Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Legislature mulls tax credits and hikes, pesticide buffer zone killed, state fights aquarium fishing rules, Oahu prison riot, planned Oahu jail can't skip environmental reviews, Hawaii Council split on 'Styrofoam' ban, Takai to run for reelection despite cancer, Kahele's son named to state Senate, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Mai tais are served in Kona bar © 2016 All Hawaii News
A tax credit that would help low-wage working families squeezed by rising rents and other costs is up for decision-making by the Senate Ways and Means Committee today. Star-Advertiser.

A measure that calls for an increase in Hawaii’s general excise tax to help residents take care of elderly and sick family members cleared another committee Tuesday. Senate Bill 2478 passed Senate Human Services on a 5-2 vote. Civil Beat.

Hawaii House lawmakers have deferred indefinitely a bill that would have created vegetative buffer zones around five schools as part of a pilot project to protect against inadvertent exposure to pesticides sprayed at nearby farm fields. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Fights Against Regulating The Catching Of Reef Fish. State officials seek in court to avoid limiting the collection of fish and other reef creatures for aquariums. Civil Beat.

Homelessness was cited by legislative leaders as the most pressing issue this session.  There are more than 130 bills relating to homelessness and affordable housing. Hawaii Public Radio.

Pro surfer Kohl Christensen wants an administrative hearing after he said technical problems with the state Department of Health’s website prevented him from applying for a license to grow and sell medical marijuana in Hawaii. Civil Beat.

Finding qualified special education teachers is not the only staffing challenge facing Hawaii schools. As of Feb. 1, one out of every three school psychologist positions within the Department of Education was vacant. Only 56 percent of high-level occupational therapist positions are filled. And the DOE is also trying to recruit 484 educational assistants — employees of varying skills and education levels who work with special education students. Civil Beat.

Rooftop solar, utility-scale solar and wind, with some offshore wind, as well as geothermal, biomass and biofuels are the types of renewable energy sources that are part of Hawaiian Electric Co.’s interim status report to state regulators on its new energy plan. Pacific Business News.

If you’ve ever gotten stuck behind a slow driver in the far left lane of a highway or a freeway, you know how frustrating it can be. A new bill in Hawaii looks to tackle the issue of vehicular “lollygagging.” KHON2.

Hawaii lawmakers are considering a bill cracking down on slow drivers in the fast lane. Associated Press.

In 1779 the ruling chief of Hawaii island greeted a visitor from a distant land named Capt. James Cook at Kealakekua Bay and offered him a lavish gift of his own feathered cloak and helmet. Now, after 237 years away from Hawaii, the ahu ula (feathered cloak) and mahiole (feathered helmet) of Chief Kalaniopuu will be returning to the islands for display at the Bishop Museum starting March 19. Star-Advertiser.

With a salary of $550,008, head football coach Norm Chow was the highest-paid employee of the University of Hawaii system when the current fiscal year began last July. That’s hardly surprising. Across much of America, the head football coach of the biggest public university is the state’s highest-paid public employee, period. Civil Beat.

Oahu

House and Senate committees Tuesday scrapped Gov. David Ige’s proposal to exempt the construction of a new Oahu jail from the state’s environmental review process amid mounting opposition from environmentalists and advocates for criminal justice reform. Star-Advertiser.


State Pulls Request For Prison Environmental Studies Exemption. Lawmakers advance bills to fast track relocation of the Oahu Community Correctional Center but decide environmental studies are a must. Civil Beat.

A riot broke out at Oahu Community Correctional Center – the state’s largest jail -- last week and one of the alleged instigators has caused trouble there before. Officials described the incident as the worst disturbance at OCCC in 30 years. Hawaii News Now.

The Honolulu Police Department said Tuesday it is looking into a possible violation of department standards by a high-ranking officer after a controversy surfaced about his promotion. Star-Advertiser.

The mayor has met with Honolulu Police Department Chief Louis Kealoha over a controversial assistant chief pick. Hawaii News Now.

Top Hawaii unions plan to protest a talk by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is in Honolulu this week. Walker is to deliver the keynote address for the Lincoln Day Dinner, sponsored by the Hawaii Republican Party. Civil Beat.

U.S. Rep. Mark Takai will officially announce today he is running for re-election to a second term despite his bout with pancreatic cancer, saying he is excited about the future and his doctors have cleared him to campaign. Star-Advertiser.

As traffic gridlock along the H1 freeway worsens, one city councilmember is calling for drastic measures. A new bill introduced by Councilmember Carol Fukunaga calls for a temporary ban on construction of major projects between Aiea, Salt Lake, Moanalua and Red Hill. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaiian Electric Co. backed out of its contract with SunEdison Inc. for three utility-scale solar facilities on Oahu that were approved by state regulators in July. Star-Advertiser.

Instead of ramping up at a 47-megwatt solar farm in Wapio, work crews are ramping down. Employees got the bad news Tuesday morning, including a dozen who reported for what was to be their first day on the job.  Another 44 people recently hired at a job fair can’t begin work. KITV4.

Hawaii
Gov. David Ige on Tuesday appointed Hilo resident Kai Kahele to fill the District 1 Senate seat vacated by his father, the late Sen. Gil Kahele, who died unexpectedly last month at age 73. Kahele’s original term was to expire Nov. 6, 2018. Kai Kahele will represent Hilo until the primary and general elections are held later this year to elect someone to fill the remainder of the term. Tribune-Herald.

Gov. David Ige has appointed Kaiali‘i Kahele to the 1st district state senate seat that was held by his late father at the time of his passing. Big Island Video News.

Stalled on Styrofoam: Divided council sends foam food container ban out for more input. West Hawaii Today.

Door-to-door dengue education outreach begins today in Kailua-Kona, the lone Hawaii Island area identified as a high-risk area for potential dengue transmission. West Hawaii Today.

West Hawaii animal rescue groups and some community members are continuing a battle to force the Hawaii Island Humane Society to lower its euthanasia rates. West Hawaii Today.

A Captain Cook man accused of driving without proper materials during “Freedom Ride 2016” — and whose car was at one point suspected of having an explosive device on it before it was cleared — made his initial court appearance Tuesday. West Hawaii Today.

W.H. Shipman wants to add traffic lights on Highway 11 to aid motorists driving into its business park, and is seeking a $2.75 million appropriation to get the project done. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Maui County real estate sales were down slightly while median prices were up by single digits in January compared with January 2015, according to Realtors Association of Maui's monthly statistics. Maui News.

Kauai

While there is no immediate threat for mosquito-borne viruses to strike Kauai, officials are asking residents to help make sure it stays that way. Garden Island.

Numbers gathered for the draft of the infrastructure assessment prepared by Honolulu-based SSFM International showed that by 2035, Kauai is going to be low on water, wastewater treatment capacity and in solid waste treatment capacity if trends continue as predicted. Garden Island.

SolarCity has selected Tesla Energy to supply the batteries for a first-of-its-kind solar array and energy storage system to be built for Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. Garden Island.

The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative is working to provide affordable solar power all day and all night. The company SolarCity chose Tesla Energy to provide a “first-of-its-kind solar array and energy storage system” on Kauai, according to the statement from the co-op. Civil Beat.