Monday, April 28, 2014

No aloha for ukulele, GMO fervor brings campaign cash, final week for Hawaii Legislature, election day voter registration advances, Pohakuloa could get military money, Maui airport improvements bring runway closure, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Ukulele player in Merrie Monarch parade © 2014 All Hawaii News
Sorry, ukulele. Hawaii won’t spurn the steel guitar to sound its love for you. Bills in the state Legislature that would’ve declared the friendly little guitar the official instrument of Hawaii both died near the end of the legislative session. Associated Press.

Hawaii lawmakers are heading into the last week of the 2014 Legislative session, preparing to clear the decks on hundreds of bills before the action ends Thursday. Associated Press.

Chad Blair: Why I Hate Conference Committee. Civil Beat.

The fervor surrounding genetically engineered crops in Hawaii is expected to spill into this year's elections, as a number of candidates have already begun framing their campaigns around an anti-GMO sentiment. It's also anticipated to lead to increased spending on particular races that will pit opponents of genetically modified organisms against those who believe that large agribusiness and chemical companies, such as Monsanto, Syngenta and BASF, are a boon to the local economy and global food production research. Civil Beat.

A bill that would ban smoking in and around Hawaii Public Housing Authority units is headed for passage by the state Legislature. Star-Advertiser.

State lawmakers are considering a measure to downward voter turnout reverse the trend by allowing same-day voter registration. Hawaii News Now.

A state board has issued long-awaited licensing guidelines covering workers who install solar panels — a move that will result in a greater involvement of licensed electricians in the installation process. Star-Advertiser.

The influential Sierra Club of Hawaii is urging people to ask state senators to vote in favor of Jessica Wooley's appointment as director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control. Civil Beat.

Hawaii’s elevator standards are on their way up — but they have further to go. Two years ago, Hawaii's elevators were on a downward trajectory. The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) was way behind on elevator and boiler inspections, and working with an “archaic” code that some experts said was a threat to public safety. More than 5,000 of the more than 7,000 elevators in the state required inspecting, meaning that no one knew for sure how many needed repairs. Civil Beat.

Heart of tourism industry lies in hana hou visitors. Problems with the homeless and increases in travel costs could keep some from coming back, officials say. Star-Advertiser.

State roundup for April 28. Associated Press.

Oahu

Honolulu’s Salary Commission is recommending raises of 8 percent for many of the city’s top officials – a rate that’s almost five times the annual inflation rate. That might seem like a steep increase, but for many of the positions — such as the police and fire chiefs and Honolulu City Council members — salaries would still lag far behind those of their counterparts in mainland cities of comparable size. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

Bill would upgrade Pohakuloa. A measure set to be introduced in Congress would assess security in Asia and the Pacific. Star-Advertiser.

There’s a good chance three former or current council members will be running for the Puna District 4 County Council seat, following the addition this week of former Councilwoman Emily Naeole. West Hawaii Today.

House and Senate conferees have agreed to include funding in the state budget for two major Big Island projects — the planned $90 million Kona Judiciary Complex and the planned $55 million University of Hawaii Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy building. Pacific Business News.

The state Legislature’s budget conference committee has agreed on a proposal to fund a permanent building for the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, legislators and university officials said Friday. Tribune-Herald.

Hawaii County Council members tapped their district contingency funds for $525,354 during the last 10 months, with a majority of expenditures going to park facilities. Tribune-Herald.

Two students at the University of Hawaii at Hilo have filed a federal lawsuit against the school, alleging their First Amendment rights were violated on campus. The lawsuit claims U.H. Hilo staff prevented them from passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution. Hawaii Public Radio.

Maui

The House Finance Committee and Senate Ways and Means Committee put finishing touches on the state budget, approving funds for several key capital improvement projects in Central Maui, including funds for: the widening of Puʻunēnē Avenue; planning and design of a new middle school in Central Maui; and design and construction of a Central Maui Regional Park and Sports Complex. Maui Now.

Repair and reconstruction of the taxiway for Kahului Airport's main runway that begins Wednesday will force the closure of the runway during nighttime hours most days through the end of the year and will increase air traffic over Kahului and Wailuku, the state Department of Transportation said. Maui News.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday approved a request to restrict hunting dogs for at least two years in Molokai's Puu Alii Natural Area Reserve and in portions of reserve areas in East and West Maui. Maui News.

Kauai

Several nonprofit organizations are supporting a charter amendment petition to regulate pesticides and the growth of genetically modified organisms on Kauai. Star-Advertiser.

It’s a question of in-house versus outsourcing. A cost-saving proposal by the Office of the County Attorney to create a litigation team within the County of Kauai department is being met with some resistance by officials who question how the team would be assembled — and whether the extra attorneys would be financially worth it. Garden Island.

State and county representatives are celebrating the passage of a measure that pushes back the sunset clause on a law that allows county lifeguards to operate on state beaches. Garden Island.