Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Minimum wage, hospital privatization, shorter school year, 300 bills moving at Hawaii Legislature, Big Island farmer sues over GMO law, record solar sales leaving middle-class behind, former Maui mayor running for state House, researchers study acid-loving coral, Democrats caucus tonight, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii House chambers
Hawaii House chambers
Nearing the halfway point of the legislative session, the state House and Senate have traded bills that would increase the minimum wage, finance preschool for low-income children, lift the cap on hotel room tax revenue to the counties, and guide residential development in Kakaako. House and Senate leaders said after positioning hundreds of bills for exchange between the chambers by Thursday's deadline that they would still like to settle the minimum wage debate early, avoiding the pressure of end-of-session negotiations. Star-Advertiser.

State lawmakers have passed measures in both chambers to set the public school year at 990 instructional hours over 180 school days. Both the House and Senate have advanced bills that would repeal a 2010 law that scheduled an increase in the school year to 1,080 hours by 2016. Associated Press.

As expected, most bills heard by the Hawaii Legislature on Tuesday were approved, allowing them to cross from one chamber to the other. They include measures to increase Hawaii's minimum wage, improve education and take care of kupuna. Civil Beat.

The Hawaii Senate made short work of a heap of bills Tuesday, passing more than 300 measures to send to the House. Proposals aimed at curtailing invasive species, preparing for climate change and addressing aging in Hawaii sailed through the chamber as lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol debated a host of bills in advance of a major legislative deadline. Associated Press.

Some Lawmakers Oppose Ukulele as State Instrument. Hawaii Public Radio.

Commentary: Why Is There No Record of Many Legislative Hearings? Civil Beat.

A Senate bill to transfer state public hospitals to a private nonprofit has crossed over to the state House of Representatives, keeping it alive this lawmaking session. Maui News.

Hawaii lawmakers have taken a major step toward opening up police officers to more public scrutiny and oversight when it comes to their misconduct. On Tuesday, Hawaii House of Representatives voted unanimously on a bill that would eliminate a provision from the state's public records law that for 19 years kept information about most police misconduct out of public view. Civil Beat.

House and Senate lawmakers on Tuesday passed a pair of bills aimed at increasing the state’s minimum wage. What is uncertain, however, is which of the proposals will survive and pass through the Legislature, if any at all.  Garden Island.

State lawmakers are trying to do what they couldn't last year. They want to raise the minimum wage, and hope to agree to pass one of two competing bills. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii lawmakers are trying to level the playing field for retailers on the islands by mandating taxes on Internet sales transactions. Associated Press.

The installation of solar photovoltaic systems in Hawaii set another record in 2013, although the once-explosive pace of growth slowed significantly as electric utilities took a cautious approach to allowing PV systems to connect to the grid in areas where high levels of solar power generation are raising concerns about safety and reliability. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii tourism officials are sharing updates on their outlook for the state's biggest industry and their plans for promoting the islands to travelers around the world. Associated Press.

UH researcher sees oceans growing too acidic. The search is on for "supercorals" that can sustain reefs threatened by a warmer, more acidic ocean. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii Health Connector is working with the Sovereign Councils of the Hawaiian Homelands Assembly to reach out to Native Hawaiians who may not have health coverage. The two groups signed a $675,000 agreement on Tuesday. Associated Press.

Commentary: Is Part of the Sovereignty Debate Just a Matter of Faith? Civil Beat.

The Democratic Party is looking for a few good men and women. The party’s Biennial Precinct Meetings, commonly known as the precinct caucuses, are happening Wednesday night across the state. KHON2.

Oahu

A woman from Oahu who has led Salt Lake City's municipal parks system is coming home to take over the Honolulu parks director job. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu remains the second-worst city in the nation for traffic congestion: Drivers in this crowded capital city wasted 10 more hours on average sitting in traffic in 2013 than they did the previous year, a new report finds.Star-Advertiser.

President Barack Obama's proposed budget includes promised money for Honolulu's planned rail line. The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation said in a statement Tuesday the president's budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning in October includes $250 million for the rail transit project. Associated Press.

President Barack Obama’s U.S. Department of Transportation budget for the next fiscal year includes $250 million for the Honolulu rail project, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation said Tuesday. Pacific Business News.

The Pentagon released a $496 billion defense budget request Tuesday and a planning road map that call for a smaller Army and retirement of OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopters — more than 25 of which are based at Wheeler Army Airfield. Star-Advertiser.

It’s been a long-awaited road project — repaving Kalanianaole Highway through East Honolulu. The State Department of Transportation just announced the work will start sometime between late spring and early summer. KHON2.

Keiki Care: Revolutionary Pilot Program's Campus Health Care Targets Teens. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

An unnamed farmer filed a lawsuit seeking relief from requirements of Hawaii County’s recently enacted ban on genetically modified crops. The suit, John Doe vs. County of Hawaii, was filed Monday in Hilo’s 3rd Circuit Court and seeks relief from the registration provisions of the GMO ban, which were required to be fulfilled by today. Tribune-Herald.

Warnings from Honolulu legislators that they may not support fully funding the Kona Judiciary Complex project this year has Big Island public and private practice attorneys rallying. The bill authorizing the funding is scheduled to go before the House Finance Committee today. West Hawaii Today.

The middle class and poor are increasingly footing the bill for Hawaii Island’s electric grid when wealthier homeowners, businesses and government agencies opt out by installing photovoltaic systems, the county energy coordinator said Tuesday. West Hawaii Today.

The former general contractor for a power plant under construction in Pepeekeo is suing the developer and a construction crisis consultant, claiming they locked the contractor out of the construction site for the purposes of theft and corporate espionage. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Former Maui Mayor James "Kimo" Apana has officially filed to run for the 9th House District seat held by Democratic state Rep. Justin Woodson. Maui News.

An officer of Maui Air, the company whose plane crashed last week on Lanai, killing the pilot and two county workers, said Tuesday that she doesn't know what happened to cause the crash and is fully cooperating with authorities investigating the incident. Maui News.

Governor Neil Abercrombie today announced the release of $1.5 million in capital improvement grant funds for Heritage Hall, the multi-purpose community complex that honors the history and culture of the Portuguese and Perto Rican immigrants to Maui. Maui Now.

Kauai

Arthur Brun, a 10-year employee of Syngenta, is the third person to declare his candidacy for the seven-seat county council. Hawaii Independent.

A group of cab drivers is suing the Lihue Airport for unlawful dispatching practices and negligence in preventing acts of retaliation by airport management. The suit, filed at 5th Circuit Court, alleges that unregulated transportation providers are ignoring protocol and cutting in line when it comes to picking up arriving passengers. Garden Island.