Monday, May 1, 2017

Legislature's budget agreement to raise hotel taxes for Honolulu rail, give less to counties; more union raises; immigrant protections; Ige gears up for re-elecion bid; trouble-shooter hired for Hele-On buses; new police cars for Kauai, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

courtesy Hawaii House majority
Hawaii Legislature 2017, courtesy Hawaii House majority
Rail and the political turmoil that surrounds it helped steer the state Legislature into dramatic new positions last week on some longstanding, contentious issues, with results that startled even some of the politicians involved. Star-Advertiser.

Senate conferees agreed to the House conference draft of Senate Bill 1183 to scrap a proposed two-year extension to Oahu’s general excise tax surcharge and instead boost Hawaii’s transient accommodations tax to 12 percent, from the current 9.25 percent, starting Jan. 1. Pacific Business News.

Lawmakers Strike Deal to Fund Honolulu Rail Project With Higher Hotel Taxes. Negotiators agreed on a plan Friday to increase the hotel tax, but the deal must still be approved by the full House and Senate. Civil Beat.

New Public Union Deals Will Be Costly For State. A handful of union contracts have yet to be finalized, but the state’s top budget official says the estimated cost so far tops $460 million. Civil Beat.

Hawaii lawmakers decided not to pass a bill Friday that would have mandated the state Department of Health post inspection reports for day care centers. Civil Beat.

State lawmakers passed a resolution to help protect immigrants in Hawaii. House Resolution 76 asks local law enforcement to not execute an immigration arrest unless they have a warrant from the federal government. KITV.

All-Mail Balloting Bill Dies In Final Hour Of Conference. The measure’s author says it’s only a matter of time before it becomes law. Civil Beat.

A bill that would have appropriated tax money for a study regarding the effects of sunscreen on coral reefs was rejected at a hearing Friday, as lawmakers refused to release the state funds required by the measure. Star-Advertiser.

Invasive species bills see mixed results. Tribune-Herald.

Rat lungworm, a disease long endemic to Puna, has gained national attention after Maui residents and two tourists from the mainland have become ill. Tribune-Herald.

The Hawaii Senate rejected Gov. David Ige’s nomination of Tom Gorak to the three-member Public Utilities Commission on Friday night on a 15-10 vote. Civil Beat.

The Hawaii state Senate has rejected Gov. David Ige’s nomination of Hawaii Public Utilities Commission commissioner Thomas Gorak — who was appointed as an interim commissioner last year two weeks before the agency voted to reject NextEra Energy’s $4.3 billion acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Co. — to serve a full term until 2022. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii’s 13 largest publicly traded companies rewarded their CEOs last year by increasing their total compensation an average 13.8 percent to $2.2 million, according to a Hono­lulu Star-Advertiser analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Six officers, including the non-CEO, received a pay package of at least $3 million. Star-Advertiser.

Visitor spending in Hawaii jumped 12.3 percent to $1.4 billion in March, partially due to a surge in spending by visitors from the Japan market, according to preliminary statistics released Friday by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Pacific Business News.

A comeback from the Japan visitor market helped boost statewide March tourism numbers, including the industry’s highest monthly spending increase since December 2012. Star-Advertiser.

Were These ‘Local’ Products Really Made In Hawaii? Firms connected to the mainland like to evoke Hawaii in their marketing. Many have island origins, but have found it’s hard to expand here. Civil Beat.

Hawaii’s American Savings Bank reported first quarter net income of $15.8 million, a 24.7 percent increase from net income of $12.7 million during the first quarter of 2016. Pacific Business News.

Trump May Try, But Only Congress Can Undo National Monuments. Civil Beat.

Commentary: Ishii ramps up policy effort for Ige’s re-election drive. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

Voting began Friday for Oahu’s 33 neighborhood boards in what the Honolulu Neighborhood Commission Office hopes will be a largely paperless process. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu International, the state’s busiest airport has been renamed after the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye. KHON2.

Hawaiian Electric Co. is seeking 3.1 million gallons of sustainably produced, renewable biofuel per year for three years to power biofuel-capable power plants on Oahu. Star-Advertiser.

Hundreds marched in Waikiki on Saturday morning in a demonstration to fight climate change, joining similar marches across the country. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Island

The wheels come off: Chaos at Mass Transit baseyard reflects turmoil in agency. West Hawaii Today.

A May 30 deadline has been set for submitting final arguments in the Thirty Meter Telescope contested case hearing, but project foes contend it’s not enough time considering the volume of documents, exhibits and transcripts generated by the proceeding. Star-Advertiser.

Several bills introduced by Hawaii Island legislators died in the final hours of conferencing Friday. Tribune-Herald.

Appropriations aim to alleviate homelessness, invasive species in West Hawaii. West Hawaii Today.

Researchers hopeful biocontrol measure will help protect Kona coffee. West Hawaii Today.

One of the biggest players in Hawaii’s Kona coffee industry is in shambles after a legal battle that has left many small farmers unpaid along with questions about what happened to a business whose coffee retailed for up to $69 a pound. Star-Advertiser.

Visitors traveling to the Big Island spent $203.3 million last month, a 25.3 percent jump from last year, caused by double-digit growth in visitor arrivals from U.S. West, U.S. East, Japan and Canada, according to preliminary statistics from the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Pacific Business News.

Maui

Maui Land &Pineapple Co. is only $1.2 million away from being debt free after selling a three-hole practice golf course in February for $7 million. Star-Advertiser.

After an anxious month and steep learning curve about how to co-exist with invasive slugs carrying rat lungworm disease, Hana celebrated itself at the 25th East Maui Taro Festival. Civil Beat.

DOH to hold community meetings on Maui to discuss rat lungworm disease. Hawaii News Now.

Kauai

The Kauai Police Department will be getting new patrol cars. The Kauai County Council unanimously approved a budget request from Chief Darryl Perry last week to spend $178,000 a year for five years to lease new Ford Explorers. Garden Island.

Grant limits could be placed on a $200,000 county allocation distributed to Kekaha residents. Garden Island.

Kaui projects included in state operating budget for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Garden Island.

Lanai

For the third time in three decades, the state Land Use Commission has come to a different conclusion on whether Larry Ellison, owner of Lanai is using a proper source of water to irrigate its luxury ocean-view golf course. Star-Advertiser.