Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Whale migration down, Legislature passes $13.7B budget, Big Island council kills general excise tax hike, nurses can prescribe marijuana, rats in UH-Manoa dorms, lawsuit looming in Kauai pesticide case, Maui passes $659.5M budget, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

courtesy NOAA
Whale migration patterns, courtesy NOAA
The number of whales that made the annual migration to Hawaiian waters this past winter appears to be at its lowest level in five years, according to officials with the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Associated Press.

Hawaii lawmakers have passed the state's $13.7 billion budget for 2017, providing funding for affordable housing development, new classroom facilities and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Associated Press.

House and Senate lawmakers gave their final approval to a new, $13.7 billion budget for next year as well as bills to ease jail overcrowding, collect taxes from vacation rental operators, allow an industrial hemp pilot project and permit Alexander & Baldwin to continue using Maui stream water — but not without some spirited debate on the floors of the Senate and House on Tuesday. Star-Advertiser.

With the 2016 legislative session set to end Thursday, drama arose Tuesday in the Senate over taxing Airbnb tourist accommodations; and in the House a Republican lawmaker was nearly booted from the chamber over his stance on funding Hawaiian Home Lands. Civil Beat.

The Senate voted on a number of key House Bills yesterday. Hawaii Public Radio.

After years of dealing with sweltering classrooms where classroom teachers spritzed their students with water to keep them cool, the Hawaii Legislature has approved $100 million to cool 1,000 classrooms throughout the state. Associated Press.

Gov. David Ige has already brought out his veto pen, spiking a measure that would let terminally ill patients try investigational drugs before the federal Food and Drug Administration approved them. Civil Beat.

A bill that would allow online alternative accommodations companies such as Airbnb to act as tax brokers on behalf of the state has passed the Hawaii Legislature and is on its way to Gov. David Ige’s desk for his signature. Pacific Business News.

Lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday allowing companies like Airbnb to collect and pay taxes on behalf of hosts who list their properties. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii lawmakers approved a bill Tuesday that reforms many aspects of the state’s medical marijuana dispensary law but left enough on the table that medical marijuana advocates are likely to be back at the Capitol lobbying next session. If Gov. David Ige allows HB 2707 to go into law, advanced practice registered nurses, in addition to physicians, will be able to certify patients to use medical cannabis. Civil Beat.

Local transgender community leaders and supporters are calling on education officials to implement policies and staff training to ensure the safety and fair treatment of transgender students in Hawaii public schools. Star-Advertiser.

Some 17,000 public school students will be eligible to receive free meals at their schools regardless of their family’s ability to pay, under plans announced Tuesday by the state Department of Education to expand a pilot program that launched last fall. Star-Advertiser.

Are you getting what you pay for? State struggles to keep scales in check. KHON2.

A California-based labor contracting company that was ordered to pay millions in a discrimination and human trafficking lawsuit in Hawaii has been smacked in a similar case in Washington state. Star-Advertiser.

Bank of Hawaii said it expects to save $439,591 annually from 2,670 photovoltaic panels it has installed on its buildings throughout the state as part of its ongoing energy-saving programs. The company now produces about 30 percent of its statewide energy from PV systems. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

Students at University of Hawaii-Manoa are ramping up efforts to end unsanitary living conditions in several residence halls. Photos provided to Hawaii News Now show holes in the ceiling, molded walls and dirty light fixtures at Hale Anuenue, a co-ed dormitory. A video shows a rat scurrying around Frear Hall in April.

It’s one of the fastest growing places on Oahu, but the Ewa area did not get all the money requested to help overcrowded schools. KHON2.

Honolulu police will begin strictly enforcing no parking rules on the bike lane side of the Lanikai loop beginning at 6 a.m. Thursday 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the city announced in a news release. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Facing a June 30 deadline to have an unpopular ordinance in place or lose the opportunity to do so, the County Council Finance Committee voted 8-1 Tuesday to postpone a bill indefinitely that would raise the general excise tax by one-half percent. West Hawaii Today.

More than 40 people, most supporting a ban on polystyrene foam food containers, on Tuesday came before the County Council Committee on Environmental Management. Choosing between a menu of two bills — one banning the so-called “Styrofoam” containers outright and one conducting an islandwide survey and educational campaign — most testifiers chose the former in almost three hours of testimony. West Hawaii Today.

Thirty Meter Telescope opponents say retired Hilo Circuit Judge Riki May Amano still should be disqualified as the next TMT contested case hearings officer after officially declaring her ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center membership. Tribune-Herald.

A state purchase of 8,000 acres at Kapua Bay may still get to move ahead sooner rather than later. In a rare move, the Senate Committee on Water, Land and Agriculture has agreed to resurrect a bill directing the Department of Land and Natural Resources to lay the groundwork for purchase of the pristine and historically significant stretch of South Kona makai lands. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaiian cultural practitioner, preservationist and educator, revered kupuna, licensed practical nurse — Winifred Pele Hanoa was a force of nature, not unlike her namesake volcano goddess. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

The Maui County Council's budget committee Monday hammered out a $659.5 million budget for full council approval - about $50 million less than Mayor Alan Arakawa's proposed budget for the next fiscal year - completing its part in the arduous rite of spring. Maui News.

Protests Don’t Overcome East Maui Water Diversion Bill. Legislators hand former Big Five sugar company Alexander & Baldwin water for its lands in Central Maui. Civil Beat.

Kauai

Earthjustice, a U.S. nonprofit environmental law firm, notified Hawaii’s Agribusiness Development Corporation on Tuesday that it will sue the agency for allegedly allowing pesticides and chemicals to contaminate a 40-mile-long drainage ditch system on the Mana Plain of Kauai’s west side.  Civil Beat.

Hawaii’s Agribusiness Development Corporation could be facing a lawsuit for allegedly illegally polluting the ocean on Kauai’s westside. That’s because several community organizations have discovered that the state organization didn’t renew their National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit last August. Garden Island.

A $4.1 million project to capture the methane gas coming out of the Kekaha landfill is in the works, thanks to a low-interest loan secured from the State Revolving Fund program, administered by the state’s Department of Health. Garden Island.