Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ron Kouchi voted Senate president, Honolulu rail tax bill goes to governor, Szigeti named tourism chief, Hawaii to be first with 100% renewable energy, Kenoi to add 30 positions in new budget, jury sides with Maui County in takings case, humpback whale plan draws Kauai's ire, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Senate President Ron Kouchi
Hawaii Senate President Donna Mercado Kim passed the gavel to Ron Kouchi on Tuesday after a “bloodless coup” that changed leadership just two days before the 2015 session is set to end. The 16-9 vote followed a two-hour floor session in which the Senate gave final approval to dozens of bills. Sens. Les Ihara, Gil Riviere, Russell Ruderman, Sam Slom, Laura Thielen and Kim voted against the resolution that makes Kouchi president and keeps Will Espero as vice president. Civil Beat.

The State Senate ousted its president today and the new leadership vowed to set a course for a stronger legislative body. Hawaii Public Radio.

Donna Mercado Kim

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim says she never wanted to be Senate president because she knew that someday someone would seek to unseat her. That day arrived Tuesday as state Sen. Ron Kouchi was voted in by his colleagues as the new Senate president, marking the first time since 1994 that a sitting president was replaced in midsession. The Senate voted 19-6 to oust Kim and elevate Kouchi. Star-Advertiser.

There is a new State Senate president after a move to oust State Senator Donna Mercado Kim. The abrupt change in leadership came after a 19 to 6 vote in favor of State Senator Ron Kouchi of Kauai. Hawaii News Now.

The Legislature approved more than 100 bills Tuesday, including a $26 billion budget, legislation that requires Hawaii to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 and a bill criminalizing sex trafficking. Civil Beat.

The Hawaii Legislature on Tuesday gave final approval for a $2 million general fund appropriation to the Hawaii Health Connector, only 20 percent of the $10 million that had been initially requested. Pacific Business News.

A bill that would make Hawaii the first state in the nation with a 100 percent-renewable-energy standard cleared the Legislature on Tuesday and is headed to the governor. House Bill 623 would set 2045 as the year Hawaii should reach a goal of producing 100 percent of its electric power from renewable energy sources. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii moved a huge step closer to becoming the first state in the nation to adopt a 100 percent renewable energy portfolio standard, with a bill passed by the state Legislature on Tuesday that’s now headed to the governor’s desk for his signature. Pacific Business News.

A bill passed by the State Legislature today, May 5, makes Hawaii the first state in the nation to adopt a 100 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard, which means Hawaii utilities will generate 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2045. Hawaii Independent.

Opinion: The State Ethics Commission introduced a package of nine bills with House and Senate versions. Not a single one was passed. Civil Beat.

The Hawaii Legislature has passed a bill that could make it a lot easier for transgender people to change their gender on their birth certificates. KITV4.

Hawaii's visitor industry reacted positively to the news that hotel industry leader George Szigeti had been tapped to lead the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which markets the state as a travel destination. Star-Advertiser.

The state Board of Education is approving the appointment of Stephen Schatz to be the Department of Education's new deputy superintendent. Hawaii News Now.

Last week, protestors of another planned U.S. military base in Okinawa rallied outside the Japanese embassy in a show of solidarity with Hawaiians and other occupied indigenous peoples around the world. Hawaii Independent.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's chief operating officer will make an annual salary of $198,000, more than she made running the state of Hawaii. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises reports Linda Lingle will start drawing the pay after her current $60,000 contract with the state ends in June. Associated Press.

Oahu

The state Legislature has approved a five-year extension of Oahu's rail tax surcharge, sending to Gov. David Ige a bill that aims to help pull the largest public works project in the state's history out of a huge cash crisis. With the Senate's 21-4 vote and the House's 39-12 vote Tuesday, lawmakers ended their months­long debate on rail by concluding that the train has already left the station. Star-Advertiser.

The Honolulu City Council is expected to take a final vote on a proposed 11,750-unit Ho‘opili housing project Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

The City Council on Wednesday is expected to give final approval to Bill 6, which includes the two sides of Kapalama Canal and other areas under restrictions of the sit-lie ordinance. Specifically, the expansion would also include both sides of the street of all existing sit-lie boundaries, as well portions of McCully and the Aala-Kukui area mauka of North Beretania Street. Star-Advertiser.

Two former directors of the Waikiki Aquarium told Hawaii News Now it suffers from dysfunctional management that has led to rapid turnover in key positions and may have resulted in some of its animals dying recently, a charge the current man in charge denied.

For the next year and a half, first-time juvenile offenders busted for minor law violations in Honolulu’s 5th Patrol District — which includes the neighborhoods of Kalihi, Liliha, Nuuanu and Punchbowl — will be given the option of going to the Susannah Wesley Community Center instead of going to court. Civil Beat.

Hawaii


Buoyed by an improved economy, Mayor Billy Kenoi on Tuesday released an amended budget that bumps spending up a notch and adds 30 new positions without raising property taxes. The new proposed budget, at $438.8 million, is 5.25 percent higher than last year’s budget and about $4 million higher than a proposed budget released earlier this year. West Hawaii Today.

The Attorney General's office has issued about a dozen subpoenas directed at Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi's questionable spending, Hawaii News Now has learned.

Mayor Billy Kenoi, once considered a bright star in Hawaii politics, is turning out the lights of his campaign organization. Star-Advertiser.

Ka‘u rancher Kyle Soares spread his tax bills out before the County Council Finance Committee on Tuesday, driving home his contention that farmers and ranchers need more of a tax break, not less of one. At issue for Soares and several other testifiers was Bill 317, which would tighten up requirements to qualify for special tax breaks for agriculture. The bill, a product of a task force that met last summer, would do away with the so-called “nondedicated” agricultural exemption, and require commitment to a three-year period to qualify for reduced property values. West Hawaii Today.

After being hit hard by a pair of natural disasters — Hurricane Iselle in July, followed by the June 27 lava flow — Hawaii Island’s southern district of Puna became fuel for numerous legislative bills. Some of those measures passed, including Senate Bill 1211, which increases the expenditure ceiling on major disaster fund money from $2 million to $5 million. Other bills, including those that would have appropriated funds for the removal of downed albizia trees and to establish an emergency ambulance service in the Puna area, died. Tribune-Herald.

More than two years after the Hualalai deepwell broke down, the cost of the repair project has increased more than eight-fold, and there is still no water. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

A 2nd Circuit jury found in favor of Maui County on Tuesday in a lawsuit in which California venture capitalist Douglas Leone and his wife, Patricia, alleged that county officials effectively took their Palauea Beach property as a public park without paying just compensation. Maui News.

Panel sends $621 million budget to full council. Proposal includes reduced property tax rates and increased user fees. Maui News.

Major investigation into Maui County pCard abuse, misspending. KHON2’s Always Investigating has uncovered another major case of taxpayer money misspent on government credit cards, this time on Maui.

Maui County has set aside $30,000 to pay a consulting firm to study what utility model would be the best for the island. The Mayor's Office of Economic Development filed a request for proposals Tuesday seeking the costs and benefits associated with public power and energy cooperatives' forms of electric utility ownership. Star-Advertiser.

Kauai
A new management plan for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary drew widespread anger in the testimony of captains, fishermen, surfers and local business owners, who made it clear they will do whatever it takes to fend off what they view as the increasing oversight of state waters by a federal government they don’t trust. Garden Island.

Friday, May 15 is the last day for residents to tell the Solid Waste office whether they want a 96- or 64-gallon refuse cart for trash collection. Garden Island.

About 10,000 gallons of treated waste water from the Wailua treatment plant overflowed from a manhole Tuesday morning and made its way to an area just outside the fence line of the plant at Lydgate Beach Park, Kauai County officials said in a news release. Star-Advertiser.

Treated and disinfected effluent from the Wailua wastewater treatment plant overflowed Tuesday morning from an onsite manhole and made its way to an area just outside the fence line of the plant at Lydgate Beach Park near the county’s park maintenance building. Garden Island.

Molokai

Molokai residents called on Maui County Council members Tuesday to undertake "any and all efforts to sustain the ferry" system that has seen steep declines in ridership and revenue in the last six months. Maui News.