Thursday, March 23, 2017

Gov. Ige slashes budget, Oahu loses population in census estimate, protection for Hawaii travel ban judge, House loses rare Republican after Trump criticism, rail tax survives, Honolulu tax hikes ahead, fighter jets coming, electricity increases, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

courtesy photo, Governor's Office
Ige with schoolchildren, courtesy photo
Budget cuts hit construction, schools. Gov. David Ige has proposed a package of spending cuts for the next two years that includes slashing the state construction budget financed with general obligation bonds to $1 billion from $1.5 billion during the next two years. Star-Advertiser.

Census: Oahu loses population for first time in a decade, while Hawaii Island hits national growth benchmark. Hawaii Island led the state in several measures of population increases, according to estimates released late Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii judge who blocked travel ban gets protection detail. The U.S. Marshals Service has flown in about a dozen deputies from the mainland to provide 24-hour protection for U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson. Hawaii News Now.

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Fukumoto says aloha to GOP. Rep. Beth Fukumoto announced today that she is leaving the Republican Party, citing, in part, its failure to condemn elements of racism and sexism within its base. She will seek membership in the Democratic Party. Star-Advertiser.

Ending months of speculation, state Rep. Beth Fukumoto made it official Wednesday: She resigned from the Hawaii Republican Party and announced that she will seek membership in the Democratic Party of Hawaii. Civil Beat.

A Hawaii lawmaker who says she was pressured to give up her leadership post at the statehouse after criticizing President Donald Trump resigned Wednesday from the Republican Party. Associated Press.

Rep. Beth Fukumoto announced on Wednesday that she will be leaving the Republican Party and seeking membership with the Democratic Party.  At a press conference, she cited racism and sexism as the core reasons why she's leaving the GOP. KITV.

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Lawmakers consider charging prepaid wireless users a 911 fee. A bill in the state Legislature would charge a fee of 1.2 percent on pre-paid wireless plans or cards, with the revenue going into the Enhanced 911 Fund.  Hawaii News Now.

Electricity bills increase across isles. The cost of electricity in the state is double the national average, as Hawaii residents paid an average of 27.68 cents a kilowatt-hour for electricity in December. The national average was 12.21 cents in the same month, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Energy, the ratepayer-funded energy conservation and efficiency program for Honolulu, Hawaii and Maui counties, accounted for more than $325 million in lifetime savings for its customers in its last program year, its top executive said Wednesday at an industry event on Maui. Pacific Business News.

Why Hawaii Must Become More Energy Resilient. Speakers at the Maui Energy Conference posed questions about what type of life the state wants to create for its citizens as it adapts. Civil Beat.

Iwase glad he rejected NextEra. Eight months after the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission rejected Florida-based NextEra Energy Inc.’s $4.3 billion bid to buy the state’s dominate electric utility, Commission Chairman Randy Iwase said he feels good about the decision. Star-Advertiser.

Randy Iwase, head of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, said he is very comfortable with the state agency’s decision to reject Florida-based NextEra Energy Inc.’s $4.3 billion deal to buy Hawaiian Electric Co. Pacific Business News.

Fighter jets flocking to Hawaii for combat exercise. An increase in fighter aircraft activity will be seen beginning next week as part of a new round of the recurring Sentry Aloha exercise, the Hawaii National Guard said. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

Mayor’s budget plan, tax and fee hikes get initial OK by Council. Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s $2.45 billion operating budget proposal and an accompanying slate of measures raising various taxes and fees won initial approval from the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu City Council gives preliminary approval for increased bus and garbage fee.  The council voted in favor of increasing bus prices beginning January of next year.  Single fares would jump 25 cents to $2.75. KITV.

Council OK’s Bill Eliminating Cap On Rail Money. The Honolulu City Council approved a measure Wednesday to eliminate the $4.8 billion cap on how much general excise tax money can be used to build the city’s 20-mile rail project. Civil Beat.

Legislators differ on rail-tax extension. A rail-tax extension is back in play at the state Capitol — but the proposal will likely face more tough scrutiny and hurdles in the weeks ahead. Star-Advertiser.

House Restores Honolulu Rail Tax — For Now. For the mayor of Honolulu, a state legislative hearing this week on a bill to pay for rail was a bit of déjà vu.. Civil Beat.

House Transportation Committee Extends GET Surcharge for Rail Transit for an Unspecified Period. State funding for the Honolulu Rail Transit project cleared a critical hurdle in the House today. Hawaii Public Radio.

Honolulu Area for Rapid Transportation posts job ad for new CEO. The Honolulu Area for Rapid Transportation posted a job ad for a new chief executive officer last month. Pacific Business News.

City salaries reveal some employees make more than department heads. KHON2.

State clears homeless encampments from Diamond Head. Following six months of warnings, state law enforcement officers early Wednesday morning swept through 40 or so homeless encampments on the slopes of Diamond Head, where seven people had remained atop the Hawaii landmark. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii law enforcement agents have cleared dozens of homeless camps in Oahu's Diamond Head State Monument and issued citations to seven people who refused to leave despite weeks of warnings. Associated Press.

A private contractor hired by the state on Wednesday hauled away tons of trash from illegal homeless camps on Hawaii’s iconic Diamond Head crater.  Civil Beat.

A 78-year-old business could shut down due to problems after a homeless encampment moved into the neighborhood. KITV.

Sewage spill in Halawa prompts $465,000 fine. The state Department of Agriculture has been ordered to pay a $465,000 fine for discharging sewage into Halawa Stream on Oahu for two months last summer. Star-Advertiser.

State to dispute fine for massive Halawa sewage spill that lasted 2 months. Hawaii News Now.

Did Honolulu Cops Issue Fake Tickets Or Did The Honolulu Prosecutor Make Up The Story? Several defense lawyers who specialize in drunken driving cases are hoping to use Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro’s own words against him in an attempt to beat various DUI charges that have been filed against their clients in Oahu District Court. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

Telescope foes criticize slew of objections. Thirty Meter Telescope foes are crying foul after lawyers with the University of Hawaii at Hilo and the TMT International Observatory board filed numerous objections to exhibits entered in the contested case proceedings. Star-Advertiser.

Start of $75M Kona airport expansion celebrated. State and airport officials are moving forward with the facility’s first expansion to accommodate the 3 million people now filtering through the airport annually. West Hawaii Today.

County to negotiate for purchase of Hakalau valley land. The Hawaii County Council authorized negotiations for the purchase of an 83-acre parcel in Hakalau valley in a 9-0 vote Wednesday. Tribune-Herald.

Scientists Say There’s Hope For Dying Ohia Trees. Researchers are closer to understanding a fungus that has infected 50,000 acres of Big Island ohia forest in little more than a handful of years. Civil Beat.

Second ride-hailing company begins operations on Big Island; Lyft goes live today. Less than a week after ride-hailing first arrived on the shores of the Big Island, a new transportation startup is set to begin operations. Tribune-Herald.

Senior Produce Program to cease operations after 10 years. The Food Basket, Hawaii Island’s food bank, announced its decade-old Senior Produce Program has ended. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Haiku group sues county over housing project. Developer included in lawsuit that alleges an attempt to bypass public review, ag laws. A group of more than 200 Haiku residents has filed a lawsuit against the County of Maui and a proposed workforce housing development in Pauwela and is claiming that the project has circumvented public review and violated state and county agriculture laws, their attorney said last week. Maui News.

Panelist: ‘Food, water and energy must all intersect in agriculture’. Lack of coordination, inconsistent laws keep them out of sync, says sustainability expert Jonathan Koehn. Maui News.

Public input sought on MPD accreditation. Telephone and written comments will be accepted on the Maui Police Department’s ability to meet accreditation standards, and an assessment team from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies will be on Maui from March 27 to 30 to examine the department’s policies and procedures, management, operations and support system. Maui News.

Final birds from captive-breeding program released. Event marks the successful end to the recovery of the puaiohi birds into their native habitat. The final trio of endangered puaiohi birds bred in captivity — including on Maui — has been released to the wild on Kauai, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said Tuesday. Maui News.

The Road To Hana Is Sometimes Paved With Bad Intentions. Some vehicles left behind by motorists with car trouble are vandalized. To make matters worse, emergency call boxes frequently don’t work. Civil Beat.

Kauai

Council begins budget process. The Kauai County Council began work Wednesday on Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr.’s proposed $204 million operating budget for fiscal year 2017-2018. Garden Island.

Post office resolution rejected. Kauai County Councilmembers may not want to see the Lihue post office change sites, but some say it’s out of their control. Garden Island.

Mohihi Camp road, bridge completed. A $2.4 million project to replace three bridges along the Mohihi Camp 10 access road in Kokee State Park was finished two months ahead of schedule. Garden Island.

Coral New growth at Waipa. Coral cover could be increasing around Kauai’s North Shore. Garden Island.

KCC could be smoke-free. Kauai Community College may join the University of Hawaii at Manoa as a smoke-free campus. Garden Island.