Monday, February 16, 2015

Tulsi reveals future husband, failed preschool ballot measure resurrected as Senate bill, Kauai tour boat strikes humpback whale, Edward Snowden speech a hit, religious groups at national parks, Honolulu stables in uproar, 3 in running for Maui House seat, more government and politics news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii's hotel industry finished 2014 with a new total hotel revenue record of $5.4 billion. The statewide hotel industry had the nation's second-highest average daily room rate. While Hawaii's 2014 occupancy rate only grew 0.05 percent year-over-year to 77 percent, it ranked fifth best in the nation behind New York, San Francisco/ San Mateo, Los Angeles/ Long Beach and the Miami/Hia­leah markets. Star-Advertiser.

Tulsi Gabbard has broken her silence on who she will be tying the knot with. The 33-year-old congress woman will marry 26-year-old Abraham Williams. Williams is a cinematographer and has known Gabbard since before they started dating in April. Hawaii News Now.

Things to watch at state Legislature this week. Associated Press.

Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower on the run, spoke at ACLU Hawaii’s First Amendment Conference live Saturday, via a video link from Moscow, Russia. Civil Beat.

Lisa Wong was impressed Saturday by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, who appeared live in Hawaii via a video link from Moscow. Wong was among some 800 attendees at the sold-out Davis Levin First Amendment Conference at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. Star-Advertiser.

A bill to establish a statewide pre-kindergarten program -- a program that failed on the ballot in 2014 -- passed through the Senate Committee on Education on Friday afternoon. Senate Bill 844 would set up a $33 million program to establish pre-K offerings at public and charter schools that would be administered by the Executive Office on Early Learning. Civil Beat.

Researchers at a biotech company co-founded by a medical student from Hawaii have taken human fetal kidneys that would have been discarded and transplanted them into rats, where they thrived. Their ultimate goal is to grow such organs in animals and make them available to children and adults who need lifesaving transplants but can't get them because of the shortage of donated organs. Star-Advertiser.

A bill that would that would waive college tuition for high school students in dual credit programs was approved by the Senate Committee on Education on Friday afternoon. Civil Beat.

The Hawaii State Senate has hired Jill Kuramoto to be its new communications director. Kuramoto, who replaces Thelma Dreyer, starts the job Feb. 23. Civil Beat.

Is Carleton Ching the Man to Protect Hawaii’s Public Lands? Important issues are ahead for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and some of them are likely to involve the company that currently employs the nominee to head the agency. Civil Beat.

The Hawaii Medical Service Association, Blue Zones LLC, and Healthways, Inc. selected three Hawaii communities on the Big Island and Oahu as the state's first Blue Zones project demonstration communities. Pacific Business News.

Oahu

The statewide board of doctors in charge of reviewing driver's license applications for disabled and elderly drivers has been unable to fill four of its five seats, preventing more than 100 would-be drivers on Oahu from getting their licenses for the last six months. Star-Advertiser.

Where does state Rep. Calvin Say actually live? It’s a question that’s been debated for years, both informally among concerned citizens and formally before judges and county boards in Honolulu. Now there’s a new effort underway — believed to be the first of its kind in Hawaii — to settle the matter. Civil Beat.

New pact will guide use of city stables. A horse enthusiast who runs a concession fears for the future of the equestrian center. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

A Jehovah’s Witness group is taking its message to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, leaving at least one regular park-goer dissatisfied with park policy. West Hawaii Today.

A number of smaller film projects continue to take advantage of Hawaii Island’s world-class vistas and renowned hospitality. A total of 68 productions received Hawaii County film permits and reported $8.7 million in expenditures here in 2014, according to Hawaii County Film Commissioner Ilihia Gionson. Tribune-Herald.

Cindy Evans, D-North Kona, Kohala, has introduced a bill that would appropriate $200,000 for lifeguarding services at the increasingly popular and often dangerous North Kona beach. West Hawaii Today.

Big Island lawmakers are hopeful a renewed push to establish medical marijuana dispensaries will clear the hurdles this time around. West Hawaii Today.

Isle coffee farmers raising tiny bugs to attack pesky coffee borer beetle. West Hawaii Today.

The state’s largest health insurer announced the start of a new effort Friday to improve the health of East and North Hawaii residents. Tribune-Herald.

Maui
The Maui County Democratic Party’s Council Nominating Committee today narrowed the list of candidates for the vacant District 13 House seat to three finalists today. The finalists include Lori Buchanan of Molokaʻi, Lynn DeCoite of Molokai, and Lucienne De Naie of Huelo on Maui. Maui Now.

Three candidates touted their experience in infrastructure, farming and community work as they were nominated Saturday to replace District 13 state Rep. Mele Carroll. Maui News.

Babes Against Biotech is urging Maui Democrats not to select a local farmer for Mele Carroll’s vacant seat in the Hawaii House of Representatives. The anti-GMO group posted on its Facebook page Friday a plea to the party’s District 13 selection committee tasked with selecting three candidates to replace Carroll, who resigned Feb. 1 for health reasons. Civil Beat.

Lack of permits and licenses could mean the end for Loiloa. Maui News.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday accepted and approved a hearing officer's report that recommended withdrawing several parcels of land from state forest reserves on Maui, including nearly 400 acres owned by Hana Ranch. Maui News.

Hui O Na Wai Eha members staged a rally Friday afternoon at the Wailuku Stream Bridge to protest what the group's vice president said has been a failure to comply with or to enforce last year's mediated settlement to return diverted water to the stream. Maui News.

The Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui has completed a three-year, $70 million renovation project to create a "luxurious vacation experience for guests" of the 22-acre Wailea resort. Maui News.

Kauai

Major changes including a new visitor center could be on the horizon for the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. On Thursday, the refuge released its Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan which details its vision for the area and potential management priorities for the next 15 years. Garden Island.

A boat struck an adult humpback whale Thursday morning along Kauai’s South Shore while heading out on a snorkeling tour. Garden Island.

Five new positions in the Kauai Fire Department’s Ocean Safety Bureau allowed for several promotions within the department. Garden Island.