Monday, April 20, 2015

Wealthy taxes to drop, Hawaii voters favor medical marijuana dispensaries, state fails most nursing home standards, more government and political news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii state Capitol, copyright 2015 All Hawaii News
Despite concerns that the state is spending more money than it takes in each year, Gov. David Ige and state lawmakers have quietly opted to allow a $36 million-a-year tax cut to take effect for Hawaii's highest-income residents starting in 2016. Star-Advertiser.

Far more Hawaii voters support establishing medical marijuana dispensaries than just over a year ago, according to a new Civil Beat poll. But voters still oppose legalization of marijuana for recreational use by about the same margin as last year.

The state failed to meet nearly 70 percent of federal performance standards related to inspections of nursing homes and other federally certified health care facilities last year, according to a new evaluation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Star-Advertiser.

Three years ago the state unveiled a $5 million, 1,300-page plan to modernize and trans­form the state's antiquated computer and information technology systems — an initiative that former Gov. Neil Abercrombie praised at the time as a "key initiative" in the administration's New Day Plan. Today, the state's top information technology official is warning lawmakers the plan is so huge that it "was not implementable," and must be revisited to break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces to allow state agencies to make a series of far more modest improvements. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii Legislature has three weeks left to wrap up all its business for the 2015 session, and most of the major legislation remains undecided. Lawmakers in both chambers have passed bills that would set up a system of medical marijuana dispensaries, solve problems at Hawaii’s financially troubled health insurance exchange and allocate all of the state’s spending. Associated Press.

Hawaii lawmakers are urging state regulators to go along with the Hawaii Consumer Advocate's request to establish a schedule that would complete the regulatory review process of NextEra Energy Inc.'s $4.3 billion acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Co. by June 2016. Pacific Business News.

A group of Native Hawaiians wants to bring back a centuries-old island burial practice that it says is more environmentally friendly than some modern interment methods. Associated Press.

The Senate Water and Land Committee voted Friday to recommend that William Balfour be confirmed to a four-year term on the state Water Commission, despite opposition from environmental and Native Hawaiian organizations. The vote was 5-2. Sens. Laura Thielen, Brickwood Galuteria, Les Ihara, Sam Slom and Maile Shimabukuro voted in favor of the nomination. Sens. Russell Ruderman and Gil Riviere voted against it. Civil Beat.

Gov. David Ige's three nominees to the state Board of Education sailed through a Senate Education Committee hearing Friday. The governor nominated Lance Mizu­moto, president and chief banking officer of Central Pacific Bank; longtime Kauai educator Margaret Cox; and former teacher Hubert Minn to three-year terms on the school board. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

Those guiding Oahu's rail transit project are struggling to come up with the cash to finish building the system, but another challenge still looms down the track: How will the island pay for the rail line's operations once it's up and running? Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

The owner of Puna Geothermal Venture has two weeks remaining to file an answer to a complaint alleging it defrauded the federal government of $13.8 million in stimulus funds to cover an expansion at the plant. Tribune-Herald.

A bill lawmakers passed Friday could soon make it easier for lower Puna residents to obtain property insurance as the June 27 lava flow remains a more distant threat. Tribune-Herald.

New rules governing surf schools — plus other regulations to address overcrowding and conflicting uses — resurfaced at Kahaluu Bay. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

A group of East Maui taro farmers, fishermen and gatherers recently filed suit against the state, Alexander & Baldwin and others after learning the state granted revocable permits to allow the company to continue to lease land in East Maui for its stream diversions. Associated Press.

Ten Maui police officers are using body-worn cameras in the field, recording some of their interactions with the public while responding to emergency calls, in a monthlong test of the technology. Maui News.

Kauai

County transportation planner Lee Steinmetz said a planned transit study, set to kick off in mid-May, will seek “to determine ways to shift transportation modes from automobiles to transit to reduce roadway congestion and parking demand.” Garden Island.

A multi-million dollar project aimed at removing hundreds of invasive trees along a well-traveled section of Kuhio Highway on the North Shore is moving forward. Garden Island.