Monday, February 2, 2015

Warm oceans threaten green sea turtles, sex trafficking bills proposed, Maui won't defend GMO law, rail pay to play, officials mull backing out of Obamacare requirements, teachers seek better contract, Section 8 vouchers to resume in lava's path, more government and political news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii visitors pose with sea turtles © 2015 All Hawaii News
Green sea turtles may stop basking on Hawaii's shores as early as 2039 if climate change continues at its current rate, a new study concludes. Star-Advertiser.

For the 2015 legislative session, Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery and IMUAlliance are drafting and sponsoring a bill to ban sex trafficking in Hawaii. Currently, Hawaii is one of only two states that fail to outlaw sex trafficking in their criminal codes. Hawaii Independent.

More than a dozen bills seeking to regulate electronic smoking in some way have been introduced at the state Legislature, and proponents of the product appear ready to fight each of them every step of the way. Four of the proposals were heard by the House Health Committee on Friday. Decision-making is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

It’s 4 ‘o clock on a Friday. Pau hana, right? Wrong. It’s time for Gov. David Ige to reveal his latest Cabinet appointment — right at that moment when no one is looking. Since he started picking people in November to serve in his new administration, 11 were named on Fridays and another seven were disclosed on New Year’s Eve. Civil Beat.

A lawmaker from the Big Island wants to hold Hawaii’s Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago accountable for voting problems that she says denied residents of her district the right to vote.Associated Press.

Members serving on the state Board of Education would have four-year terms that run concurrent with that of the governor appointing them under proposed legislation filed this week. Star-Advertiser.

The union representing Hawaii’s public school teachers will be negotiating with the state for a pay increase. The Hawaii State Teachers Association told members in an email the union will return to the bargaining table in March to discuss additional salary and compensation for the remaining two years of the contract. Associated Press.

Hawaii residents may find it more difficult to see their doctor or medical specialist over the next few years. A study released by the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii found that 300 more physicians in primary care are needed statewide. All told, the state needs 3,690 doctors but has 2,800, the study found. Garden Island.

About 7,500 Micronesians and other Pacific islanders will lose their Medicaid health coverage on Feb. 28, but they will automatically be enrolled in an Obama­care replacement plan March 1, health officials said. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii lawmakers are considering whether it makes sense to get out of some requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act so that they can make substantial changes to the state’s troubled health insurance exchange. States like Hawaii that run their own exchanges can apply for a so-called innovation waiver if they meet certain criteria. Associated Press.

More Hawaii residents are opposed to Florida-based Next­Era Energy Inc. buying Hawaiian Electric Industries than favor the sale, according to the latest Hawaii Poll. Star-Advertiser.

HEH. Hawaiian Electric Holdings will become the name of the new parent company of the Hawaiian Electric Cos. following the closure of NextEra Energy's $4.3 billion acquisition of the state's largest utility, according to the two companies' acquisition 374-page application sent to Hawaii regulators. Pacific Business News.

Hawaiian Electric Co. has unveiled an online system that allows customers and developers to see the status and progress of planned renewable generation projects, including rooftop solar and other types of wind and solar projects, the Honolulu-based utility said Friday. Pacific Business News.

While a majority of respondents feel there is not an overemphasis on athletics at the University of Hawaii, they also say the financially struggling athletics department should pay its own bills, the Hawaii Poll shows. Star-Advertiser.

Opinion: When it Comes to State Taxes, You’ve Got to Consider the Source. Hawaii Legislature could improve the state's revenue situation by changing how real estate investment trusts are taxed. Civil Beat.

Oahu

Large Rail Contractors Dump $1.3 Million into Local Campaign Coffers. Companies making at least $1 million on the Honolulu rail project are donating heavily to local politicians. Some of the biggest beneficiaries include Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Hawaii Gov. David Ige and their predecessors. Civil Beat.

As the city struggles to pay for Honolulu's controversial rail system, the latest Hawaii Poll explores possible solutions. The controversial project topped the list (19%) as the most important issue facing Oahu this year in the survey conducted by Ward Research for Hawaii News Now and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Traffic came in a close second (17%), followed by homelessness (15%) and the economy (14%). Education/public schools came in a distant fifth place (4%).

As Aloha Stadium moves into middle age, the state should continue to renovate the facility, a plurality of respondents in the Hawaii Poll said. Forty percent of those who were asked for the “best solution for a stadium on Oahu” said renovating the 40-year-old stadium was their preferred option. Star-Advertiser.

A Honolulu City Council member wants to meet with federal transit officials in Washington, D.C., to discuss the ballooning cost of the city's $5.3 billion rail transit project. Associated Press.

City Councilman Ernie Martin drafted a resolution that will allow him and three other council members to travel to Washington, D.C., on a fact-finding mission. Once Resolution 15-19 is approved by the full council, Martin expects to be in our nation’s capital from Feb. 21 through the 25. KITV4.

The average price of regular gas in Honolulu hit an even $3 a gallon this week, the lowest it has been since June 2009, according to AAA Hawaii's Weekend Gas Watch. Pacific Business News.

Starting Monday, former low-income housing facility Pauahi Hale will operate as a service hub for Oahu's homeless population, as provided by a new five-year contract between the city and social service organization Mental Health Kokua. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

While NextEra Energy's $4.3 billion bid to buy Hawaiian Electric Industries dominates the local energy debate, a group of Hawaii island residents is quietly investigating another possible future for their utility. A Big Island Energy Utility Cooperative steering committee has been formed to discuss the idea further, but is keeping things low-key. Star-Advertiser.

A moratorium on the use of housing assistance vouchers in areas threatened by the June 27 lava flow will end Monday. The restriction, which prevented vouchers from being used on new leases in lower Puna, went into effect in October when it appeared that lava was going to cross Highway 130 sooner rather than later. Tribune-Herald.

Hilo Medical Center was named the third safest hospital in the state and took first place in one key quality-of-care measure in a recent Consumer Reports comparison. The public “safety net” hospital, so-called because it is the only option for many people in East Hawaii, has long wrestled with public perception over its quality of care. Tribune-Herald.

A public information meeting will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Monday on Oahu regarding the proposed master lease for Mauna Kea. Star-Advertiser.

The dispute over whether Environmental Management Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd is qualified for her position returns to a 3rd Circuit courtroom next month. Judge Ronald Ibarra is scheduled to hear motions for summary judgment in the case at 4 p.m. Feb 23, attorneys confirmed Thursday. West Hawaii Today.

Hunters on Saturday ascended upon Puuanahulu for the fourth annual Keikis of the Aina Pig Hunting Tournament.West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Maui County isn’t defending a moratorium on genetically modified farming despite more than 23,000 voters approving the bill last fall. In a court filing Friday, the county said that it is taking “no position” on a motion for summary judgment filed by attorneys representing global seed companies Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, as well as several Maui County businesses and organizations. Civil Beat.

Democrats seeking to succeed Rep. Mele Carroll in the state House of Representatives have until 11 p.m. Friday to submit applications to the Maui County Democratic Party. Maui News.

Mayor Alan Arakawa will speak at the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce’s February Membership Dinner to outline the county’s current efforts in alleviating high housing costs affecting many Maui residents. Maui Now.

Native shrub cover increased from 3 percent to 82 percent over a 15-year period at the Auwahi dryland forest on the leeward flanks of Haleakala, thanks to the efforts of the largely volunteer-based restoration operation named for the forest. Maui News.

Kauai

Kuhio Highway may see a new traffic signal in Kilauea. Or a four-way stop sign. Or even a roundabout, which would be the first such traffic calming device on a state highway. Garden Island.

Lanai

Lanai retains state’s lowest percentage of unemployed. Tourism down during renovations but ‘gold mine’ awaiting island. Maui News.