Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Federal judge to rule on Maui GMO by month's end, Syngenta gives up 500 Kauai acres, state income tax refunds delayed, Honolulu committee passes more homeless bills, Hawaii Obamacare lays off staff, tax breaks to remove cesspools, Kona residents decry hospital cutbacks, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Federal courthouse in Honolulu
A federal judge expects to decide by the end of the month whether Maui County's ordinance banning genetically modified crops is trumped by state and federal laws. Star-Advertiser.

A federal judge said Monday that the key question before her in lawsuits related to a Maui County ban on the cultivation of genetically modified crops is whether federal and state law trump county law. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway said she aims to rule on the issue by the end of the month. Associated Press.

Maui County residents who have been waiting for a moratorium on genetically engineered farming to go into effect may finally have an answer by the end of this month. Civil Beat.

The state's stepped-up efforts against tax cheats has resulted in delays of up to four months to issue legitimate refund checks this year, while also catching 8,585 suspicious tax returns. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii Board of Education is expected to take action on two big — and possibly contentious — policies Tuesday. Proposed changes to the BOE’s sex education policy would make it mandatory for public schools to offer comprehensive and medically accurate sexual health education in certain grades. Civil Beat.

Twenty-nine temporary staff for the Hawaii Health Connector have received lay-off notices as the exchange winds down operations to move enrollment processes from the state-run online health insurance exchange to the federal government's online platform. Pacific Business News.

The Hawaii Health Connector began layoffs last week in preparation for closing operations by this time next year. Tribune-Herald.

In their battle to reduce the threat of cesspools contaminating groundwater and streams or leaking into the ocean, state officials have added a carrot and dispensed with the stick. West Hawaii Today.

CVS Pharmacy will take over all pharmacy operations in six Target stores statewide as a part of an estimated $1.9 billion deal made public on Monday. Pacific Business News.

First Hawaiian Bank has been named one of the top 200 healthiest banks in America and Hawaiian Tel Federal Credit Union and Hawaii USA Federal Credit Union made the top 200 healthiest credit unions in America list, according to DepositAccounts.com. Pacific Business News.

Oahu

Four new measures aimed at making it harder for the homeless to sit or lie down on Oahu sidewalks moved out of a key Honolulu City Council committee Monday even as a new University of Hawaii study was released suggesting that such legislation has not encouraged people to move into emergency shelters. Star-Advertiser.

The Honolulu City Council Zoning and Planning Committee advanced four measures to expand the Sit and Lie ordinance to other areas in Honolulu. Hawaii Public Radio.

A new study shows the city policy of “compassionate disruption” and its accompanying sit-lie laws cause significant property and economic loss, physical and psychological harm and very likely violate certain constitutional rights. Hawaii Independent.

The city's plan to tear down the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium is being pushed back more than a year. Star-Advertiser.

Northwest Energy Innovations has deployed its wave energy device in waters off Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Windward Oahu, beginning a year-long test to commercialize this type of technology, the company said. Pacific Business News.

A long-stalled bill that would allow Oahu revelers to once again set off sparklers and fountains on New Year's Eve and Independence Day is back in play. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

The leadership at Kona Community Hospital heard from West Hawaii residents Monday night on why the state’s hospital safety net system shouldn’t balance its budget on the backs of Hawaii Island’s underserved population. West Hawaii Today.

More than two years after state lawmakers set aside $2 million to install a traffic light near a charter school in Pahoa, residents say children are still facing unsafe road conditions because of an ongoing disagreement over whether the state should actually pay for the improvements. Civil Beat.

After six years of rising participation in the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, Hawaii County’s numbers are beginning to drop off. But state officials attribute the cause to changing federal regulations rather than decrease in need. Tribune-Herald.

The Office of Mauna Kea Management will host public open houses in Kona, Hilo and Waimea to gather community input on suggested administrative rules for the University of Hawaii’s managed lands on Mauna Kea. West Hawaii Today.

Lineal descendants of the region that now includes the 1,550-acre Hokulia development congregated near the gate to the luxury project on Monday, claiming the developers have failed to honor court orders for treatment of burial sites. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

A free workshop on state enterprise zones, aimed at economic revitalization of designated areas, will be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon June 30 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center Haynes Meeting Room. Maui News.

Kauai

Global seed giant Syngenta has relinquished more than 500 acres of land on the foothills above Waimea, reducing its footprint on the island by about 15 percent. The mauka lands were returned in April to the Agribusiness Development Corporation, reducing Syngenta’s monthly rent by about $4,800. Garden Island.

About 22.5 percent of Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s net electricity sales during the 2014 calendar year were supplied by renewable energy resources and energy savings, according to a report supplied to Hawaii regulators. Pacific Business News.

Molokai

The Molokai Drive Inn will close its doors for good on Wednesday "due to the expiration of its lease and an unresolved dispute with its landlord," according to a post on the eatery's Facebook page last week. Maui News.