Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Legislature advances capital gains tax hike, cuts services and jobs in proposed budget, public TV exec implicated in CARES fraud case, rental car shortage as tourism surges, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Sylvia Luke, Donovan Dela Cruz
Legislative money chairs Rep. Sylvia Luke, Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (file)

Hawaii state agencies in an uproar as budget eliminates hundreds of positions. State agencies were in an uproar Monday as they fought to reinstate funding for hundreds of government positions and hold onto tens of millions of dollars squirreled away in special funds that normally fall outside of the legislative budget process. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Lawmakers Advance Capital Gains Tax Increase. A proposal to jack up the top rates for state capital gains taxes on businesses and wealthier individuals cleared an important hurdle Monday by winning unanimous approval in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Civil Beat.

Labor director asks lawmakers for millions to expand unemployment services. Following a COVID infection in a staffer last week, the state’s unemployment office call center at the Hawaii Convention Center reopened Monday. The reopening comes as the labor director asked the state for more than $100 million to expand call-center services. Hawaii News Now.

State bill would make sex with animals illegal. A bill that would make sexual abuse of animals a Class C or Class B felony in Hawaii is scheduled to be heard today in the state House. Star-Advertiser.

‘What About Us?’: Retailers Struggle To Find Their Way Through The Pandemic. The state had 10,000 fewer retail trade jobs at the end of 2020 than it had in 2019. Civil Beat.

Hawaii’s Private Schools See Enrollment Drop More Than 20% For Preschoolers. The changes varied school to school and island to island, based on a new report by the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools. Civil Beat.

With Love’s Bakery closure a day away, its brand will live on. Portland-based Franz Family Bakery, also known as United States Bakery, announced Monday that it has acquired a license to produce the Love’s-branded items on the mainland for Hawaii. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now. KITV4.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green warns of surge if people let down their guard, with majority of cases among younger set. Lt. Gov. Josh Green warned Hawaii residents that the number of corona­virus cases could continue to rise if people let their guard down and hold large gatherings. Star-Advertiser. Tribune-Herald.

Hawaii seniors now have lowest rate of COVID cases.
A year after COVID first hit Hawaii, there has been a dramatic switch in who is getting the coronavirus. Thanks to mass vaccinations, seniors 65 and older now have the lowest rate in the state. KITV4.

March 29, 2021 COVID-19 Update:
The state Department of Health reports that there were 103 additional COVID-19 cases reported in Hawai‘i on Monday, including 52 on O‘ahu, 36 on Maui, 10 on Hawai‘i Island and five Hawai‘i residents diagnosed while out of state. Maui Now.

Oahu

City and County of Honolulu to receive half of its $365 million federal funds by early May. U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz explained that the city can use the funds from the new stimulus package to make up for lost tax revenue, which last year’s CARES Act did not allow for. Star-Advertiser.

Lawmakers Want New Group To Determine Future Of OHA Kakaako Makai. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs says it does not plan to cooperate with the group if it two resolutions pass the Legislature. Civil Beat.

While businesses welcome a tourism boom, some worry it came too quickly. As coronavirus cases rise on Oahu, some fear it means falling back into Tier 2 restrictions. Mayor Blangiardi has said that’s not an option. Hawaii News Now.

Turtle Bay Resort to reopen July 1 as rise in visitors sparks hope for tourism industry. Turtle Bay Resort is still closed to guests, but the 450 construction workers readying the property for a summer reopening are a sign that better times are coming for Hawaii’s visitor industry — if they aren’t already here. Star-Advertiser.

$1,000 a day to rent a car? Low supply, surging demand are pushing up prices. Rental cars are a hot commodity in Honolulu. If you can reserve one ― and that’s not guaranteed ― prepare to pay top dollar. Hawaii News Now.

Waialua Beach Road bridge closed indefinitely due to structural instability. The Department of Transportation Services is keeping the Waialua Beach Road bridge closed indefinitely as repairs are ongoing following recent damages from heavy rainfall and flooding. Hawaii News Now.

University of Hawaii reopens campus next fall with more classes offered in-person. The University of Hawaii announced Monday it will be reopening its campus and amenities next fall, and it will be slowly transitioning students back to the classroom. KHON2.

University of Hawaii’s Snyder Hall to be razed as part of Mini Master Plan. Construction barriers have gone up around Snyder Hall at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in preparation for its demolition in May, marking the start of Phase 2 of the campus’ Mini Master Plan. Star-Advertiser.

Care center employees in Nuuanu ‘locked out’ amid contract talks. Dozens of workers have been locked out of the Care Center of Honolulu amid ongoing contract negotiations. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii Island

Higa implicated in fraud case: Na Leo TV president to be placed on leave following federal plea deal. The board of directors for Na Leo ‘O Hawaii TV is putting Stacy Higa, its CEO and president, on leave after a former associate alleged in federal court he and Higa were involved in a scheme to fraudulently funnel federal coronavirus relief funds to the Big Island public-access cable TV nonprofit. Tribune-Herald.

Nishimoto leaves Public Works.
Just four months into his four-year term, Mayor Mitch Roth has lost his first top official, with Merrick Nishimoto leaving as deputy director of the Department of Public Works. West Hawaii Today.

Citing mounting costs, Hawaii County considers changes to post-travel testing program. A modified COVID-19 testing system for arriving passengers is in the works on the Big Island, the only county that still tests people upon arrival. Hawaii News Now.

‘Carmageddon’ Crashes Into Big Island, as Rental Industry Swallowed by Mass Demand. Anyone on the hunt for a rental car in Hawai´i is in for a disappointing month. At least. Big Island Now.

Nearly 15% of Big Islanders fully vaccinated.
Nearly 15% of the more than 199,000 people on the Big Island are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, state data released Monday shows. West Hawaii Today.

East Hawaii a ‘hot spot’ for new virus cases. According to data from the state Department of Health, 41 new cases have been reported in Hilo over the past 14 days, and 25 new cases have been reported in Kailua-Kona during that same period. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Upcountry Councilmember Sugimura Hosting Public Online Meeting April 1 about FY 2022 Budget. Maui County Upcountry Councilmember Yuki Lei Sugimura will host an online meeting to hear input from community members about the upcoming Fiscal Year 2022 budget on April 1 at 5:30 pm. Maui Now.

$11 Million in Economic Coronavirus Relief for 5 Airports in Maui County.
The Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation Airports Division has received authorization for $11,098,912 in Coronavirus Relief and Response Supplemental Appropriations for five airports in Maui County. Maui Now.

Mokulele Airlines Completes Maui Terminal Renovation; New Kahului-Hilo 4x Daily Route. Mokulele Airlines held a blessing today, marking completion of a long-awaited facelift of its Kahului Commuter Terminal on Maui. Maui Now.

Mass vaccination draws more than 1,000. More than 1,000 people were vaccinated at a COVID-19 mass vaccination Saturday at Kaiser Permanente Hawaii’s Wailuku Medical Office. Maui News.

Visitors to Maui hit post-pandemic high in February. Maui County hotels also led state in revenue per room. Maui News.

Kauai

Kauai County expands vaccine eligibility to residents 16 and up. Kauai is expanding vaccine eligibility to residents 16 and up, in a major step forward as the county prepares to rejoin the Safe Travels program for trans-Pacific visitors. Hawaii News Now. KITV4.
https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/2021/03/30/kauai-county-most-residents-years-or-older-now-eligible-covid-vaccine/

County behind on landfill closing costs. The estimated closing costs are about $26.2 million, and the county has about $15.4 million saved away already, Acting Solid Waste Management Division Head Allison Fraley reported Monday to the Kaua‘i County Council. Garden Island.

Aguilar has two hearings in April.
After being arrested last week on two counts of sexual exploitation of a child under the age of 18 by directing his victim into producing child pornography, Victor Aguilar, 65, a former educator and JROTC instructor at Waimea High School, made his first court appearance via phone from the Honolulu Federal Detention Center on Monday. Garden Island.


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