Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hawaii near bottom in election administration, ousted Honolulu judge won't work, Maui anti-GMO petition nears 10k names, battle over religious use of schools, big rate hike for HMSA, counties could get more transient tax, 120 Kauai hikers rescued, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Ousted ballot administrator Lori Tomcyzk and Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago (c) 2012 All Hawaii News file photo
Hawaii's troubled 2012 elections dropped the state closer to the bottom nationally in election administration, a new report contends. The Pew Charitable Trusts, in a report scheduled for release Tuesday, ranked Hawaii 41st in the nation in election administration in 2012, down from 25th in 2008. Georgia, Hawaii and Vermont had the largest decreases in election performance. Star-Advertiser.

State lawmakers are advancing a bill that would increase the portion of hotel taxes that go to Hawaii’s counties. The annual cap on the counties’ share is $93 million. They want a return to the 44.8 percent rate they received before the cap was imposed in 2011. Associated Press.

Chances are good that state lawmakers will OK  a bill allowing counties to collect a larger share of Hawaii's hotel room tax, although uncertainty remains. The mayors and Councils of all four counties are pushing hard for House Bill 1671, which eliminates a cap of $93 million on Transient Accommodations Tax revenues that counties divide among themselves. The ceiling has been in place since 2011.Star-Advertiser.

The state Senate Ways and Means Committee has recommended passage of a bill to give the counties a larger piece of pie from the state's hotel room tax revenue. But the measure was passed last week with a defective effective date of July 1, 2050, meaning that lawmakers want to cook up a final version in conference committee. Maui News.

What Laws Are Poised to Emerge From the 2014 Hawaii Legislature? Civil Beat.

Fewer than 1 in 6 Hawaii public school teachers say they fully understand how their performance rating is calculated under the state's controversial new evaluation system for teachers — which starting next school year will tie ratings to pay raises, tenure and termination — according to survey results released Monday. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii Senate appears set to confirm Don Horner’s reappointment to the state Board of Education for another three-year term. But a vocal array of LGBT activists and advocacy groups is determined not to let that happen, citing the prominent school official’s volunteer affiliation with New Hope Church. Civil Beat.

A religious liberty group is fighting an amended lawsuit that claims churches owe millions of dollars for renting Hawaii public school buildings for services. Associated Press.

Japanese visitors, who account for about 20 percent of the tourists in Hawaii, are staying closer to home for the traditional Golden Week holiday period, which Hawaii's travel industry counts on to bolster spring lows. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii Medical Service Association said costs related to Obama­care are responsible for the bulk of a 12.8 percent proposed rate hike for most of the 77,000 small-business workers covered by the insurer. If approved by the state, health insurance premiums are set to rise for roughly 8,100 employers renewing health plans July 1. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Gas has brought the first containerized shipment of liquefied natural gas to Hawaii, marking the start of a process that could eventually lead to lower energy costs for the state. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

Oahu Circuit Judge Patrick Border has refused to preside over criminal cases in his courtroom in the three weeks since he found out he was not being re-appointed to a second ten-year term, so the state Judiciary brought in a substitute judge to handle his court calendar. Hawaii News Now.

During March, sales of single-family homes increased by 6.5 percent, while condominium sales fell by 5.8 percent from March 2013. KHON2.

Hawaii

The filing deadline to run for public office is still two months away, but that hasn’t stopped 23 candidates from pulling nomination papers or filing for County Council seats. West Hawaii Today.

More than 100 people gathered at the North Hawaii Education and Research Center in Honokaa on Sunday to discuss a Senate bill that would establish a temporary working group to assess the future of Waipio Valley. Tribune-Herald.

Makua Lani Christian Academy has submitted an offer for the Hualalai Academy campus, after Kamehameha Schools officials decided against purchasing the property. West Hawaii Today.

The median price of a single-family Big Island home rose 22 percent to $329,750 in March, up from $270,000 in March 2013, according to figures from Hawaii Information Service. Pacific Business News.

Maui
GMO opponents on Maui gathered nearly 10,000 signatures for a petition barring genetically modified crops. Hawaii News Now.

Rescue workers successfully freed a humpback whale from a life-threatening entanglement in waters off of Lahaina, Maui on Sunday. Maui Now.

Humpback whale rescues have increased to three so far in this November-May season in Hawaii, putting the number a little higher than normal. Star-Advertiser.

Kauai

The rescue of more than 120 hikers trapped by rapidly rising stream waters on Kauai's rugged Na Pali Coast on Sunday and Monday ranks among the largest rescues of stranded hikers on the island. Star-Advertiser.

More than 100 hikers were rescued by helicopter from Hanakapiai on Kauai’s North Shore after heavy rain and flash flooding left them stranded Sunday afternoon. Garden Island.

Development Sparks Effort to Designate Historic Coastal Trail on Kauai. Officials with the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Department of the Attorney General have said an historic, coastal trail, sometimes referred to as the Ala Loa, runs across those ahupuaa, and under the Highways Act of 1892, it is a public trail owned by the state. Civil Beat.

Molokai

Three wildlife biologists spent the weekend tagging one of the world’s rarest species of shorebirds on Molokai. Hawaii Public Radio.