Thursday, February 15, 2024

Power outages require costly fixes, state now allows cryptocurrency exchanges, Legislature tackles artificial intelligence, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Frequent power outages need costly combo of fixes. A combination of equipment failure, winter weather, variations in renewable energy, and even planned maintenance are to blame. HECO says they’re investing in upgrades, but customers and some lawmakers are fed up. KHON2.

Legislature tackles artificial intelligence. A number of AI-related bills are moving through the state Legislature this week, each one proposing some degree of state control over the future of the rapidly advancing technology. Tribune-Herald.

Hawaii opens its doors to Cryptocurrency Trading, embracing the digital financial frontier. The State Division of Financial Institutions decided that cryptocurrency exchanges in Hawaii do not have to comply with the state’s money transmitter law, which had required the exchanges to hold cash reserves equal to their digital assets. KITV4.

Judge rules HMSA contracts are ‘unconscionable’ in lawsuit from doctors and patients. A court ruling against Hawaii’s biggest health insurer, Hawaii Medical Services Association, could give Hawaii doctors more freedom in making medical decisions. A Big Island judge has ruled the insurer’s contracts with its doctors are “unconscionable” and unenforceable. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii’s Still-Struggling Police Standards Board Could Add More Cops To The Oversight Panel. Civil rights advocates say that expanding the board with more police appointments will diminish input from community members. Civil Beat.

‘Unpaid Heroes’: Momentum Grows For Comprehensive Paid Family Leave In Hawaii. Covid revealed how vulnerable many are when a family member needs serious care. But business groups and some unions oppose cost burdens. Civil Beat.

Educational worker safety bill advances but removes increased harassment penalties. Tougher penalties for those who harass public and charter school employees are on the table this legislative session by increasing harassment penalties for educational workers to a misdemeanor.  KHON2.

The Packed Hawaii State Hospital May Soon See A Surge In Patients From A Private Facility. Health officials are seeking $14 million in emergency funding to try to improve security and reduce the patient population at the Hawaii State Hospital, but the psychiatric facility may soon have to make room for an influx of even more patients from the privately run Kahi Mohala facility. Civil Beat.

Bill to legalize recreational marijuana in Hawaiʻi makes progress in the Senate. Although the Attorney General’s office does not support marijuana legalization, it provided guidance to the Legislature on how the bill should be crafted. Hawaii Public Radio. Tribune-Herald.  Big Island Now.

Bill regulating invasive species suggests sizable investment from the state. Senate Bill 3237 would primarily create a plant nursery license, designate dozens of pest species for eradication, add rules for imported goods and give the state Department of Agriculture more power to stop the movement of infested goods. Hawaii Public Radio.

Public art funding faces obstacles at the Legislature with proposed budget cuts. While several measures in the Legislature this session could provide more support to Hawaiʻi's art community, one proposal may cut funding from a state agency that runs the public art museum. Hawaii Public Radio.

Former Rep. Ing facing another $18K in fines. Investigators for the state Campaign Spending Commission on Wednesday recommended that former state Rep. Kaniela Ing be fined another $18,250 — in addition to the nearly $22,000 that he already had been fined — for 24 campaign spending violations. Star-Advertiser.


Honolulu Permitting Office Making Progress While Delays Persist, Audit Says. Permit review times at the troubled permitting office are worse than before, but the department has taken steps to improve its processes.  Civil Beat.

Pearl Harbor survivor Sterling Robert Cale dies at 102. Sterling Robert Cale, a Pearl Harbor survivor who served the United States throughout World War II, and also in Korea and Vietnam, and then met thousands of visitors as a volunteer at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, died Jan. 20 at his home in Aiea. He was 102. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now.

Military begins sampling soil at Puuloa Range. Two days of soil sampling got under way at Puuloa Range Training Facility in Ewa Beach early Wednesday morning, three months after the military, state and community finalized a plan to address concerns regarding potential lead poisoning of the soil. Star-Advertiser.

Navy developing follow-up water monitoring plan. The creation of the plan comes after the Navy gathered a team of “drinking water experts” two weeks ago to investigate the origin of low-level detections of total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) in the Joint Base-Pearl Harbor Hickam water system, following an influx of tap water and air quality complaints from residents. Star-Advertiser. Civil Beat.  Hawaii News Now.

Health officials have confirmed five cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, among members of one household visiting Hawaii from the U.S. mainland. One child from the household was hospitalized, and all five cases were unvaccinated, according to the Hawaii Department of Health. The family stayed at a hotel on Oahu. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Island

Bills Advanced To Help Restore Kahaluʻu Beach Park In Kona. Measures in the State House and Senate that will help fund the restoration project are being heard in committee. Big Island Video News.

Owner of Discount Fabric Warehouse chain dies at 65. Businessman. Outdoorsman. Visionary. Philanthropist. Those are words that have been used to describe Bill Miller, the owner of Discount Fabric Warehouse — a statewide business empire he built starting in 1995. Tribune-Herald.


Beyond Lahaina: Some Lawmakers Want A New Development Plan For All Of West Maui. The state would take over governance of land use and development in much of West Maui, a much more far-reaching plan than just the rebuilding of Lahaina, under a bill speeding through the Senate.  Civil Beat.

Contention billows from Lahaina rebuilding board bill.  Enthusiasm and concern clashed Wednesday at the Legislature over a proposal to establish an elected community board under a state agency to govern Lahaina’s rebuilding from fiery ruins. Star-Advertiser.

Kennedy recounts recent visit to Lahaina in aftermath of wildfire.
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Wednesday eleased a video documenting his visit to Lahaina, where he went to see firsthand the devastation from the wildfire that destroyed much of the historic town six months ago.  Maui Now.

Debris removed from 100th residential property in Lahaina Wildfire Disaster Area. Debris and ash removal was completed on the 100th residential property in the Lahaina Wildfire Disaster Area on Wednesday, (Feb. 14) 30 days after the work began in Lahaina, county officials said. Maui Now.

Aikanaha project bill submitted for $14 million Affordable Housing Fund loan. A bill has been submitted to the Maui County Council that would pave the way for loan of up to $14 million from Maui County for the 212-unit Aikanaha low-income rental housing project in Waikapū. Maui Now.


Public hearing: Bill funding invasive parakeet removal on Kaua‘i draws widespread support.
A bill allocating $150,000 to establish a one-year pilot program to reduce the population of the birds on the Garden Isle was met with overwhelming approval Wednesday during a public hearing held by the Hawai‘i House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture and Food Systems. Kauai Now.

Tourists set new mark for spending in December. Visitor spending shattered the $200 million barrier and set a new high for the month of December, despite a decrease in the number of tourists coming to the island of Kaua‘i. Garden Island.

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