Friday, February 13, 2015

Fishy Friday: Coral disease, aquarium fishing bills, plastic in the ocean; Ige to hold the line on spending, reaffirms support of DLNR chief, pesticide buffers; Honolulu rail tax extended; police chief's wife wins $658,787 in lawsuit; Hawaiian Energy posts $33.6M profit; more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii sergeant fish and coral © 2015 All Hawaii News
A deadly disease described as "an Ebola for corals" is laying siege to Kane­ohe Bay, leaving vulnerable roughly half the colonies that live in Hawaii's largest sheltered body of water. Star-Advertiser.

A state House committee moved out a bill that would ban the issuance of new permits for harvesting of aquatic animals from the ocean for aquarium purposes and require current permit-holders to follow stricter rules. The House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs approved a fresh version of House Bill 873 on Thursday, a day after hearing more than four hours of testimony and receiving more than 3,500 pages of written testimony on four aquarium-fishing bills. The bill now heads to the House Judiciary Committee. Star-Advertiser.

Legislation prohibiting the harassment of anyone marine or aquarium fishing is moving forward, said two Big Island lawmakers. West Hawaii Today.

A bill that started out as a ban on the sale of aquatic life for aquariums advanced in a heavily altered form Thursday, and at least two other contentious measures appear to be dead after a trip to the House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources &Hawaiian Affairs. West Hawaii Today.

The House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs approved a bill that authorizes administrative inspections of commercial fishers and wholesalers within the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area, which extends along the west coast of Hawaii Island from South Point to Upolu Point. West Hawaii Today.

Each year about 8.8 million tons of plastic ends up in the world's oceans, a quantity much higher than previous estimates, according to a new study that tracked marine debris from its source. Associated Press.

In his first formal news conference since he was inaugurated, Gov. David Ige reaffirmed there is little money available for discretionary spending, responded confidently to questions about his low-key leadership style and made it clear that buzzwords for his fledgling administration are "efficient" and "effective." Star-Advertiser.

Governor Stands Behind Decision to Nominate Ching for DLNR Director. David Ige held his first "media availability," something he said he'd do regularly. Civil Beat.

The Governor met with the news media today for the second time since taking office 74 days ago.   He provided an update and addressed a wide range of issues. Hawaii Public Radio.

What's been the biggest surprise of Governor David Ige's short time in office? “The amount of paper that comes through the office." No question off limits, no topic too trivial during the governor's first availability in the executive chamber. Hawaii News Now.

Three state Senate committees approved a bill Thursday that would impose stricter regulations on Hawaii’s seed industry, including buffer zones for spraying certain pesticides around schools, watersheds, hospitals and other sensitive areas. The hearing was only the first step in a long process to becoming law, but Gov. David Ige said Thursday that he supports the idea of creating buffer zones for pesticide spraying. Civil Beat.

Hawaii lawmakers advanced a bill that aims to boost the regulation of pesticides, as residents expressed fears for their health and agriculture companies said that their industry is already regulated. The bill would require large-scale commercial agriculture operations to disclose when they use pesticides and to observe buffer zones around sensitive areas like schools and hospital. Associated Press.

State Representative Kaniela Ing of Maui introduced a bill this legislative session that would prohibit law enforcement officers from consuming alcohol while in possession of a firearm. Maui Now.

Could running a red light cost you, even if police officers are not around? Lawmakers are considering a bill to bring photo red light imaging to Hawaii, advancing SB1160 in a joint committee hearing Thursday. KHON2.

An electronic access system is now operational at the Hawaii State Capitol that allows access to the building after-hours. The system uses no keys or cards. Instead, it utilizes biometrics authentication: reading the veins or capillaries of the finger. Civil Beat.

Hawaii’s high school graduation rate continues to increase, according to federal data released Thursday showing that 81 percent of the Class of 2013 graduated within four years. West Hawaii Today.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Hawaii might lose some soldiers as part of a big downsizing across the service, but it could be a "very small" number here. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaiian Electric Industries, the parent company of Hawaiian Electric Co. and American Savings Bank, reported a $33.6 million profit, or 32 cents per diluted share, in the fourth quarter of 2014, compared to a profit of $39.5 million , or 39 cents per diluted share, in the same quarter of 2013. Pacific Business News.

Hawaiian Electric Industries, the parent company of Hawaii's major utilities, said Thursday it spent $4.9 million in the fourth quarter on preparing for its proposed sale to Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra Energy Inc., adding that HEI shareholders will vote on the deal in April or May. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

Senate lawmakers have advanced a bill to extend the tax surcharge funding Oahu's cash-strapped rail transit project for an additional 25 years. The original language of Senate Bill 19, introduced by Senate Transportation Chairman Clarence Nishi­hara, aimed to lift the 2022 sunset and make the 0.5 percent surcharge on Oahu's general excise tax permanent, reflecting what Mayor Kirk Caldwell and other rail leaders have suggested. Star-Advertiser.

A controversial measure to increase the general excise tax to pay for Honolulu’s $6 billion rail project passed its first committee hearing in the Hawaii Senate on Thursday. But lawmakers didn’t give the city the permanent half-percent surcharge it was seeking. Civil Beat.

After hearing testimony on why Oahu’s rail tax should be made permanent, the Senate Transportation Committee voted 8-0 Thursday to extend the surcharge to the state’s general excise tax another 25 years. KITV4.

The University of Hawaii Cancer Center, which has been the subject of much political infighting and academic unrest, will be absorbed into the school’s medical school. Civil Beat.

One of the longest-serving representatives in state history has responded to a residency challenge that could cost him his seat in the state House. Speaker Emeritus Calvin Say said in an interview with The Associated Press, ahead of a precedent-setting special committee hearing Friday, that he has done his best to balance the needs of his family with his district.

The jury in the state civil case that pitted the wife of Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha against her grandmother and uncle sided with Katherine Kealoha on Thursday, awarding her $658,787 in damages. Star-Advertiser.

Opinion: Culture Cave: Rep. Karl Rhoads Is Not ‘All About That Bass’. Some legislators are making noise about forcing businesses in Chinatown and Waikiki to face a new threat: the sound police. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

The state Department of Human Services has determined a Hilo obstetrician did not commit fraud after he was accused of overbilling Medicaid by $1.2 million. Star-Advertiser.

For more than five months, the man known as "Hilo's welfare doctor" has been forced to take patients for free after he was accused of defrauding the state's Medicaid program. But on Wednesday, a state hearings officer overturned Dr. Frederick Nitta suspension from the Medicaid program, saying the fraud allegations were "not credible." Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii County issued a request for proposals Wednesday for a study on the health impacts of geothermal development. The study could cost up to $750,000 and take up to three years to complete. Interested parties have until May 5 to submit their proposals. Tribune-Herald.

On Wednesday night, the State Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers arrested a lava tour guide who was conducting illegal commercials tours in the Kahaualea Natural Area Reserve. The area has been closed by the DNLR as hazardous conditions related to the ongoing volcanic activity in the area persist. Big Island Now.

Maui

Hawai‘i is seeing a dramatic shift to renewable energy resources driven by electric bills that cost roughly double the national average. On March 25 to 27, the County of Maui in partnership with Maui Economic Development Board will hold the second Maui Energy Conference and Exhibition amid this revolution to examine how consumers see the electric utility. Maui Now.

Kauai

A vacant Waipouli property that was once slated to host the 198-room Coconut Plantation Resort apartment hotel complex is back on the market after years of inactivity. Garden Island.

Hawaii impact investment firm Ulupono Initiative, the company backing Hawaii Dairy Farms’ proposed dairy in Mahaulepu Valley, announced new positions for two team members. Garden Island.