Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lawsuit over Pohakuloa, election day voter registration passes, Legislature passes $12.1B budget, HECO told to lower electric rates, 8% raises for Honolulu officials, Turtle Bay money delayed, no more sex with prostitutes, Supreme Court ponders records retention, public hospitals face cuts, Kauai town goes styrofoam-free, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Pohakuloa Training Area © 2014 All Hawaii News
Two Hawaii Island residents are suing the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and its director, William Aila, for allegedly failing to protect trust lands at Pohakuloa Training Area. Tribune-Herald.

Hawaii lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that will allow voters to register at polling places on the same day they vote. Associated Press.

Hawaii lawmakers have passed a bill that will end an unusual exemption in state law that allowed police to have sex with prostitutes. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii Legislature on Tuesday approved a $12.1 billion state budget that reduces spending to reflect lower revenue and wrapped up work on hundreds of bills as the session drew near its close. Associated Press.

Both houses of the Legislature overwhelmingly approved the State Budget today which was less than what the Governor asked for but more for some state departments, including public schools and the University of Hawai’i system. Hawaii Public Radio.

Public hospitals to cut services to make up $48M shortfall. The financially struggling 12-member system, which acts as the safety net for communities where medical care is lacking, had hoped for legislation to partner with or be purchased by a local nonprofit provider such as Hawaii Pacific Health, The Queen's Health Systems or Kaiser Permanente Hawaii. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii lawmakers are making kindergarten mandatory for children starting in the fall. Star-Advertiser.

The House approved a bill Tuesday (SB 2768) that compels children who turn 5 years old before July 31 of a school year to attend kindergarten. Associated Press.

Hawaii’s counties will receive a total of $10 million more in annual hotel tax revenue under a plan state lawmakers have approved. Associated Press.

The state Senate voted Tuesday to confirm state Rep. Jessica Wooley as director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control, finding the attorney and environmental advocate qualified and capable for the post. Star-Advertiser.

A flurry of final votes as lawmakers also weighed in on an important political nomination. KITV 4's Paul Drewes spent all day in the Senate and has the latest from the state capitol.

The state Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday ordered Hawaiian Electric Co. to reduce energy costs and accommodate more solar power and other renewable energy on the grid. Hawaiian Electric must submit its plans for carrying out the orders within four months, said Michael Champley, one of three commissioners who announced the orders with Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Associated Press.

The Public Utilities Commission sent a strong message to Hawaiian Electric Companies Tuesday, saying the company is not moving fast enough to lower utility rates and connect more photovoltaic systems into the grid. Backed by the governor, the commission laid out an action plan on what the goals should be for the utility company. KHON2.

A handful of reporters gathered in Gov. Neil Abercrombie's Ceremonial Room on Tuesday morning awaiting an announcement about four major energy policy decisions and taking bets on what they would be. Abercrombie soon took the podium, flanked by the three leaders of the Public Utilities Commission, and announced that Hawaii has "turned the corner" in its shift to renewable energy. Civil Beat.

State Rep. Jessica Wooley will head the Office of Environmental Quality Control and Brian Tamamoto will serve on the Hawaii Community Development Authority despite last-minute objections from some lawmakers. Civil Beat.

The Center for Food Safety is a well-funded nonprofit that spends millions of dollars on litigation, community outreach and politics to support organic and sustainable agricultural practices. It opposes GMOs, pesticides and other technologies that it worries might be harmful to humans or the environment. Civil Beat.

Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann publicly announced at the end of last week that he will indeed run for governor again this year. But unlike his last two runs for public office, when he suffered crushing defeats in Democratic Party primaries, this time Hannemann says he’s running as an “Independent.” Civil Beat.

On Tap at the Hawaii Legislature: April 30. A selective list of bills, resolutions, hearings, briefings, meetings and events for Wednesday at the state Capitol. Civil Beat.

Oahu

Uncertain about whether they have the votes, state House leaders have put off a decision on whether to finance $40 million in bond money for a conservation easement at Turtle Bay Resort until Thursday, the last day of session. Star-Advertiser.

The Honolulu Salary Commission voted 5-1 Tuesday to give the mayor, City Council members and most city department heads raises of 8 percent next year. Star-Advertiser.

University of Hawaii-Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple is proposing to eliminate six to eight mostly-vacant dean and director positions and consolidate departments to save more than $1 million a year. Hawaii News Now.

Honolulu's housing market is  becoming even more expensive, and recruiters say that the high cost of living here is a  major hurdle in attracting employees. Pacific Business News.

Some of Honolulu's homeless are moving off the streets and into secluded tree houses. Hawaii News Now.

Outrigger Enterprises Group plans to cap off its Waikiki Beach Project with another $100 million investment, which would add meeting space and a 350-foot hotel tower to the Outrigger Reef on the Beach. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

More than a decade after Geoffrey Molfino bought — and sold — a 49-acre parcel of Hawaii Island land, the case he brought against the county for allegedly failing to maintain accurate records was heard before the state’s highest court. In an unusual move — for the first time on record — the Supreme Court justices met in West Hawaii, in a courtroom convened in the Kealakehe High School gym, to allow Molfino’s attorney, Peter Esser, and Deputy Corporation Counsel Laureen Martin to make their oral arguments. West Hawaii Today.

A state Senate bill seeking funds for a proposed flight-training center at Hilo International Airport was deferred last week. The state House of Representatives passed SB 3092 earlier this month, but the measure did not make it out of conference committees last week. Tribune-Herald.

The leases for three Banyan Drive properties will expire next year, leaving hotel operators and residents little certainty about their future. Tribune-Herald.

Big Island minister Roger Christie learned his legal fate Monday, and his case has invigorated lawmakers and advocates who believe, as Christie does, that marijuana should be made legal. Christie was held for 3 years and 9 months in Hawaii’s Federal Detention Center without bail and or a trial on charges related to growing and distributing marijuana. Hawaii Reporter.

Maui

A recent study tested five Maui Meadows residences that had opted to install smart meters in 2012 and found that the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the devices is not enough to present a hazard to residents in the area. Maui News.

Despite not getting the share of the hotel room tax he anticipated, Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa told council members Monday that he doesn't want to increase property taxes, as there are other ways the county can make up for lost revenue. Maui News.

Maui County Council's Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Mike White wants to cut current property tax rates by 3.1 percent as well as maintain rates for trash collection fees, reduce county overtime pay and eliminate any new county positions. Maui News.

Kauai

Styrofoam free. Kilauea takes big step to become even more green friendly. Garden Island.

County officials across the state may have to wait a little longer to get more of their share of tax revenues charged to most visitor accommodations throughout the state. Garden Island.