Wednesday, February 4, 2015

State employees fined for taking gifts from contractors, fire ants slow lava evacuation route, Granny could be liable for child support, Honolulu Police Department under fire, making prison guards work, $28M bonds sought for Hawaii Health Connector, Omidyar gives $100M for Hawaii causes, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

courtesy Hawaii County government
Road construction through lava flow, courtesy Hawaii County
Nine mid- to high-level current and former state employees have agreed to pay a total of $34,800 in administrative penalties for allegedly accepting free golf from private contractors, consultants, vendors and other companies that did business with their agencies, the state Ethics Commission announced this week. Star-Advertiser.

Commentary: Gov. David Ige’s Honeymoon Ended With Nomination of Ching. The Governor's Office has arranged meetings between the nominee to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources and his critics, but strong opposition remains.Civil Beat.

Going after grandparents for child support could happen under a new proposal before state lawmakers. HB128 would hold parents of a minor who has a baby financially responsible for their grandchild. KHON2.

A Hawaii state Senate committee is planning to take up a slew of bills that aim to improve elections. The bills are being introduced after Hawaii's recent elections were thrown off track by a series of natural disasters that hit Hawaii's Big Island. Associated Press.

State lawmakers are considering a handful of bills aimed at reforming Hawai‘i’s prison system. One would create and fund a pilot program that would hire part time workers to make sure weekend visitation days are fully staffed. Hawaii Public Radio.

The Hawaii Health Connector, which came under fire by the state auditor last week for the way it spent millions of dollars in federal grants, may be able to borrow as much as $28 million in bonds backed by the state. Star-Advertiser.

House lawmakers smacked down a bill Tuesday that would have created an exemption to the state open records law that one critic called “grossly over-broad.” The Judiciary had included House Bill 287 in its legislative package purportedly over concerns of identity theft and physical security. But it was really about finding a way to let judges, who have to retire at age 70, keep their birthdates secret. Civil Beat.

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii said Tuesday striking union workers picketing at its clinics blocked patients trying to get into the facilities on the second day of a six-day strike. The union denied the accusation. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii could become the first state in the country to adopt energy mandates requiring the state’s utilities to derive 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and geothermal, if a bill backed by clean energy advocates is approved. Currently, Hawaiian Electric Co., serving Oahu, the Big Island and Maui County, as well as the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, are required to convert to 40 percent renewable energy by 2030 or face penalties. Civil Beat.

The state Department of Education will be trying out standardized tests for third- and fourth-grade Hawaiian language immersion students in May and is seeking a federal waiver so the students won't have to be tested in both English and Hawaiian. Star-Advertiser.

A federal judge said Tuesday she's inclined to order a settlement conference for both sides of a lawsuit claiming Hawaii discriminates against those with limited English skills. Associated Press.

Opinion: It is time for the Legislature to re-examine why Hawaii has an open meetings law. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Sunshine Law. Bills pending in the Legislature illustrate how the open meetings law has pulled in different directions over time. Civil Beat.

A superstition that warned people not to get married in the latter half of 2014 led to a drop in weddings in South Korea and may have affected travelers to Hawaii, which many Koreans see as a dream honeymoon destination. Pacific Business News.

Commentary: Pierre Omidyar in Hawaii: The Billionaire in the Corner. Bringing about positive social change in Hawaii isn't cheap or easy, but here's how $100 million has been spent on the effort. Civil Beat.

Oahu

The FBI released semiannual 2014 crime stats for America's biggest cities last week, but don't bother trying to find out how safe — or dangerous — life can be in Honolulu. Even the state attorney general's office that compiles islandwide crime data every year cannot get statistics from the Hono­lulu Police Department on crimes ranging from murder to motor vehicle theft. Star-Advertiser.

The Honolulu Police Department and its chief have faced tough questions about transparency and accountability. The latest Hawaii Poll reveals mixed feelings about HPD's investigations into police shootings and alleged misconduct. Hawaii News Now.

Several Oahu residents who participated in the Hawaii Poll said their opinion of Hono­lulu Police Chief Louis Kea­loha was marred by recent events involving the chief and his wife, Deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kea­loha. The poll showed Oahu residents were nearly split in their opinions of Kea­loha with 32 percent favorable and 28 percent unfavorable. Star-Advertiser.

Cockfights, family abuse and tampering with government records are only a few of the crimes Honolulu police officers were punished for in 2014, according to an annual misconduct report submitted to the Legislature last week. In all, the Honolulu Police Department disciplined 39 officers for 47 incidents that also included surfing on the job, gaming the overtime system, beating up suspects and driving under the influence. Civil Beat.

In its 2014 annual report to the state legislature, Honolulu Police Department only focused on administrative actions taken against officers who were either suspended or discharged for violating the department’s standards of conduct. KHON2.

A state senator representing the Kakaako area asserts that he does in fact reside there — and that he made a mistake claiming homeowner tax exemptions on a property he owns outside his district. Sen. Brickwood Galuteria (D, Kakaako-McCully-Wai­kiki) made those assertions this week after an adviser to his latest general-election challenger filed a complaint with the Honolulu City Clerk's office this past fall. Star-Advertiser.

Sen. Brickwood Galuteria comes clean on tax exemption claims. KITV4.

Opinion: After reading about all the contributions to politicians from rail project contractors, I am struck by the arrogance and contempt our public servants share towards those they have been elected to serve. Civil Beat.

Opinion: A report confirming that Unit Director Michele Carbone ran the UH Cancer Center into the ground can teach us an important lesson about the systemic problems currently killing the University of Hawaii. Hawaii Independent.

Hawaii

A sewer pipe leaking off the Keaukaha coast is going to cost Hawaii County almost $6 million to fix. The County Council Finance Committee on Tuesday voted favorably on Bill 20, to appropriate $4.95 million on top of the $1 million already appropriated to fix the outfall pipe that sends treated sewage three-quarters of a mile into the ocean. West Hawaii Today.

Completion of the Chain of Craters alternate route is being pushed further back thanks to a tiny pest that already has taken over much of East Hawaii. Hawaii County Public Works Director Warren Lee said little fire ants have been found in baseyards supporting the approximately 8-mile road construction project that will reconnect Highway 130 with Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Tribune-Herald.

A bill adding transparency and public input to the process of creating planned unit developments sailed through the County Council Planning Committee on Tuesday. The committee unanimously agreed to a positive recommendation for Bill 281, which now heads to two council votes. West Hawaii Today.

State legislators will hear from the Hawaii Island Family Residency Program’s inaugural class members as organizers support multiple bills seeking funding to keep the program going. Tribune-Herald.

A Hawaii County Police Department sergeant facing domestic abuse and terroristic threatening charges will make his initial court appearance next month. West Hawaii Today.

University of Hawaii will host meetings this week regarding an environmental impact statement for expanding its lease on Mauna Kea. The open houses are slated for 5:30-8 p.m. today at the Department of Hawaiian Homelands office in Waimea and Thursday at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Acknowledging that Maui County residents are dealing with substandard internet browsing speeds, the County of Maui has hired Joel Ogren of the U.S. Navy-sponsored Applied Research Laboratory at the University of Hawaii to “evaluate, develop and recommend a preliminary telecommunications strategy for Maui County,” according to a Feb. 2 county news release. MauiTime.

Kauai

A Kauai Island Utility Cooperative committee has confirmed eight candidates who will run for three seats on its board of directors, the Lihue-based utility said Tuesday. Pacific Business News.

A public hearing on proposed medical marijuana rules is scheduled to take place at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the basement room of the State Office Building, 3060 Eiwa Street in Lihue. Garden Island.

Sara Lee Silverman was reappointed to a second term as a Kauai District Court Judge. Garden Island.