Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hawaii pays $500k in pensions to dead people, vacationing lesbian couple sues Honolulu Police Department after being jailed for kissing in public, medical marijuana benefits to be expanded, state lawmakers tour islands, Maui sugarcane burning studied, garbage hauling to increase, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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A public policy think tank says the state Employee Retirement System has paid out more than $500,000 in public pension benefits to dead people. The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii said the payments cover a five-year period and that the largest individual payout was over $50,000. Hawaii News Now.

It’s been only three months since Gov. David Ige signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii, but lawmakers are already drafting new legislation to amend Act 241. Potential amendments range from eliminating the ban against inter-island transport of medical cannabis to adding new qualifying ailments such as anxiety and insomnia. Civil Beat.

Under pressure from lawmakers and health care advocates who accuse it of not complying with a 10-month-old law, the Hawaii Department of Health has increased the number of inspection reports it’s posted online for long-term care facilities serving seniors and the disabled. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority reported Wednesday that September visitor arrivals grew to 652,616, a 4.7 percent increase over September 2014. But even with the influx, visitors spent 1.2 percent less, bringing total expenditures to just under $1. 1 billion. Star-Advertiser.

More than 650,000 visitors traveled to Hawaii last month, setting a record for the month of September. Associated Press.

Veteran Molokai activist Walter Ritte Jr. formally renounced his candidacy to the Native Hawaiian convention Wednesday and called for the boycott of a self-governance process he described as rigged. Star-Advertiser.

Nai Aupuni releases strange, defensive statement regarding Native Hawaiian protesters. Hawaii Independent.

Dr. Keanu Sai is a political scientist at the forefront of an emerging understanding of Hawaii as an existing Kingdom under U.S. occupation. In this lengthy interview, Sai talks about his recent trip to the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom where he was invited to present a paper on Hawaii as a non-European power. Big Island Video News.

The election for Native Hawaiian convention delegates is scheduled to begin Sunday and last for one month.   As HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, there are deep divisions within that island community. Hawaii Public Radio.

NextEra Energy Inc., the Florida-based company looking to buy Hawaiian Electric Industries, said Wednesday its third-quarter profit jumped 33.2 percent to $879 million primarily due to new investments at its utility and energy development subsidiaries. Star-Advertiser.

NextEra Energy Inc. and Hawaiian Electric Co., the two companies involved in the Florida energy giant's $4.3 billion acquisition of the Honolulu-based utility, want to nix talk of liquefied natural gas or other utility ownership models, including municipality-owned or co-op owned utilities at the upcoming evidentiary hearings. Pacific Business News.

Wealthy video-game industry businessman and renewable energy crusader Henk Rogers, in 2006 created the Blue Planet Foundation, which aims to make Hawaii into a “global model for energy independence.” The non-profit organization has been pushing for greater energy efficiency and opening up a broader space for renewable electricity generation. Civil Beat.

Oahu

The Honolulu Police Department opened an internal investigation Wednesday into allegations that an officer wrongfully arrested a vacationing lesbian couple after seeing them kissing in a grocery store. Courtney Wilson and Taylor Guerrero, who were visiting Hawaii from Los Angeles in March, said in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that they were harassed and arrested because the officer didn't like their public displays of affection in a Foodland store on Oahu's North Shore. Associated Press.

A lesbian couple that was vacationing in Hawaii last spring filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a Honolulu police officer who violently arrested them after watching them hug and kiss in the aisles of a North Shore grocery store. Civil Beat.

In March, Courtney Wilson and her girlfriend Taylor Guerrero came to the islands from Los Angeles for what was supposed to be a restful vacation. Instead, the trip turned into a nightmare when the pair was arrested after kissing in Foodland Pupukea. Hawaii News Now.

A same-sex couple has filed a lawsuit, accusing a Honolulu police officer of discrimination, assault and battery, and violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. KHON2.

University of Hawaii journalism students have launched a lovely looking online news site, kicking it off this month with a series that investigates pesticide use on Oahu’s north shore farms. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

Cross-county garbage hauling moved a step closer to reality Wednesday, with the Environmental Management Commission’s unanimous approval of a bill giving the mayor’s administration much more leeway in deciding whose trash goes where. West Hawaii Today.

The long process of bolstering Hilo Harbor’s cargo shipping capacity continues. Construction work on the third phase of the ongoing Pier 4 project is on track to be completed in January 2016, state Department of Transportation spokesman Timothy Sakahara wrote in an email. Construction work on the pier itself — the final stage of the project — is estimated to begin in December. Tribune-Herald.

The family of a Puna man allegedly murdered by an escaped mental patient is suing the state and county, claiming their negligence resulted in the victim’s death. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

A study, “Association between sugar cane burning and acute respiratory illness on the island of Maui,” published in the October 2015 issue of the Environmental Health journal, is already being referenced in a lawsuit to stop sugarcane burning on Maui—the first case to be heard by Hawaiʻi’s recently established Environmental Court. Maui Now.

The number of Maui County residents to receive treatment for drug and alcohol abuse over the last five years has remained fairly steady, according to a new report published by the state Department of Health. Maui News.

Kauai

Members of the Hawaii House of Representatives Finance Committee got a view of Kauai from the sky Wednesday to see projects that are funded, at least in part, by the Legislature. Garden Island.

The Black Pot Beach Park Master Plan community meeting has been rescheduled to 6 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Hanalei Elementary School cafeteria. It had been scheduled Oct. 29. Garden Island.

New research about sunscreen’s destructive effects on coral reefs has Sharon Eacott thinking twice before slathering it on. Garden Island.

Molokai

Last week, House Finance Committee members visited Molokai for the first time in years to get an up-close picture of problems facing island residents. Molokai Dispatch.