Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Gas tax, vehicle registration fee, weight tax hikes clear Senate committee, excise tax, income tax credit bills die, Caldwell seeks to merge transit agencies, blood drive canceled amid dengue fears, Kauai mulls tourist limits, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Monday approved a hike in the gasoline tax, to 19 cents from 16 cents per gallon, as well as increases in the state’s vehicle registration fees and weight taxes. Proposed by Gov. David Ige’s administration, the measure is expected to increase costs for a typical motorist by about $83 a year. Star-Advertiser.

Two major proposals to increase the state’s general excise tax died Monday in the Senate money committee despite strong support from the Hawaii State Teachers Association and groups advocating for the elderly. Civil Beat.

State lawmakers killed a bill that would have made Hawaii the first state in the nation to offer long-term care benefits to seniors. Associated Press.

The Hawaii Senate’s budget committee has killed a bill that would have established a state earned income tax credit aimed at helping low-income families. The Ways and Means Committee, led by Sen. Jill Tokuda, deferred the measure Monday. She said the proposal would have a $19 million impact on state revenue and instead she is “looking at other ways” to help those in lower income brackets. Civil Beat.

The Water and Land Committee chairman has spent months drafting two bills that he hopes will help address the impotence of the state Land Use Commission, but Judiciary Committee Chairman Karl Rhoads hasn’t yet scheduled them for a hearing. Civil Beat.

After having failed at the Legislature in the past two sessions, bills to ban the sale of endangered wildlife parts and products are moving forward in both the state Senate and House this year. They face favorable odds toward final passage, according to those behind the legislation. Civil Beat.

A lawsuit targeting Na‘i Aupuni and its nation- building campaign will move forward even after last week’s conclusion of the Native Hawaiian convention and its creation of a constitution. Star-Advertiser.

A pro-independence hui will have to wait another two years to get on the ballot after coming up short on the number of signatures needed to receive official party status for the 2016 elections. But one of the founders of the Aloha Aina Party said they will continue organizing in the meantime. Tribune-Herald.

Following 21 days of testimony, questioning and cross-examination, the state’s top energy regulator said evidentiary hearings that will help the Public Utilities Commission decide whether or not NextEra Energy can purchase Hawaiian Electric Industries are nearly complete. Civil Beat.

A majority of people in the Aloha State believe in God with absolute certainty, according to the Pew Research Center. But that doesn’t necessarily make us devout. Civil Beat.

A recent report from the Economic Innovation Group examined economic distress in 25,000 zip codes, and found Hawaii had the fifth lowest percentage of population in distress. Pacific Business News.

Oahu

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell wants to merge rail, bus and paratransit operations under one agency managed by a mayoral administration. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell didn’t announce any new initiatives in his fourth State of the City address Monday night, instead emphasizing that he plans to continue making headway on roads, sewers, buses, parks, homelessness and rail. Civil Beat.

The Honolulu rail project, road conditions on Oahu and homelessness are among some of the major topics Mayor Kirk Caldwell touched on during his fourth State of the City speech on Monday. Hawaii News Now.

In the 23 years that Arish Riordan has lived in Kaaawa on Kamehameha Highway’s mauka side, she’s watched the beach her family used to enjoy there gradually disappear, replaced by piles of large boulders installed to protect the roadway from the encroaching sea and pummeling surf. Star-Advertiser.

A piece of land in Kailua is causing some controversy. Kaapuni Drive is lined mostly with single-family homes on large beachfront lots, but plans are underway to build four closely-packed homes on a one-acre plot. Some neighbors say that's a bad idea. Hawaii News Now.

The Federal Detention Center sits near the Honolulu International airport.  It isn't up for sale, but some lawmakers think maybe the state should try and buy it. KITV4.

The East-West Center Board of Governors has begun its global search for the successor of current President Charles Morrison, who will retire in August after serving for the past two decades. Pacific Business News.

The waiting game to send and receive ocean cargo between the islands has gotten so long that it’s on the radar of everyone from businesses and consumers to lawmakers and regulators. KHON2.

Commentary: I discovered recently that the illegal gates that the city says Diamond Head homeowners built on the public oceanfront walkway between Leahi and Makalei beach parks have been removed. But the city says it had nothing to do with taking down the gates that it said were installed without permits. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

The Blood Bank of Hawaii has canceled three blood drive events in Kona next month due to the dengue fever outbreak. Hawaii News Now.

Bills that would fund efforts to combat a disease that is rapidly killing Hawaii Island’s native ohia trees continue to advance in the state Legislature. Tribune-Herald.

The late state Sen. Gil Kahele’s bill to establish a statewide airport governing body cleared the state Senate Ways and Means Committee on Monday and is on its way to a vote by the full Senate. Tribune-Herald.

The ancient fish ponds have turned from crystal clear to algae-ridden in the years since the March 2011 tsunami tore a 100-foot gap in the beach, damaging 220 feet of wall and allowing years of storm-driven sand to drift into the once clear waters. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Departing director proud of Na Hale O Maui’s progress. Land trust taking new direction in helping residents buy homes. Maui News.

Three prison guard recruits from Maui have been fired after they were involved in a fight that led to a stabbing during a night of partying at a Honolulu strip club. Hawaii News Now.

A day after astrophysicists "heard" gravitational waves for the first time from the collision of two black holes in September in a landmark moment in physics and astronomy, the Pan-STARRS telescope atop Haleakala pointed to the heavens in hopes of "seeing" the collision. Maui News.

Kauai

The Community Advisory Committee on Monday discussed ways to limit the growth of tourism to let the island’s infrastructure catch up. Garden Island.

Rescue operations, Coco Palms, salary increases, and taxes are all on the docket for Wednesday’s County Committee meetings. Garden Island.