Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tax Foundation sues over state's share of rail tax, solar companies sue over end to net metering, Honolulu Police Commission sees no need to discipline chief, NASA Mars mission scouts Kilauea lava fields, EPA fines over cesspools, Department of Education wants $70M increase, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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The Hawaii Convention Center is looking for a contractor to conduct up to $7.5 million in repairs and improvements, according to a public call for proposals released this week. Pacific Business News.

The Tax Foundation of Hawaii filed a class-action lawsuit Wednesday challenging the state’s practice of siphoning 10 percent of the money collected from the excise tax surcharge for the city’s rail project and depositing it into the state’s general treasury. Star-Advertiser.

A new lawsuit is accusing the state of skimming millions of dollars from the Honolulu rail project. Since 2007, the State Tax Department has charged Oahu residents nearly $170 million just to collect the half percent tax to fund the rail project. Hawaii News Now.

A group representing rooftop solar interests sued the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday over its decision last week to cap a popular program that let residents with photovoltaic systems sell excess energy back to the electric companies at the full retail rate. Civil Beat.

The Alliance for Solar Choice, which is made up of national solar firms, including both SolarCity and Sunrun which operate in Hawaii, has filed a lawsuit that challenges a recent Hawaii Public Utilities Commission’s decision to cap net metering to existing customers. Pacific Business News.

Nearly six years after it was established by the Legislature, the state’s Re-entry Commission is failing to fulfill its job of overseeing programs to help Hawaii’s inmates stay out of prison after they’re released. The commission has only met once since 2013. That’s because eight seats on the 10-member commission have been empty for more than three years. Civil Beat.

The state Department of Education is seeking $70 million in budget add-ons for school operations next fiscal year and $30 million in bond financing for so-called heat abatement efforts that include air conditioning classrooms. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii fisheries may soon receive stronger protection from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing thanks to legislation that unanimously cleared the U.S. Senate on Wednesday. Civil Beat.

For years, scientists have warned sunscreen is killing the world’s coral reefs. Now, a new study confirms those concerns, revealing the chemical oxybenzone, found in more than 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide, can be harmful in concentrations as small as 62 parts per trillion — the equivalent of a single drop of water in six-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools. Tribune-Herald.

Two state agencies, backed by environmental groups, are calling for a moratorium on the collection of aquarium fish — a proposal that is highlighting still-deep divisions over the harvesting of the fish for export and captivity. West Hawaii Today.

Two Hawaii resorts and one nightclub must pay over $300,000 in fines to the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to close large-capacity cesspools, according to a press release from the federal agency. The Travaasa Hotel Hana Resort in Hana, Maui, owes $187,500; Vacation Inns International on Oahu’s North Shore owes $40,000; and Shaka’s on the Big Island must pay $82,425. Civil Beat.

Oahu

The Honolulu Police Commission has found no reason to impose disciplinary action against Police Chief Louis Kealoha, commission Chairman Ron Taketa told reporters Wednesday after a closed-door meeting with his colleagues. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha will stay on the job as the FBI and a special prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office continue their criminal probe into the circumstances surrounding the HPD’s own investigation into his missing mailbox. Civil Beat.

Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha will remain on the job because his bosses at the Honolulu Police Commission cannot verify what Hawaii News Now first reported almost two weeks ago: that there's a full-fledged federal criminal investigation targeting him and his wife.

The proposed cap on general excise tax dollars used to build rail would likely be more of a flexible limit than a hard one with no exceptions, Honolulu City Council leaders say, as project costs have soared even higher in recent weeks. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell agrees with City Council Chairman Ernie Martin, a potential political rival, that the city needs to hold rail officials more accountable for their spending, especially as costs for the Honolulu Rail Transit Project escalate beyond $6.5 billion. Caldwell just wants a little more flexibility when doing it. Civil Beat.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell is expressing skepticism regarding a plan by City Council Chairman Ernie Martin to cap revenue generated by a 5-year extension of Oahu's rail tax at $910 million dollars. The mayor said such a cap could deter companies from bidding on the remaining contracts for the controversial project. KITV4.

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation will end up spending millions more after the cancellation of a major rail contract. KHON2.

One week after the city and state wrapped up its high profile homeless sweep in Kakaako makai, new homeless camps are springing up in nearby parks. Hawaii News Now.

The ACLU of Hawaii says the City and County of Honolulu has “reversed course” and is now going to permit survivors of domestic violence and persons with mental illness to access a new homeless shelter in Sand Island. Civil Beat.

State seeks to crack down on off-roading at Kaena Point. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii

Scientists are scouting lava flow fields around Kilauea this week as part of a NASA-funded study that could help lay the groundwork for a manned mission to Mars. Tribune-Herald.

The County Council in 2012 unanimously passed a bill, sponsored by then Chairman Dominic Yagong, to prohibit disposal of trash from Hilo and Puna in the West Hawaii landfill at Puuanahulu. But a bill now making its way through the County Council would undo that. West Hawaii Today.

The East Hawaii Regional Board of Hawaii Health Systems Corp. voted Tuesday to actively pursue partnerships with other health care providers. Tribune-Herald.

On Friday, the Board of Land and Natural Resources will vote on whether or not to establish a volunteer agreement with Friends of the Future non-profit at Lapakahi State Historical Park. Here is the background – and favorable recommendation – from the Department of Land and Natural Resources submittal. Big Island Video News.

Maui


The US Environmental Protection Agency completed enforcement actions with the Travaasa Hotel Hāna Resort in East Maui for failure to close its large capacity cesspool.  Travaasa will pay a penalty of $187,500. Maui Now.

A Maui parent has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education, claiming that the department is incapable of providing the deaf and hard-of-hearing services that her daughter needs at school. Associated Press.

Opinion: Hey, Maui County: if you need more evidence that the people pulling the strings over the liquor department are inept fools , look no further than the Liquor Commission. It now looks like they’re backing off their Oct. 7 appointment of one of their own–Dana Souza–to assume the mantle of Liquor Control Director, a post held not so long ago by Dana’s own father Joe. MauiTime.

Kauai

‘Find your voice’ Candlelight vigil unites community with goal of ending domestic violence. Garden Island.

The public is advised that a rockfall mitigation project along Menehune Road near the Waimea Swinging Bridge is underway and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Garden Island.