Thursday, January 28, 2021

Alcohol tax hike, sugary drink tax proposed in Legislature, OHA whistleblower files lawsuit, only half of state residents plan to take coronavirus vaccination, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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House measure would increase state liquor tax. House Bill 771 proposes a 3-year-long increase to the state’s liquor tax, which currently imposes a nearly $6 tax per gallon on distilled spirits and a nearly $1 tax on nondraft beer. Tribune-Herald.

Ige’s Proposed ‘Sugar Tax’ Could Generate $60 Million A Year For The State. Gov. David Ige has proposed a new 2-cents-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks in an effort to discourage sugar consumption and cope with the “huge health challenge” of obesity and diabetes. Civil Beat.

Labor unions push lawmakers to drop GET on groceries. Labor unions are asking lawmakers to get rid of the state general excise tax on groceries as a way to help struggling families. Supporters of the idea say bold initiatives are needed during these unprecedented times. KHON2.

Hawaii Chief Justice: Courts Must Address Systemic Inequities. Hawaii Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, invoking the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others who were killed by police, is calling on the state court system to do its part in addressing systemic inequities. Civil Beat.

Former OHA Finance Chief Sues Over Whistleblower Retaliation. A former official at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has sued the agency as well as its former chief executive officer alleging whistleblower retaliation and corrupt and unlawful practices. Civil Beat. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii ‘Proud Boy’ Hires 9/11 Defense Lawyer To Fight Capitol Mob Charges. Nick Ochs ran for political office in Hawaii as a Republican and was endorsed by the Hawaii GOP. Civil Beat.

Women’s Legislative Caucus Outlines 2021 Bill Package Protecting Women, Children and Families. The bipartisan Hawaiʻi Women’s Legislative Caucus announced their 2021 legislative package of five bills and two resolutions that will support and protect women, children and families. Maui Now.

Should the voting age be lowered? Proposal is among package of bills introduced by Keiki Caucus. A Wednesday presentation by the state Legislature’s Hawaii Keiki Caucus discussed 20 bills and resolutions that were devised after lawmakers discussed with children and teenagers what issues are important to them. Tribune-Herald. KITV4.

Only half of Hawaii residents surveyed plan to vaccinate. Only half of the respondents in a recent Department of Health survey indicated they would take the COVID-19 vaccination, while about 24.4% said they were not likely to get immunized against the virus that has sickened nearly 25,500 Hawaii residents, killed 404 and ravaged the economy. Another 25.5% said they were undecided. Star-Advertiser. Maui Now. Hawaii Public Radio.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige opens pre-arrival testing program to South Korea. Gov. David Ige today announced a pre-arrival testing program for travelers from South Korea starting Feb. 5. Star-Advertiser. Civil Beat. Big Island Now.

Fed Help Would Give Hawaii’s Vaccination Campaign A Shot In The Arm. Faster vaccine deliveries promised by President Joe Biden would help the state could give a COVID-19 shot to every willing Hawaii resident by the fall, health official says. Civil Beat.

COVID-19 Testing Capacity Quadrupled. Hawaii’s largest locally owned medical testing laboratory, Diagnostic Laboratory Services, Inc. (DLS), has increased its capacity to 4,000 tests per day, up from 1,000. Big Island Now.

Teacher vaccinations slowed by vaccine shortage, educators unsure about the process. Teachers and educators fall under group 1B in the Department of Health (DOH) vaccine breakdown. The DOH said, they are working diligently to get Department of Education (DOE) employees their shots but some teachers claim the process is unclear. KHON2.

Lt. Gov. Green: We’ve given more vaccines than we’ve had cases. Hawaii is one of only two states that has administered more COVID-19 vaccines than confirmed cases of the virus. KHON2.

HAWAII VIRUS TRACKER — Jan. 27: 103 New Infections And 3 Deaths. Hawaii health officials reported three deaths and 103 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, including 64 on Oahu, 27 on Maui, three on the Big Island, and nine Hawaii residents diagnosed out of state. Civil Beat.

Oahu


Mayor identifies affordable workforce rentals as a top priority. Rick Blangiardi’s first piece of legislation as Honolulu’s mayor calls for grant money to help fund more affordable rental units. Hawaii News Now.

Blangiardi feels energized in mayor’s role; hopes to ease COVID restrictions in February. Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said about a month into the job, he feels energized to serve in his new position, as well as to the pressure of high expectations and a sense of responsibility as his new leadership team comes together. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu's Next Budget Director Expects Challenges, 'A Tough 2022' . Mayor Rick Blangiardi named Andy Kawano as the next person to lead the department. He came to the city from Foodland Supermarket as its director of facilities. Hawaii Public Radio.

Murder trials, other Oahu court cases with multiple defendants halted due to COVID-19. Prosecutions of homicide cases on Oahu — and trials involving multiple defendants — are not moving forward because of COVID-19 limits, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald told a joint session of the state Legislature Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

HPD Chief Shakes Up Covert Intelligence Unit After Years Of Scandal. The Intelligence Enforcement Unit was at the center of the Kealoha conspiracy as well as a more recent surveillance operation that targeted a political appointee. Civil Beat.

Kualoa Ranch to lay off large number of workers. Kualoa Ranch Hawaii Inc., which employed some 370 workers pre-COVID-19, is permanently laying off a large number of its remaining employees due to a decline in business, its president confirmed Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu Boatyard Agrees To Six-Figure Penalty For Keehi Lagoon Pollution. The levels of contaminants discharged from the facility into the lagoon violated federal regulations, the EPA found. Civil Beat.

An affordable housing complex opens in Maili, with more projects expected to break ground along the Leeward Coast and around Honolulu this year. More public and private housing projects will start construction this year, but experts say it still won't be enough to satisfy the state's supply shortage of affordable homes. KITV4.

Honolulu City Council OKs senior housing tower in Chinatown. The Honolulu City Council is endorsing a long-planned affordable rental housing tower for seniors on city land in Chinatown. Star-Advertiser.

All 4 Ko Olina lagoon parking lots will reopen completely on Monday. The four free parking lots, relied upon by the beachgoing public to access the popular lagoons, were closed during the resort’s coronavirus closure from March until October 16, when Ko Olina began reopening to tourists and partially reopened the lots, making 111 of 180 parking stalls available. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Island

Some Big Island teachers get first dose of COVID vaccine. Approximately 630 DOE staff were given the first dose of the Moderna vaccine Jan. 16 at a closed “POD,” or point of distribution, conducted for Big Island DOE staff at Keaau High School, according to District Health Officer Eric Honda. Tribune-Herald.

Water employees offered vaccinations: Employees moved ahead in line after letter to Ige. There hasn’t been a single positive coronavirus test among the Department of Water Supply’s 164 staff, and the agency wants to keep it that way. West Hawaii Today.

Maui


Proposal pulls power from Maui Redevelopment Agency. The Maui Planning Commission on Tuesday gave its backing to a proposed bill that pulls power from a county agency with authority to alter zoning and variance rules for downtown Wailuku. Maui News.

Hawaii Governor Declares Maui County A Disaster Area As Drought There Persists. The drought has lasted since March 2019, taking a heavy toll on farmers and homesteaders, as well as the deer that roam those islands. Civil Beat. KITV4.

Kauai

Council passes lower residential investor threshold evaluation. With one in eight homes on Kaua‘i empty, a bill attempting to incentivize filling these vacancies passed through the Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday. Garden Island.

Kauai Is Moving Forward On One Of The Nation’s Most Advanced Energy Projects. The solar-charged hydro power concept is being eyed to replace coal and other fossil-fuel powered electric plants in the U.S. and abroad. Civil Beat.

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