Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nene return to Oahu, labor contractor liable for worker abuse, Kauai stays with at-large council elections, Hilo judge hears GMO lawsuit, Maui court clears cops in shooting, privatizing prisons, Legislature mulls sex ed, medical marijuana, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Nene on Big Island (c) 2014 All Hawaii News
Endangered Hawaiian geese have been seen in the wild on Oahu for the first time in centuries, indicating the chances of survival for the native birds are improving, federal and state officials said. A pair of nene that migrated to Oahu has nested and hatched three goslings at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge in Kahuku, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday. Star-Advertiser.

Endangered nene have been spotted in the wild on Oahu for the first time in centuries, a federal agency said Monday. Associated Press.

Critics of the state's controversial middle-school sex education pilot program, Pono Choices, expressed concern Monday that a working group convened to study the material has been meeting in secret and comprises members who might not deliver a fair and unbiased report. Star-Advertiser.

A Republican lawmaker in Hawaii has taken issue with one of the state's sex education programs, saying it "sexualizes the innocent" by teaching 11-year-old children about anal sex. Associated Press.

Hawaii lawmakers are considering a measure to improve the state's struggling correctional system by turning to the private sector for help. State Sen. Will Espero introduced a resolution on public-private partnerships for jails, prisons and other correctional facilities. A Senate panel listened to testimony from supporters and opponents during a hearing on Monday. Hawaii News Now.

A federal judge has found a California-based labor contractor liable for discrimination and abuse of hundreds of Thai workers at Hawaii farms. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Monday announced the ruling against Global Horizons, which placed the workers at six farms across the state. Associated Press.

A federal judge has ruled that a labor recruiting company that was previously accused of human trafficking did harass, discriminate and retaliate against hundreds of Thai workers in Hawaii. The ruling Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi leaves for a jury to decide the amount of money Global Horizons owes 530 Thai workers it imported to work on farms on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island and what measures it needs to implement to prevent future abuses. Trial is set for November. Star-Advertiser.

Four years after Global Horizons was implicated in the largest human trafficking case in U.S. history, a federal judge has found the California labor-contracting company liable for harassing, discriminating against and retaliating against more than 500 Thai laborers working on Hawaii farms. Civil Beat.

The Beverly Hills-based farm labor contractor, Global Horizons, Inc., is liable for “harassing, discriminating, and retaliating against hundreds of Thai workers in the U.S., in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws,” the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Monday. Hawaii Reporter.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz is up with his first TV spot of the 2014 campaign season. The spot, titled "Commitment," has one primary message: Schatz is devoted to protecting Social Security. Civil Beat.

The Smart Approaches to Marijuana Project will brief state House and Senate lawmakers at 10:30 a.m. in Room 423. Civil Beat.

Supporters of medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawai’i brought a new face to the Legislature.  Hawaii Public Radio.

Hawaii Senate to Decide on Aaron Mahi for the Land Use Commission. Civil Beat.

A new report says Hawaii is the most expensive state in the country for renters. The National Low Income Housing Coalition says a renter would need to make a least $31.54 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment, with a fair market rent of $1,640 a month. KHON2.

On Tap at the Hawaii Legislature: March 25. A selective list of bills, resolutions, hearings, briefings and events for Tuesday at the state Capitol. Civil Beat.

State roundup for March 25. Associated Press.

Oahu

The city broke ground Monday for the underwater portion of a project that will help transport sewage from the Ala Moana Wastewater Pump Station across Honolulu Harbor to the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant in what the contractor called the most expensive microtunneling project in U.S. history. Star-Advertiser.

Former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has lashed out at Hawaiian Electric Co., saying that the Honolulu-based utility needs a “better business model” when it comes to integrating more solar energy into its grid, according to a recent Forbes article. Pacific Business News.

The House Committee on Water and Land approved a resolution Monday to require a financial and management audit of the Hawaii Community Development Authority.  The agency in charge of managing land in Kakaako, Kalaeloa and Heeia has been under fire from critics who are worried about the fast pace of development in Kakaako. Civil Beat.

A long-awaited project to re-do Moanalua High School's main athletic field has been delayed for two years because of problems obtaining city and state permits. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii

Does requiring farmers growing genetically modified crops to register with Hawaii County result in the release of proprietary information? That’s the question Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura will consider after hearing from witnesses and attorneys on both sides of the issue Monday. Tribune-Herald.

Improvements to Hawaii Island’s two airports take up the bulk of the $436 million in capital improvement projects the state House is proposing for the island this year. West Hawaii Today.

Construction of Hawaii Island’s first roundabout could begin as soon as August. Salvador C. Panem, state Department of Transportation Hawaii district engineer, said Isemoto Contracting Co. Ltd. won the bid for the Pahoa roundabout earlier this month. Tribune-Herald.

Hawaii County is preparing to ask a federal bankruptcy judge to lift a stay and allow corporation counsel to initiate foreclosure proceedings on 80 acres of oceanfront land in South Kona. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Ruling that Maui police officers used reasonable force in firing shots at the driver of a fleeing truck that had struck a police officer at Honolua Bay, a judge dismissed a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by two men who were in the bed of the truck when they were hit by bullets. Maui News.

Several state transportation projects are planned this week that will result in lane closures or detours in Pukalani, Kāʻanapali, and Māʻalaea. Maui Now.

Maui Paving LLC has begun work on two road resurfacing projects in Pukalani, according to an announcement from the contractor. Maui News.

Kauai

The voting map won’t be carved up. The Kauai County Charter Review Commission rejected three proposals Monday that would have let county voters determine whether County Council districts, and the election of those seats, should be changed. The decision to forego a ballot question on County Council redistricting, at least for now, followed several months of discussions on whether it was time to change how the seven-member board is elected and represented on the island. Garden Island.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said they support the Kauai County Council’s call to lawmakers to stop initiatives regulating coastal and marine resources around the island of Niihau. Garden Island.

One of the largest solar energy farms in Hawaii is about halfway done and is expected to be completed in early July, the project’s development team told Pacific Business News on Monday.