Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hawaii Obamacare connector falls short, top education official praises Oahu schools, Senate trims Abercrombie's spending plan, bill curbing Sunshine Law advances, Kauai protecting its roosters, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Obamacare connector
Hawaii Health Connector screen capture
As of Monday, the deadline for signing up for Obamacare coverage, fewer than 8,000 Hawaii residents had successfully enrolled, among the lowest in the nation. For the past six months Hawaii's health insurance exchange, the state's version of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, has been battling one problem after another in its attempt to connect the estimated 100,000 uninsured in the state with health coverage. Star-Advertiser.

On Monday, about 7,000 people were enrolled in health insurance plans, up from about 5,700 a week ago, said Eric Alborg, deputy executive director of the Hawaii Health Connector. That’s well below the target of 9,000 enrollees set by the federal government in September, which set state-by-state goals to keep the nation on track to enroll 7 million people. Lawmakers have said the Connector’s goal was to sign up about 100,000 people, the approximate number of uninsured people in Hawaii. Associated Press.

The Hawaii Senate on Monday passed a $12 billion state budget for the 2015 fiscal year, envisioning less spending than what Gov. Neil Abercrombie originally proposed. Associated Press

The Hawaii Senate Ways and Means Committee unanimously passed a bill on March 28th, that would criminalize the commercial sale of ivory in the state, with certain exemptions. Civil Beat.

What if county council members could meet wherever they wish, discuss official business and not let the public know in advance? That’s the type of situation that critics are concerned will arise if state lawmakers carve out the loophole in the Sunshine Law that Maui County Council Chair Gladys Baisa and some of her colleagues want. Civil Beat.

The state's tax collectors are putting together a list of condo and residential owners who rent their units for fewer than 180 days at a time. They want to make sure those owners pay the transient accommodations tax, also known as the TAT. Hawaii News Now.

The meeting was a lot like church except that no one passed the plate. But it was not a church meeting, nor was it held in a church. It was a "pastors luncheon" held in Room 423 of the Hawaii state Capitol. Civil Beat.

A resolution asking the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to adopt stricter rules governing manta ray diving operations moved ahead Monday. West Hawaii Today.
President Barack Obama and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday backed U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in endorsements that could help influence undecided voters in Schatz's Demo­cratic primary campaign against U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. Star-Advertiser.

President Barack Obama on Monday threw his support to Sen. Brian Schatz over Colleen Hanabusa in Hawaii’s Senate race, stepping into a primary that has been divisive for voters in the state where Obama was born. Associated Press.

The Hawaii Independent Party has announced that its state executive committee has met to organize the new political party. They voted unanimously to appoint Michelle Del Rosario as party chair. Garden Island.

An interisland service expansion by Island Air is expected to take flight at the end of the year on the wings of two new planes the carrier said it ordered Monday. Star-Advertiser.

Go! Airlines, which stormed the Hawaii market eight years ago with rock-bottom airfares, quietly exited the state Monday night after completing its final interisland flight. Star-Advertiser.

“That’s another bullshit argument,” former US Energy Secretary Steven Chu told Forbes magazine, in response to HECO’s argument that solar installations threaten grid stability. Hawaii Independent.

On Tap at the Hawaii Legislature: April 1. A selective list of bills, resolutions, hearings, briefings and events for Tuesday at the state Capitol. Civil Beat.

State roundup for April 1. Associated Press.

Oahu

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was on Oahu on Sunday and Monday to visit public schools and recognize Hawaii's progress with Race to the Top reforms. The state Department of Education won a four-year, $75 million grant in 2010 after pledging sweeping education reforms, including plans to turn around its lowest-performing schools, boost student achievement and improve teacher and principal effectiveness. Star-Advertiser.

The nation’s top education official is vowing to look into concerns about assessments for students attending Hawaiian-language immersion schools and how Native Hawaiian-focused charter schools are funded. Noting that there was a time when the Hawaiian language was outlawed, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he’s glad to see schools contributing to its revitalization. Associated Press.

The U-S Education Secretary had a stopover in Hawai’i this weekend and visited O’ahu schools today before returning to Washington D.C. Hawaii Public Radio.

U.S. Education Secretary calls Hawaii’s progress ‘amazing’ KHON2.

Big changes are coming to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, the embattled Hawaii-based military organization that searches for, recovers and identifies missing American war dead around the globe. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Monday that he is overhauling JPAC and other Pentagon accounting units following scathing criticism of the effort as dysfunctional, duplicative and inefficient. Star-Advertiser.

Ala Moana Center recently completed one of Hawaii’s largest rooftop solar energy projects, which includes more than 4,730 panels covering 85,000-square-feet of previously unused roof space, the state's largest shopping mall said Monday. Pacific Business News.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority has scheduled two public hearings on a proposed development permit to build a mix of condominiums and rental apartments in two midrise buildings on a half-block bounded by Auahi and Pohu­kaina streets, One Waterfront Towers and Keawe Street. The hearings, which will be conducted in a contested-case format, are slated for noon April 30 and June 10 at 461 Cooke St. in HCDA's conference room. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

It’s more important to get it right than get it done cheaply, County Council members said Monday as they considered an audit that showed the 2012 election cycle cost less than elections in 2008 and 2010. West Hawaii Today.

The Federal Aviation Administration has signed off on the state’s plans to revamp Kona International Airport, at least where the National Environmental Policy Act regulations are concerned. West Hawaii Today.

It’s not the final frontier, but it might still feel that way for six volunteers living in a dome for the next four months on Mauna Loa. Tribune-Herald.

The first class of resident physicians has been selected for a program in Hilo designed to add to the Big Island’s dwindling number of doctors. Big Island Now.

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.

An estimated 1,000 to 2,000 people participated in an anti-GMO march and rally held on Sunday as a deadline nears to obtain signatures for a petition calling for the suspension of genetically engineered operations and practices in Maui County. Maui Now.

Kauai

Miffed that some tourists have expressed frustration with the seemingly endless number of roosters on Kauai, a grassroots group Monday petitioned the U.S. government to place the colorful birds on its endangered species list. Garden Island.