Wednesday, April 2, 2014

You say Kailua, we say Kailua, Micronesian migrants to get less health care, ACLU sues over religious pre-K, Gabbard named to Armed Services Committee, Maui leads in solar panels, Kauai reforestation advances, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Kailua-Kona (c) 2014 All Hawaii News
State lawmakers are considering a resolution this week to urge Facebook to distinguish between the communities of Kailua and Kailua-Kona on the social networking site. Associated Press.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii is suing the state, arguing a child care assistance program that provides preschool tuition subsidies for low-income families violates the state and U.S. constitutions by providing public funds for religious observations and teachings. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii isn’t required to fund Medicaid for migrants from three Pacific Island nations in Micronesia to make up for a reduction in federal funding, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. - Associated Press.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday issued a ruling that will likely have a dramatic impact on Micronesians living in Hawaii. The appellate court determined that the state is not required to fund Medicaid for migrants from island nations in Micronesia including the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. Civil Beat.

A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled Tuesday that the state can resume offering fewer health care benefits to Micronesian migrants than those given other Medicaid recipients. The decision vacates a 2010 preliminary injunction handed down by U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright that prohibited the state from denying migrants full Medicaid benefits. Star-Advertiser.

A law that aimed to equalize instructional time across Hawaii's regular public schools was implemented a few years ago and is gradually being phased in, but now lawmakers are revisiting questions about how much time the state should require public school students to spend in the classroom. Civil Beat.

A bill aimed at reducing the interisland spread of invasive species was deferred in a state House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection Tuesday. Tribune-Herald.

It's looking less likely that teenagers in Hawaii will be allowed to hit the tanning salons before going to the beach. A key Senate committee in the Hawaii Legislature approved a bill Tuesday that bans minors from using tanning beds. Associated Press.

Hawaii was the first to commit to rollout of an insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act, but the last to get up and running. On Tuesday, Governor Neil Abercrombie told Hawaii News Now that execution was fundamentally flawed by a Legislature decision to set up a nonprofit.

The Pentagon is overhauling its efforts to find and identify missing service members from past wars, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Monday. Civil Beat.

Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief are providing common ground for Southeast Asian defense ministers meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in Honolulu. Hagel, who arrived Tuesday afternoon at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, will be in Hawaii for three days as the U.S. for the first time hosts a meeting of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) defense ministers. Star-Advertiser.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has been named to the Armed Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Associated Press.

Hawaii scientists and emergency personnel kept watch on a tsunami generated by a magnitude-8.2 earthquake off Chile on Tuesday, the anniversary of the 1946 tsunami that devastated Hilo. Star-Advertiser.

When the Board of Directors of the Hawaii State Bar Association recently rated Judge Michael Wilson as “unqualified” to serve as a member of the Hawaii Supreme Court, based on its confidential review, it placed bar association representatives, legislators and the nominee in very awkward positions. They all had to deal with the allegations, however veiled, but had little real data to work with because the substance and sources of many charges remained behind a curtain of confidentiality. Civil Beat.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie made it official Tuesday: Jan. 23 will be known as Saint Marianne Cope Day in Hawaii. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Biotech, which is focused on the research and development of vaccines for established and emerging infectious diseases, thinks that the next major outbreak of the West Nile Virus could happen next year, and when and if that happens, the Aiea-based firm will be positioned to help put out this deadly virus, its CEO, Dr. Elliot Parks, told Pacific Business News.

President Barack Obama has inserted himself into Hawaii’s most contentious political race, endorsing U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz over challenger U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the state’s upcoming U.S. Senate election. Hawaii Reporter.

On Tap at the Hawaii Legislature: April 2. A selective list of bills, resolutions, hearings, briefings and events for Wednesday at the state Capitol. Civil Beat.

Oahu

Low-income apartments with ocean views don't get built every day in Hono­lulu. Nearly 200, however, are just about finished in Kaka­ako and are getting ready for occupancy after 15 months of construction. Star-Advertiser.

A key House committee approved a bill on Tuesday evening that would allow the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to build condos on part of its land in the area known as Kakaako Makai.  OHA is already allowed to build commercial buildings in the property, but says that residential development would allow the agency to maximize its revenue for the land. Civil Beat.

A local hospitality and healthcare union has enlisted two Honolulu City Council members in its ongoing fight with Kaiser Permanente over pension benefits. Unite Here Local 5 has spent tens of thousands of dollars on three 15-second TV ads featuring Stanley Chang and Joey Manahan. They are airing on KFVE, KGMB, KHNL and KITV during the morning and evening news hours. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

More salary bumps are on the horizon for county staff. Two of Mayor Billy Kenoi’s top aides will see double-digit percentage increases and others will get slightly less under the 2014-15 budget he is scheduled to present today to the County Council Finance Committee. West Hawaii Today.

A small grass lot has stirred up a big controversy for Hawi residents, who are divided on whether the county should purchase it for open space or allow its owners to build an art gallery. West Hawaii Today.

The Democratic Party on the Big Island is in the process of refining the procedures for replacing midterm vanacies in the State House and State Senate.  This follows some controversy about the selection of the replacement for State House Rep Denny Coffman when he resigned. Hawaii Public Radio.

A bill seeking to help Hawaii County combat little fire ants in its parks will face its last committee today. SB 2920 would grant the county an unspecified amount of funding as part of a pilot project for fire ant containment. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

In the last couple of years, Maui County has installed more solar rooftop photovoltaic systems per capita than nearly anywhere else in the nation, and now industry professionals are looking to Hawaii as a pioneer in solving some of the challenges with integrating more renewable energy. Maui News.

Nearly 40 Maui Lani residents have signed a petition opposing the state's 65-acre Central Maui Regional Park, also known as the Central Maui Sports Complex, saying that the facility will negatively affect their neighborhood with noise from sporting activities and nighttime lighting. Maui News.

Student volunteers from two mainland universities spent their spring break on Maui, assisting in the construction of Habitat for Humanity’s Kahawai Street affordable housing project in Happy Valley. Maui Now.

Kauai

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is finalizing plans for a major reforestation on 1,000 acres of forest reserve land in and around Kokee. Garden Island.

Hawaii native Ernest Kanekoa, Jr. filed his nomination papers Tuesday to run for Kauai County Council. Garden Island.