 8,500 signatures must be submitted to the county clerk by March 31 to put the initiative on the county's November ballot. Star-Advertiser.

The state Senate Ways and Means Committee has advanced a bill to allow management of the state's struggling public hospitals, including Maui Memorial Medical Center, to be shifted from the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. to a nonprofit hospital corporation. Maui Now.

A state Senate bill that provides for the transfer of state public hospitals to a private nonprofit has undergone substantial revisions since it was introduced early this year by Senate Health Committee Chairman Josh Green and Sens. Suzanne Chun-Oakland and Maile Shimabukuro. Maui News.

Kauai

Four organizations that support Kauai County's new ordinance pertaining to pesticide use and cultivation of genetically modified crops are seeking to intervene in a federal lawsuit that aims to block its implementation. Star-Advertiser.

All four Kauai legislators said they support minimum wage increases and recognize the need for it, but what differs among some of them is how that vision should be carried out. Garden Island.