Thursday, March 5, 2015

Endangered Hawaiian monk seal joins manta rays in rare video, Honolulu rail takes a drubbing at Legislature, Hawaii GOP tries to make budget more transparent, FEMA extends lava emergency funds, Mokolele Airlines founder tapped for county post, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands


Incredible video of a monk seal up close and personal during a manta ray dive on Hawai'i Island is unlike anything you've seen before. Hawaii News Now.

New Online Tool Aims to Make State Budget More Transparent. Hawaii House, Senate Republicans launch Hawaii Open Budget Initiative. Civil Beat.

There are going to be vacancies on the Hawaii State Ethics Commission and the Campaign Spending Commission. The Judicial Council is seeking applicants to fill them. Associated Press.

A group of state lawmakers wants to strengthen the state's response to incidents of sexual assault. A proposal in the state Senate would re-establish a statewide sexual assault response program that lost its funding. The proposal also would add new steps to the assault-response process. Associated Press.

A bill to authorize the first legal medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii cleared a critical hurdle at the Legislature this week by winning approval from the House Finance Committee. That nod from the powerful committee that controls state funding means the bill is now positioned for a vote by the full state House of Representatives. Star-Advertiser.

Two contentious bills relating to aquarium fishing are dead in the state House of Representatives. West Hawaii Today.

A bill that seeks to make a voluntary pesticide disclosure program mandatory made it through its final stage of review in the Senate. But Senate Bill 1037 did not advance without undergoing substantial changes. Garden Island.

When the Hawaii Legislature passed Senate Bill 1087 in 2013, the bill was hailed as a way to democratize access to energy-saving technology, such as rooftop photovoltaic installations. Nearly two years later, as the program anticipated in the legislation is beginning to take shape, its scope is far more modest and bears little resemblance to the hype. Civil Beat.

A weather camera system proven to be effective in Alaska could prevent potentially fatal accidents for Hawaii's small planes and helicopter tours, but the Federal Aviation Administration will delay the installation of such a system for the Islands and the Mainland, citing budget issues and competition from other FAA programs. Pacific Business News.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa this week announced the creation of the Hawaii Groundwater &Geothermal Resource Center, an online clearing house of data on island — and state — water wells and also the volcanic hotspots where new geothermal ventures could be added to the often controversial existing ones. West Hawaii Today.

Oahu
Amid a day packed with blunt questions and impassioned testimony on the future of Oahu rail, state lawmakers advanced bills Wednesday that would extend the state tax funding most of the cash-strapped project. Star-Advertiser.

If there was one message state lawmakers wanted to send Wednesday to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and others trying to build the city’s $6 billion rail system it was this: Show us some skin. Committees in the House and Senate passed different measures that would severely limit how much tax revenue the city can collect for its beleaguered rail project, which is now facing a nearly $1 billion deficit. Civil Beat.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee conducted a 4-hour hearing today on a proposal to extend Honolulu’s half-of-a percentage share of the state’s excise tax to fund budget shortfalls for rail transit. Hawaii Public Radio.

A state Senate panel is approving a bill extending a surcharge to the general excise tax Honolulu imposes to raise money for its rail line. Associated Press.

Groups opposed to development in Malaekahana voiced their concerns about the Envision Laie plan at a Honolulu Hale news conference Wednesday, the day before the issue will be heard by a Honolulu City Council committee. Star-Advertiser.

A plan to set aside a limited number of city-controlled parking spaces for car-sharing company operations cleared the City Council Budget Committee Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

At the February 10, 2015 Waikiki Neighborhood Board meeting, the board members present voted unanimously (14-0-0) to oppose House Bill 1322 (relating to a homeless person’s bill of rights). The bill has since crossed over to the Senate side. Hawaii Independent.

The state Department of Agriculture is asking for the public's assistance in tracking down the source of a recently discovered coconut rhinoceros beetle infestation in Nanakuli. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu’s ban on plastic bags goes into effect on July 1 so that means no more plastic bags when you check out. KHON2.

Hawaii

The Federal Emergency Management Agency expanded its public assistance program for the June 27 lava flow to include debris removal and infrastructure repairs, the agency announced Wednesday. That move amends President Barack Obama’s disaster declaration from Nov. 3 and allows Hawaii County to seek reimbursement for the cost of reopening the Pahoa solid waste transfer station. Tribune-Herald.

Mayor Billy Kenoi has tapped the founder of Mokulele Airlines to head the county Department of Research and Development. Rebecca Kawehi Inaba, 50, a former pilot who created her own airline and then went on to form several other companies, most recently the Fit Xpress Hawaii Inc. women’s gym in Kailua-Kona, was unanimously confirmed Wednesday by the Hawaii County Council. West Hawaii Today.

Vietnam War veteran Charles Thompson stood up and pleaded for quicker medical care and help at a town hall meeting Wednesday for one reason — his grandson. It was his third time requesting assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Stunning images of Maui’s past are captured in present day photography as resident Daniel Sullivan brings the story of the island’s King’s Highway to light. Maui Now.

The Maui County Council confirmed the reappointment of John D. Kim as Maui County prosecuting attorney at a special meeting Tuesday. Maui News.

Kauai

The wait for a four-lane highway across the Lihue Mill Bridge will come to an end soon as state Department of Transportation officials prepare to reopen the final two lanes needed to complete the nearly two-year, $43.5 million project. Garden Island.