Monday, February 23, 2015

Lawmakers push gas tax hike, Hawaii's union power, state land chairman nominee in cross hairs, Honolulu rail needs more money, shield law mulled again, digital election a success, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii lawmakers are pushing a plan that could increase the fuel taxes that drivers pay at the pump. The proposal comes as states throughout the nation are dealing with crumbling roads and infrastructure at the same time that federal funds for highways are declining. Associated Press.

The mountain of bills that Hawaii lawmakers are tackling now looks more like a hill. More than half of the bills introduced just a month ago in the Hawaii House of Representatives have died, and lawmakers are left with 737 of the original 1,515 bills that were on the list in that chamber after pushing key proposals through legislative deadlines. Associated Press.

Pension Promises Are Getting Harder for Hawaii Lawmakers To Keep. Billions of dollars in the hole, Hawaii lawmakers are searching for ways to afford the health and retirement benefits promised to thousands of public employees. Legislative efforts to make public workers pay more or sacrifice benefits face strong union opposition. Civil Beat.

Hawai‘i remains a relative stronghold for unions. In fact, according to recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is one of the most unionized states in America. Hawaii Public Radio.

The impetus for a package of bills introduced by the joint Senate and House task force on housing and homelessness is the fact that in the Aloha State, the difference between being homeless and having a home can be a razor-thin line. Hawai‘i has a chronic housing shortage and a high cost of housing. Maui Now.

Voters would get to decide whether the University of Hawaii should keep its current level of autonomy under a proposed constitutional amendment moving through the state Legislature. Star-Advertiser.

Lawmakers being asked to help close the digital divide. DOE asks for $30 million to expand computer pilot project. KITV4.

The Hawaii Attorney General’s Office is again opposing a bill that would that would put in place a shield law to protect members of the news media from having to disclose their sources or unpublished information in most cases. Civil Beat.

A state House committee on agriculture rejected a bill Thursday that sought to impose buffer zones for large agricultural companies that spray restricted-use pesticides near schools and other sensitive areas. Civil Beat.

State Sen. Josh Green has asked Gov. David Ige to withdraw his nomination of Castle & Cooke lobbyist Carleton Ching to lead the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Civil Beat.

Opinion: The ill will Gov. David Ige generated by naming Castle and Cooke lobbyist Carleton Ching to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources is compounded by his adamant refusal to explain his rationale for turning over state lands — our precious jewels — to a guy known for making bling. Star-Advertiser.

She covered the Legislature as a reporter, but now former TV news reporter and anchor Jill Kura­moto will be on the other side of the phone calls, cameras and microphones in her new role as Senate communications director. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

Ultimate price tag for rail likely to remain a mystery. City officials refuse to share their projections with state lawmakers, saying it would tarnish the bid process. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and other supporters of the city rail project are lobbying state lawmakers to extend a tax to pay for the project, but they say they can't reveal a projected final price to build it. Associated Press.

Harvard University is recognizing Honolulu's all-digital neighborhood board elections for their innovative use of technology. Associated Press.

Kamehameha Schools on Friday filed a lawsuit in District Court in Honolulu seeking to evict office supply company Fisher Hawaii from its Kakaako location on Cooke Street. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii

Is an English degree or a law degree “related” to an engineering degree? That’s the crux of the dispute that will play out in a Kona courtroom Monday over whether Environmental Management Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd is qualified for her position. Third Circuit Court Judge Ronald Ibarra is scheduled to hear motions for summary judgment in the case at 4 p.m. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii County officials say they continue to take steps to acquire the Papaikou Mill Beach trail more than two years after the County Council passed a resolution authorizing the purchase. But when an eminent domain action will be filed in court remains to be seen. Tribune-Herald.

Two Big Island lawmakers are leading the charge to expand video testimony for people unable to get to Honolulu for legislative committee hearings. But a video testimony pilot program, while welcomed by neighbor islanders, has had its share of problems. West Hawaii Today.

New bills in the Legislature that would alter and reduce police commission powers aren’t sitting well with the body that oversees the Big Island’s men and women in blue. West Hawaii Today.

As state officials announce success in eliminating little fire ants in an Oahu neighborhood, the battle against the tiny pest on the Big Island, where it all started, continues to look bleak. Tribune-Herald.

Mystery of ohia deaths solved? Tribune-Herald.

A fungal pathogen may be responsible for recent die-offs of beloved Hawaii trees, according to state scientists and tree experts. Associated Press.

Maui

The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, expected to rank as the world's largest solar telescope when it is unveiled in 2019, will include never-before-seen camera technology developed by a technology company based in Ireland and a consortium of eight leading universities in the United Kingdom. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige is appointing a Molokai farmer to fill the vacant seat in the Hawaii House of Representatives. Lynn DeCoite would succeed Rep. Mele Carroll, who resigned last month for health reasons. Carroll died Wednesday. Associated Press.

Pro-GMO farmer to lead anti-GMO district. Lynn DeCroite, a Molokai farmer with ties to Monsanto, was sworn-in today to the state House to represent District 13, which voted in favor of the Maui GMO moratorium. Hawaii Independent.

Kauai

Longstanding tensions surrounding a proposal to construct a grass-fed dairy in Mahaulepu resurfaced on Thursday, when nearly 150 people packed into the Koloa Elementary School cafeteria. Garden Island.