Monday, March 21, 2022

Senate mulls excise tax cut on family necessities, commercial real estate rebounds, Oahu lawmaker misused state money, Maui council advances charter amendments, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Golf course in Waikoloa ©2022 All Hawaii News

As inflation pushes up prices, lawmakers consider slashing state tax on some necessities.
  A state Senate committee Friday advanced a measure to make family necessities cheaper. House Bill 2414 would eliminate the general excise tax from diapers, certain foods and medicine. Hawaii News Now.

Purchases of Hawai‘i Commercial Real Estate Rebounded in 2021
. Resort/golf course sales and vacant land sales each totaled almost a billion dollars, according to a year-end report from Colliers Hawaii. About half of the purchase volume was made by Hawai‘i-based investors. Hawaii Business magazine.

Hawaii’s unemployment fund needs replenishing in wake of federal bailout
. Hawaii’s capacity to pay unemployment benefits is forecast to drop this year after two years of federal bailouts, prompting legislation to use state taxpayer revenue to shore up the safety net typically supported by businesses. Star-Advertiser.

Report outlines broad areas of investment for Hawaii hospitals seeking to help their communities. A new report conducted on behalf of Hawaii’s nonprofit, acute-care hospitals lays out broad areas in need of investment to help improve the overall health of the community, including improving housing and financial security, increasing access to mental health serv­ices and ensuring access to healthy food. Star-Advertiser.

All gambling bills dead; most EV measures stay alive. Scores of prospective bills are now dead after the current session of the state Legislature has passed its halfway point. Tribune-Herald.

Bills diminishing neighbor island political clout die in House. Two Senate measures that would have concentrated more legislative power on Oahu at the expense of the neighbor islands were shut down last week in their first House committee. West Hawaii Today.

Visitors from Japan and South Korea expected to hit pre-pandemic levels this fall. The lifting of coronavirus restrictions today in Japan won’t dramatically increase Japanese visitors to Hawaii, but the timing bodes well for a fall recovery of the state’s top international market. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

Windward legislator Jarrett Keohokalole misused state money. A state ethics investigation has led to state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole admitting that he deposited state money for work expense reimbursements into his personal bank account in what the lawmaker called inadvertent mistakes. Star-Advertiser. Civil Beat. Hawaii News Now.

Rep. Takashi Ohno Announces He Will Not Run For Reelection. Ohno, a Democrat who is now chairman of the House Committee on Corrections, Military and Veterans, represents House District 27, including Nuuanu, Liliha, Puunui, and Alewa Heights. He was first elected to that seat in 2012. Civil Beat.

Restitution payments low, slow in federal cases.
Katherine and Louis Kealoha are behind bars after their federal convictions, while people they owe money to are waiting for checks. According to federal court records, early on some funds from assets and liquidation were recovered for the grandmother’s estate but more than $227,000 is still owed. KHON2.

Sidewalk dining is still very popular. But with no emergency order, it’s no longer allowed. Former Mayor Kirk Caldwell introduced the temporary sidewalk dining program in Summer 2020. Under the city’s emergency order, the program remained in place until the proclamation ended March 5. Hawaii News Now.

Shorter rail route could avert a Kakaako land dispute. A new plan to stop rail construction two stations short of Ala Moana Center would eliminate the need to build a 20th station on less than 2 acres of disputed land in Kakaako projected to cost taxpayers as much as $200 million to acquire. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu Human Trafficking Task Force
: 40 Investigations But No Convictions And Few Arrests. The group was created with a $700,000 federal grant three years ago. Civil Beat.

Hawaii officials alarmed by surge in fatal shootings. Saturday’s fatal shooting in the heart of Waikiki was the third in six days on Oahu, leaving shattered families and a community looking for ways to stop the surge in gun violence. Star-Advertiser.

Health officials say the water is safe to drink in all Pearl Harbor homes. The state Department of Health says the water in all zones of the Navy’s water distribution system at Pearl Harbor is safe to drink. Health officials have given the green light to the last four of the Navy’s 19 water zones on Friday. Associated Press.

A Plan For Affordable Housing In Manoa Runs Into Opposition From Residents.
The project would help pay for maintenance at the Manoa Chinese Cemetery, which is on the verge of bankruptcy, its owners say. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Island

Amid rising fuel costs, Hawaii County mayor calls on governor to declare energy emergency. Mayor Mitch Roth believes the state should take swift action to head off rising fuel costs and make Hawaii more self-sufficient. Hawaii News Now.

Rent relief program to continue
: Federal money will allow county to help low-income renters for three more years. A program providing rental relief to those affected by the pandemic could continue into mid-2025. Tribune-Herald.

Beneath the surface: $1.29M grant funding study of lava tube ecosystems. University of Hawaii researchers have received more than a million dollars from the federal government to study the ecosystems within the Big Island’s lava tubes. Tribune-Herald. Maui Now.

North Kohala food truck lot plan postponed. A small parcel at the northeast corner of the Hoea Road/Akoni Pule Highway intersection is raising big concerns from those worried about a rezoning request for a food truck lot that some fear will cause increased traffic at the gateway to the historic North Kohala village of Ka‘auhuhu. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Proposal would keep council election as-is. Members pass their version of charter amendments for the November ballot. Elections for the Maui County Council — nine members who are chosen by voters across the county — will stay as they are if the council’s version of charter amendments makes it to the ballot in November. Maui News.

Maui Needs To Do ‘Something Extraordinary’ To Diversify Its Economy.
But What?. Maui has been trying to diversify its economy for decades. But in 2019, half of all employees relied on the visitor industry. Civil Beat.

Maui Police officer vacancies persist, recruitment expands to mainland. With more than a quarter of authorized officer positions vacant in Maui County, the Maui Police Department is deploying the use of QR codes and pursuing mainland recruitment in an effort to help. Maui Now.

Kauai

Kaua‘i council, boards, commissions return to in-person meetings March 28. The decision comes on the heels of Gov. David Ige’s announcement that his statewide emergency proclamation related to COVID-19 will expire at 11:59 p.m. this Friday, March 25. Garden Island.

Waimea 400 plan shows paths forward. The Waimea 400 Conceptual Master Plan, a community-driven document that will guide the development of 417 county-owned acres between Kekaha and Waimea, is complete. Garden Island.

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