Friday, May 22, 2015

Hawaii turns Obamacare program over to feds, House speaker tries to hobble ethics director, teachers challenge union election decision, tuition hikes scaled back, military beefed up, layoffs for Kaho'olawe Island commission, Hawaii hospitals, Kaui DuPont workers, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

By AlaskaDave (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Waimanolo Beach, photo by Alaska Dave
Waimanalo Bay Beach Park was named the top beach on an annual top 10 list of U.S. beaches compiled by a coastal science professor known as Dr. Beach. Associated Press.

Hawaii is switching its Obamacare program to the federal exchange, meaning 37,000 residents insured through the Hawaii Health Connector will have to re-enroll via the federal marketplace for coverage in 2016, Gov. David Ige's administration confirmed Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

House Speaker Joe Souki is calling on the Hawaii State Ethics Commission to reject many of the new policies it has put in place since Les Kondo became its executive director in 2011. The five-member commission has been reviewing Kondo’s performance over the past four months, his first formal evaluation in three years, and plans to take up the issue at its next meeting Wednesday. Civil Beat.

Three teachers who say they won the Hawaii State Teachers Association election plan to go to court on Tuesday to try and force the union to uphold the already counted election results, unless the organization takes action on its own before then. Civil Beat.

The man who won the election last month to become the next president of the state's teacher union said he will go to court to prevent union leaders from throwing out the results and holding another vote. Hawaii News Now.

Gov. David Ige has approved a final payment to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to cover lawyers' fees in a lawsuit the newspaper filed to force former Gov. Neil Abercrombie to disclose the names of nominees for appointments as state judges.

The State Auditor has released a follow-up to its 2012 report on the state Department of Education’s transportation woes. That audit slammed the DOE for numerous problems related to how it managed its school bus services and made 20 recommendations for improvement. Civil Beat.

The Army's commander in the Pacific said Thursday one of his top priorities is incorporating the growth of U.S. soldiers assigned to the region. Over 100,000 soldiers are now assigned to the U.S. Pacific Command, Gen. Vincent Brooks said in an interview. That's up from about 80,000 before President Barack Obama implemented his policy of "rebalancing" U.S. attention to the Asia-Pacific region, he said. Associated Press.

Tourism numbers would seem to be at all-time highs, but a deeper dive into the data shows that the visitor spending may not be as rosy as it appears. Hawaii Public Radio.

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents on Thursday took the unusual step of scaling back tuition increases for the next two school years in an effort to keep tuition affordable. Star-Advertiser.

UH regents vote to divest from fossil fuels. The University of Hawaii, with 53,000 total students, is now the largest university in the world to have divested from the fossil fuel industry so far. Hawaii Independent.

Oahu

An updated master plan for the Hawaii State Hospital includes development of a new 150-bed long-term care facility on the site of the Bishop Building located near the front of the Kaneohe campus, a state official said. Star-Advertiser.

Don’t expect a quick decision on whether the City Council will override Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s veto of Bill 6, legislation that would have expanded the city’s sit-lie law beyond business and commercial districts. On Thursday, Council Chairman Ernie Martin said he and his colleagues would review the mayor’s offer to work on a different version of the bill before deciding their next step. KITV4.

Hawaii

The West Hawaii region of the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. is planning layoffs to address budget shortfalls. But it is not yet clear what the reduction in force will look like, or how it will impact services at Kona Community and Kohala hospitals. West Hawaii Today.

A task force is taking on a troublesome bike lane design on Queen Kaahumanu Highway where it passes through Kailua-Kona. West Hawaii Today.

The first of several fee increases at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park kicks in June 1. While entrance fees will increase annually in $5 increments from its current price of $10 per vehicle to $25 in 2017, the annual Tri-Park Pass will remain at $25 until 2017, when it will jump to $30. The vehicle pass is valid for seven days. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Laying off half of its staff and periodically closing the Kahoolawe base camp may be in the future for the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission. Maui News.

The state Department of Transportation hopes emergency funds from the federal government will help make shoreline repairs to the Olowalu section of Honoapiilani Highway, but residents insist the department focus its efforts, and money, on moving the highway mauka to the planned Lahaina bypass. Maui News.

Stock price for Maui-based software firm Code Rebel soars after IPO. Code Rebel is the first Hawaii-based technology company to have an initial public offering in 10 years. Pacific Business News.

Maui’s Hāmoa Beach in the remote east end of the island has once again claimed a spot on the top 10 Best Beaches in America list compiled by Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University. Maui Now.

Kauai

Seed company DuPont Pioneer has laid off 23 employees on Kauai as part of a plan to consolidate a parent seed facility in Kekaha with one in Waialua on Oahu, officials said Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

Global seed giant DuPont Pioneer is shuttering its Kekaha facility and serving pink slips to 34 workers in a move company officials say will help streamline operations. Garden Island.

The Pacific Missile Range Facility is earmarked to receive $30 million in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016 on Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Garden Island.

An endangered monk seal is set to return to Kauai shores today after veterinarians on Oahu removed a large fish hook from its esophagus. Garden Island.