Monday, March 31, 2014

Obama endorses Schatz, Hagel to attend Asian conference in Honolulu, Maui pushes anti-GMO ballot amendment, state cedes Mauna Kea park management to Hawaii County, Kauai council worried about big budget, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

U.S. Senate race Hawaii
Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa
President Barack Obama is endorsing Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz in his primary race against Hawaii Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. In a news release, the Schatz campaign said Obama is endorsing Schatz because of his work to protect Social Security and promote clean energy. Associated Press.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz wants to make Social Security a defining issue in the Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a tactic Hanabusa contends unnecessarily alarms seniors. Star-Advertiser.

Monday marks the end of the latest campaign finance reporting period for candidates running for federal office. That means that in about two weeks, at midnight April 15, those finance reports will need to be filed with the federal government and the public will be able to get another look at the source of all the money that’s fueling some very hot races this election year. Civil Beat.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will be in Hawaii this week as the United States hosts a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for the first time. Pacific Business News.

Police in Hawaii would no longer be legally permitted to have sex with prostitutes under a bill passed Friday by a state legislative panel that would end the unusual exemption in state law. The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a larger bill that cracks down on prostitution after amending it to nix the exemption involving police conduct. Associated Press.

Just under a week before Hawaii Health Connector interim Executive Director Tom Matsuda will testify before a Congressional sub committee in Washington, D.C. about Hawaii’s troubled Obamacare system, a state senator has filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office, asking for an investigation into the Connector’s spending of a $204 million federal grant. Hawaii Reporter.

A Maui coffee farmer said controlling invasive species such as the notorious coqui frog and fire ant is a Big Island problem. Becker is a supporter of state Senate Bill 2347, which soon will be taken up by the House Finance Committee. The legislation, written as an attempt to control the interisland spread of invasive species to the local agriculture industry, was amended last Friday. Parts of the bill would prohibit the transportation of the pests and establishes penalties for violations, including language that would require any commercial entity that transports the invasive species to pay a fine equal to the value of the infested shipment. Tribune-Herald.

Island geography, a politically balanced commission and dominance in all politics by Democrats means redistricting and reapportionment issues are different in Hawaii than in other U.S. states. Associated Press.

Lawmakers in Hawaii have been pushing and prodding hundreds of bills through the Legislature, and this week is no exception, as the Legislature enters the final month of the session. Here are five things ahead at the Hawaii Legislature this week. Associated Press.

On Tap at the Hawaii Legislature: March 31. Civil Beat.

Oahu

Donors linked to contractors, developers and landowners involved with the increasingly controversial rebuilding of Kakaako have contributed more than $680,000 since 2009 to Gov. Neil Abercrombie's two gubernatorial campaigns, according to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser analysis of state data.

The surge of new construction projects in Kakaako over the past year made the development in the urban district a highly debated issue in the Hawaii Legislature this year. But with just a month left in the 2014 session, it’s still unclear what kinds of changes the Legislature will impose on the state agency that manages development in the neighborhood and whether or not lawmakers will allow new condos on the area known as Kakaako Makai. Civil Beat.

It is a lawsuit that draws attention to the intersection of Hawaii's political and real estate worlds. The plaintiff is Close Construction Inc., a contractor hired last year by the Hawaii Community Development Authority to renovate the historic but long-vacant American Brewery building in Kakaako. The defendant is HCDA. Star-Advertiser.

A high-level squabble between an Oahu regional transportation planning organization and the state Department of Transportation is jeopardizing millions of federal highway dollars at a time when Honolulu’s traffic congestion is as bad as it’s ever been and about to get a lot worse. The Hawaii DOT is refusing to pass some $2 million on to the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization as required by federal law. That’s forced OMPO, as it’s known, to operate on reserve funds since October and prevented it from finishing transportation projects tied to 2014 appropriations. Civil Beat.

If you have driven down Waialae Avenue in Kaimuki at night lately — or over the last year and a half — you may have felt some unexpected things: Confusion about which lane you should be in; disorientation amid the maze of orange cones that are supposed to guide you; surprise at the illuminated construction dust clouds; or fear, as you realize that the headlights of cars coming from the other direction are pointed directly at you. Civil Beat.

Efforts by two Korean community groups to set up a cultural monument park on a small patch of green in one of Hono­lulu's busiest neighborhoods have been stymied in recent years by the presence of homeless encampments. The community groups and the roughly 20 people camped in and around Pawaa In-Ha Park say they've had a relatively peaceful coexistence. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaiian Electric Co.'s recently deactivated Downtown Honolulu power plant, which occupies a prime piece of real estate near Honolulu Harbor, won't be demolished to make way for commercial uses such as a restaurant or bar — at least for the time being, a HECO official recently said. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii

A portion of the Mauna Kea State Recreation Area is expected to be put in Hawaii County’s hands after the state Board of Land and Natural Resources authorized the signing of a management agreement Friday. Under the agreement, which the state Department of Land and Natural Resources plans to sign, the county will be responsible for maintaining and improving the developed park area. Tribune-Herald.

Hawaiian Telcom Inc. plans to install rooftop solar on 24 of its buildings around the Big Island as part of a larger, 7.5-megawatt effort to cut its energy costs across the state. Tribune-Herald.

Debbi Sale lives under a makeshift shelter of tarps in Kona. She and her husband Vance cook on a one-burner stove and use public restrooms across the street. They live on Vance’s Social Security check and improvise the rest. So the Sales were grateful for a couple of hot meals and the chance to get vision screening and new glasses at the Old Kona Airport events pavilion on Saturday. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Maui County supporters of a ballot initiative to force growers of genetically engineered food to prove their crops' safety made their "last push" Sunday afternoon before they have to submit 8,500 signatures to the county clerk's office next week. Maui News.

Maui County's Service Center may soon get a new home at Kehalani Village Center in Wailuku or in the Maui Business Park II in Kahului. Maui News.

The North Shore Greenway, a pedestrian and bike path from Kahului to Paia, is on its way to being completed after more than 20 years of planning, with the project's final phase under review for government permits. Maui News.

Kauai

A decision on whether to impose penalties against the head of the Public Utilities Commission and her husband for allegedly operating illegal vacation rentals on Kauai won't be made for at least another 45 days. The state Land Board on Friday deferred action on recommendations to impose penalties against PUC Chairwoman Hermina "Mina" Morita and her husband, Lance Laney. Star-Advertiser.

Some council members have major concerns with the mayor’s proposed fiscal year 2015 county budget. They see the $180 million finance plan as a trend in the wrong direction. Garden Island.

Some health care providers know their finances need to be put in order. How they get there is still up in the air. In the meantime, several providers on Kauai are left asking the Legislature for emergency funds to support their operations, although a recent state proposal is asking the hospitals to cut costs themselves. Garden Island.