Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hawaii House, Senate conference committee reaches budget agreement, Pence dines with troops, paraphernalia decriminalized, Hawaii County transit administrator steps down, Makiki homeless apartments opened, Haiku Stairs may come down, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

courtesy Senate majority
House, Senate conference committee, courtesy Senate majority
House and Senate lawmakers reached agreement on a new two-year, $28.4 billion state operating budget Monday that would increase state spending over this year’s level but would trim the overall budget somewhat from what Gov. David Ige originally proposed. Star-Advertiser

When a conference committee of Hawaii House and Senate leaders reached agreement on a state budget bill Monday — sooner than is typical — it was in marked contrast to the sense of stalemate that permeated the Capitol days earlier. Civil Beat.

Governor’s Political Fortunes May Rise With New Teachers’ Contract. Many other union contracts are still being negotiated, but David Ige is being praised by the teachers union after it reached a deal with the state. Civil Beat.

Hawaii's public school teachers are asking tough questions at informational meetings about their new contract proposal. Hawaii News Now.

Some East Hawaii educators say they’re “pleasantly surprised” with a new tentative contract agreement that would gradually bump their annual pay by more than $6,000 and boost the state’s contribution to their health care. Tribune-Herald.

Vice President Mike Pence dined with about 120 service members this afternoon at Joint Base Pearl Harbor/Hickam on an abbreviated stopover in the islands before returning to Washington from a week-long trip to Asia and Australia. Star-Advertiser.

House and Senate negotiators agreed Monday morning on a bill that would decriminalize possession of drug paraphernalia, reducing the penalties for being caught with items such as a marijuana pipe or cigarette papers to no more than $500. Star-Advertiser.

The Legal Services Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Pro Bono Net have named Hawaii as a state partner in a pilot program to develop online, statewide legal portals to direct individuals with civil legal needs to the most appropriate forms of assistance. Pacific Business News.

Oahu

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply is moving forward with a plan to demolish the Haiku Stairs, although both supporters and opponents of the plan insist the fate of the popular — but now illegal — hiking trail is far from decided. Star-Advertiser.

Should Haiku Stairs be torn out or managed? KITV.

Hawaiian Electric Co. has contracted to build the state’s largest solar farm near Haleiwa with up to 500,000 solar panels on 100 acres. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaiian Electric Co. and New Jersey-based NRG Energy Inc. have struck a deal on a power purchase agreement for the Honolulu-based utility to buy power from the Kawailoa Solar farm on Oahu’s North Shore, the two companies said Monday. Pacific Business News.

At least 15 people were treated for exposure to ammonia Monday after a major leak at Pier 38. Hawaii News Now.

Honolulu Prosecutor Could Be A Witness For The Defense. In an unusual move, a defense attorney wants Keith Kaneshiro to testify about a prosecutor’s investigation into “ghost tickets.” Civil Beat.

Within a few weeks the first homeless families are expected to move into newly renovated rental apartments in the heart of urban Honolulu as the city continues to find homes for people living on the street. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu To Open Makiki Apartments For Homeless People. Applicants for the 42 units must earn less than $35,200 per year for an individual or $50,250 for a family of four. Civil Beat.

City takes legal action to clean Makiki property neglected for years. KHON2.

A Honolulu company headed by a Hawaii solar energy executive has racked up fines totaling $22,000 for multiple violations at its Haleiwa property on Oahu’s North Shore, including doing unpermitted work. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii Island

Mass Transit Administrator Tiffany Kai is stepping down and Mayor Harry Kim is bringing in a retired U.S. Marine to whip the struggling Hele-On bus system into shape. West Hawaii Today.

A former Department of Land and Natural Resources enforcement officer was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison for the New Year’s Day 2016 sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl on a beach in Hilo’s Keaukaha neighborhood. Tribune-Herald.

Big Island visitors traveling via the popular home sharing website Airbnb this past week for the 54th annual Merrie Monarch Festival Hula Competition were expected to generate $5.2 million in economic activity through guest spending and host earnings, according to Airbnb. West Hawaii Today.

A new National Park Service report shows almost $200 million in economic benefits associated with visitation to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on Hawai‘i Island. Big Island Video News.

Scientists are looking to man’s best friend for help in the fight against rapid ohia death. Dogs already are used to sniff out a fungus in Florida avocado trees, and researchers in Hawaii think they could be trained to detect the ohia disease before trees show symptoms. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

State House and Senate conferees agreed Monday on a biennium budget that includes $33.4 million for a Kaiser Permanente subsidiary to run Maui County public hospitals as well as capital improvement funds for extending the Lahaina bypass in the Kaanapali direction and for holding room expansion at Kahului Airport. Maui News.

Maui County Council Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Riki Hokama has proposed keeping the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course open, raising some county rates and fees and a mixed bag of increases and decreases to property tax classifications, compared to the proposed budget of Mayor Alan Arakawa. Maui News.

The Maui County Council will hold a public hearing Wednesday on real property tax hikes that Mayor Alan Arakawa has proposed for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Maui News.

Kauai

Computer, Internet services at public libraries might be lost under Trump’s proposed budget. Garden Island.

Kauai still free of rat lungworm. Health officials advise caution. Garden Island.

An interim arrangement has been reached to address the issue with HI5 bottle redemption and commercially generated recyclable services. Garden Island.