Friday, February 7, 2014

Legislature mulls tax break for food and meds, aerospace caucus looks up, lawsuits galore at Kauai Community Correctional, lawmakers want to take over Health Connector, cellphone law could loosen, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii would exempt groceries and medical services from its general excise tax if bills advancing through the Legislature become law. Lawmakers heard a chorus of support Thursday from policy analysts, poverty advocates and the food industry for the proposal to stop taxing groceries. Associated Press.

Several House Democrats want the state to take over the Hawaii Health Connector, set up last year as a private, nonprofit. Amid an outpouring of public complaints and scathing reviews, the rollout was called an “epic fiasco.” Hawaii Reporter.

A typical charter school in Hawaii doesn't have much of a campus. Unlike regular Hawaii Department of Education schools, charter schools can’t dip into state capital improvement funds to finance things like building construction and repair. Their operating budgets have to cover every expense — overhead costs, construction, transportation and everything in between. But efforts are underway to solve the nearly two-decade-old facilities dilemma. Among other proposals, a trio of bills advancing through the Legislature would subsidize the schools’ brick-and-mortar needs in one way or another. Civil Beat.

State lawmakers Thursday announced the formation of a caucus that aims to support the development of Hawaii’s aerospace sector and foster the potential for a burgeoning drone industry. In a news conference at the state Capitol, members of the Hawaii State Legislative Aerospace Caucus pledged their support for 12 bills that address a variety of aerospace-related issues, including concerns over unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. Star-Advertiser.

Lying to police who are investigating a crime would become at least a misdemeanor under a bill state lawmakers are advancing. Honolulu police officers told members of the House Public Safety Committee on Thursday that they support the measure because witnesses who mislead police can hamper investigations and can get innocent people thrown in jail. Associated Press.

A new Justice Department study shows that allegations of sex abuse in the nation's prisons and jails are increasing — with correctional officers responsible for half of it  — but prosecution is still extremely rare. Civil Beat.

Hawaii drivers would be able to check their cellphones for traffic or weather information while driving, under a bill state lawmakers are considering. Associated Press.

An arrogant disregard for government integrity and the public trust is on full display in House Bill 2287, through which the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands seeks to conceal vital information about its operations. It's shameful that Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who promised transparency in his administration, has included this bill in his legislative package, at the request of the DHHL. Star-Advertiser.

The problem is that for our very different new media, old rules and laws still apply. One sign of this is how lawmakers continue to wrestle with out-dated questions about who is and who isn't a journalist. Civil Beat.


The ongoing legal fight over rail in U.S. District Court now boils down to one key issue -- and it could make or break the project. Did rail officials follow proper procedure in selecting the route to Ala Moana Center instead of a route to the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus as originally envisioned? Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority has been under fire for months by residents who worry about whether the agency has been managing development properly in the urban district of Kakaako. Now, state and city lawmakers are grappling with questions about whether they should curb the authority of an agency some critics describe as "rogue." Civil Beat.

The contractor that runs the state's zipper lane on the H-1 freeway was warned to change the brakes five months before brake troubles sidelined a ZipMobile, causing a major traffic jam. Hawaii News Now.


The parents of a New York teen swept out to sea during a Kealakekua Bay hiking and kayaking tour plan to use money from settling their wrongful death lawsuit to fund first responders who helped search for the boy. West Hawaii Today.


For the second time in a year the Maui Police Department is embroiled in a first amendment lawsuit. The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit claiming they were on a public sidewalk passing out religious pamphlets in front of the Maui County Fair. Hawaii News Now.

Momentum was the recurring theme of Mayor Alan Arakawa's State of the County address Wednesday night. Maui News.


The Honolulu investment group that has plans to restore the iconic Coco Palms Resort on Kauai to its original glory plans to select a “nationwide” hotel operator in two weeks, and start demolition and construction on the site as early as the third quarter of this year, the investors told Pacific Business News.

A short form bill introduced Thursday, and passed by a Senate committee about an hour later, proposes to make the privately owned and “Forbidden Island” of Niihau an independent county from Kauai. Garden Island.

A former psychiatric social worker at Kauai Community Correctional Center is suing Warden Neal Wagatsuma and the Department of Public Safety for retaliation and violations of the whistleblowers act. Carolyn Ritchie was employed at KCCC from April 2009 until she left in November 2012, citing “serious abuses and wrongdoing.” Garden Island.

A female inmate is suing the Kauai Community Correctional Center warden on grounds that a prison warden sexually shamed her and other female inmates while she was incarcerated. Garden Island.

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