Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hawaii Legislature opens 2017 session: news coverage, speech transcripts, photos. Honolulu Police Chief paid $250k to leave, Tulsi Gabbard goes to Syria, Facebook's Zuckerberg tries to oust Kauai families, pay raises all around, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

courtesy Robert D. Harris
Opening day Hawaii Legislature, courtesy Robert D. Harris
Several hundred people gathered at the state Capitol in downtown Honolulu on Wednesday morning to kick off the opening of this year’s legislative session, in which lawmakers are expecting spirited debates on issues of rail financing, “death with dignity,” overcrowded jails, affordable housing and the state’s ongoing homeless problem. Star-Advertiser.

Lei-draped lawmakers sang Hawaiian songs and snapped photos as the Hawaii Legislature began its 2017 session, and they vowed to tackle homelessness, housing, traffic and the issue of aid in dying. Associated Press.

Hawaii lawmakers returned to the state capitol Wednesday morning to gavel in for the 2017 legislative session. KITV.

Speech transcript: House Speaker Joe Souki.

Speech transcript: House Minority Leader Beth Fukumoto.

Blog post: Hawaii Senate Majority.

For the first time in decades, the state Senate opened the legislative session on Wednesday without a single Republican. Hawaii News Now.

Photos: The Hawaii Legislature Is Back In Business. Civil Beat.

The leader of the Hawaii State Senate promised on opening day of the 2017 Legislature that the issue of paying for Honolulu’s rail system will be concluded before the session ends in early May. Civil Beat.

Hawaii House Speaker Joe Souki opened his chamber’s 2017 legislative session Wednesday calling for an extension of the general excise tax surcharge to finance Honolulu’s rail transit project and a study looking at whether toll roads would help to reduce traffic congestion on Oahu. Pacific Business News.

In his opening day remarks, Speaker of the House Joseph M. Souki of Maui called on members of the House of Representatives to extend the general excise tax to finance rail, to find viable alternatives to prison incarceration and to provide human compassion to those who are mentally ill and terminally sick. Maui Now.

The Latest on the start of the 2017 session of the Hawaii Legislature. KITV.

Hawaii bill aims for 100 percent renewable transportation. Associated Press.

Biofuel crops are expected to play crucial role in Hawaii’s energy future. Tribune-Herald.

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Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has made an unannounced trip to Syria and Lebanon, traveling to the region two months after she sat down with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss foreign policy. Associated Press.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard traveled to Syria this week on what her aides described as a “fact-finding” mission relating to her efforts to bring resolution to a war that has torn the country apart and heightened tensions between the United States and Russia. Star-Advertiser.

As hundreds of Hawaii residents converge on the nation’s capital either to cheer or protest the inauguration of incoming President Donald J. Trump, the state’s two congresswomen are elsewhere. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Residents Journey To DC For Very Different Reasons. Some are here to celebrate a new direction for the country. Others will march for the preservation of women’s rights. Civil Beat.

A program in Hawaii that allows law enforcement officers to seize property that they suspect is related to the commission of a crime, without getting a conviction, this week has scored low marks from the Institute of Justice, a national civil liberties law firm, for falling short on transparency and accountability. Star-Advertiser.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has settled a sexual harassment claim against OHA Trustee Peter Apo for $50,000, Hawaii News Now has learned.

Apo: Don’t Jump To Conclusions. The OHA trustee speaks out after a news report that he settled a sexual harassment claim. Civil Beat.

A group of NASA-funded researchers are poised to enter an isolated geodesic dome on a remote Hawaii volcano to study human behavior in long-term space exploration, including a planned voyage to Mars. Associated Press.

Oahu

The city will pay $250,000 to embattled Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha to leave at the end of February under a “retirement agreement” approved by the Honolulu Police Commission on Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, who is under investigation for public corruption, will receive a $250,000 cash payment as part of a retirement deal he cut Wednesday with the Honolulu Police Commission. Civil Beat.

The Honolulu Police Commission agreed to a $250,000 settlement package for retirement with Police Chief Louis Kealoha, the target of a federal investigation involving allegations of civil rights abuses and corruption. Associated Press.

The Honolulu Police Commission approved a $250,000 payout deal for embattled Police Chief Louis Kealoha on Wednesday. But in an apparent nod to community concerns over the plan, Kealoha will have to pay back the money if he's convicted in an ongoing federal public corruption probe. Hawaii News Now.

Chief Kealoha’s retirement deal did not need the city council’s approval. KHON2.

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Honolulu inflation doubled to 2 percent last year despite lower energy costs as consumer prices rose at the fastest pace since 2012. Star-Advertiser.

A new proposal to build more homes on the North Shore is drawing criticism. KHON2.

About 400 volunteers have signed up to count Oahu’s homeless population next week, and the organizer of the annual homeless census said she believes that’s enough people to get a good picture. Star-Advertiser.

Japan’s Watabe Wedding Corp., one of the largest wedding services companies in Hawaii, has purchased Michel’s at the Colony Surf in Waikiki, one of the most popular high-end restaurants in the Islands for more than five decades, the head of Watabe’s Hawaii branch confirmed to Pacific Business News Wednesday.

Hawaii

Top-to-bottom raises are being considered for county officials and employees, despite a hiring freeze as fixed costs for retirees take a bigger chunk out of the county budget. West Hawaii Today.

A need for a public shooting range on the Big Island drew a standing-room only crowd to a Tuesday evening meeting in Hilo. Big Island Video News.

Maui

Two Maui nonprofits that work with homeless people received a total of $4.4 million from the state for an upcoming 18-month period, at the same time they must adjust to the state’s new “housing first” paradigm for homelessness. Maui News.

The Pa’ina building, one of University of Hawaii Maui College’s most used facilities, suffers from construction and design deficiencies and is in need of major repairs, officials said. Maui News.

More than 400 lots of items from Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., including pickup trucks, machine shop and welding items and John Deere equipment, will be auctioned beginning today. Maui News.

Kauai

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who paid north of $100 million for hundreds of acres of undeveloped oceanfront land on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai’s North Shore, is making some moves to build at least one home on the land he acquired nearly three years ago, Pacific Business News has learned.

The owner of Facebook has filed several lawsuits with three of his companies to acquire about a dozen parcels of kuleana land on his $100 million property, sources close with Mark Zuckerberg confirmed with The Garden Island Wednesday.

After nearly two years of evaluation and technical work by experts, Hawaii Dairy Farms has submitted its Final Environmental Impact Statement to the State of Hawaii Department of Health. Garden Island.