Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hawaii House advances minimum wage; GMO, drone bills unlikely to pass, progressives endorse Schatz, schools improve, Honolulu mayor's big budget, AG says geothermal revenues go to Hawaiians, Kaua's nude beaches, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Lawmakers in the state House of Representatives have advanced a proposal to raise the minimum wage more slowly than what the state Senate had suggested. The House Labor Committee approved the bill unanimously Tuesday. It advances next to the Finance Committee before facing a final House vote to be sent to the governor's desk. Associated Press.

Legislation to increase Hawaii's minimum wage continues to evolve at the 2014 Legislature. The latest version emerged Tuesday, when the House Committee on Labor and Public Employment approved a Senate measure that raises the minimum hourly earning from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. Civil Beat.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday lauded Hawaii's public school system for progress made in the third year of its four-year $75 million Race to the Top grant, calling Hawaii a model for other states. The praise marks a sharp turnaround from a year ago, when Hawaii's grant was still partially flagged for the state's slow progress in achieving goals in its aggressive reform plan. Star-Advertiser.

Bills to require labeling of GMO ingredients are unlikely to pass during this legislative session. But a growing demand from consumers to know what’s in their food suggests the conversation is far from over. Hawaii Public Radio.

Slower State Revenue Growth Threatens Efforts to Reform Hawaii Prisons. Civil Beat.

A bill aimed at protecting Hawaii residents’ privacy rights from the potential abuse of unmanned aircrafts, or drones, is dead. The House committees on Transportation and Public Safety did not schedule a hearing for Senate Bill 2608, resulting in it missing the deadline last week to stay alive. Tribune-Herald.

Hawaii U.S. Senate race 2014
Schatz, Hanabusa
A progressive group based in Washington has endorsed U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in his U.S. Senate race in Hawaii. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee said Tuesday Schatz was one of the first lawmakers to support expanding social security benefits. Associated Press.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii says the way her competitor’s allies made age an issue in her bid for the U.S. Senate is insulting to voters. Hanabusa is running against Sen. Brian Schatz for the seat that opened when Sen. Daniel Inouye died in 2012. Schatz was appointed to the seat by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, and the Democrats will face off in a primary in August. The election will likely be decided then in the heavily Democratic state. Associated Press.

On Tap at the Hawaii Legislature: March 19. A selective list of bills, resolutions, hearings, briefings and events for Wednesday at the state Capitol. Civil Beat.

Oahu

At a time when Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is asking for more money from taxpayers and increased fiscal restraint, he is seeking to boost his own budget by nearly 70 percent. Caldwell’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget, which was released Feb. 28, includes $709,752 in expenditures for his six-person office, which is $283,803 more than what was allocated for the current year. Civil Beat.

A City Council committee Tuesday gave a preliminary OK for the city to use condemnation powers to get land for a 3-mile route of the $175 million Kaneohe-Kailua Sewer Tunnel despite objections by property owners of the Aikahi Gardens townhouse complex. Star-Advertiser.

Despite receiving more than 5,600 signed petitions favoring Bill 16, a Honolulu City Council committee Tuesday deferred the measure, which establishes permitting and notification requirements for hotel owners that want to convert rooms into condominiums or time shares. Star-Advertiser.

A school for Kaka‘ako. HCDA redevelopment plan must include considerations like schools and other healthy neighborhood features. Hawaii Independent.

It has been ten years since Bowl-O-Drome closed for business. And the building has remained vacant ever since. KHON2.

Hawaii

Hawaii Attorney General David Louie on Tuesday announced 100 percent of royalties derived from geothermal development on Hawaiian home lands must be used to benefit Native Hawaiians. Tribune-Herald.

A 3rd Circuit Court judge heard arguments Tuesday on a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the county’s environmental management director. Judge Ronald Ibarra did not rule on the motion, filed by Bobby Jean Leithead Todd’s attorney, Robert Kim, but took the arguments under advisement, according to online court records. West Hawaii Today.

The long-awaited Mamalahoa bypass is going to take a month longer to get started. County Department of Public Works Director Warren Lee said Tuesday that the bid opening originally scheduled for Thursday is being postponed until April 24 to give bidders time to work out their proposals. West Hawaii Today.

A bill seeking funding to launch an international flight training program in Hilo cleared the state House’s Committee on Higher Education on Tuesday. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

A Maui County Council committee on Monday recommended allotting $50,000 to hire outside legal counsel to defend against a lawsuit alleging the county violated the First Amendment rights of a member of the county Liquor Commission, who also is a part-time assistant to Council Member Don Guzman. Maui News.

As a Senate bill to transfer Hawaii's public hospitals to a private nonprofit circulates the Legislature, nearly 150 Maui doctors and other health care providers envision its passage as the only means of incorporating teaching medical centers across the islands. Maui News.

Kauai

Au naturel on Kauai beaches. Some say nudity is freedom of expression, while for others, it’s indecent exposure. Garden Island.