Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Senate President Kouchi investigated by FBI; Legislature socks away $435M for contingencies, retirement fund; Kilauea unrest prompts closures, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii Senate President Ron Kouchi’s Ties To A Convicted Businessman. Milton Choy recorded meetings with Kouchi as part of an FBI investigation but there's been no evidence revealed that the senator committed any wrongdoing. Senate President Ron Kouchi was for years among Milton Choy’s close allies, giving the recently convicted businessman access to the inner circle of Hawaii’s politicians where Choy could try to influence legislation, a Civil Beat investigation into Choy’s political dealings uncovered. Civil Beat.

Hawaii lawmakers aim to enlarge ‘rainy day’ and retirement funds. House and Senate negotiators during a Friday evening meeting agreed to appropriate a $300 million deposit into the state’s emergency and budget reserve fund, also known as the “rainy day” fund, and $135 million into a trust fund to pay for future retirement benefits of Hawaii government workers. Star-Advertiser.

HECO's future remains uncertain as governor attempts to revive securitization bill. As of Sunday, neither the spokesperson for the Senate nor the governor's office had any updates on the status of the bill. No additional hearings had been scheduled for the bill on Monday morning.  Hawaii Public Radio.

Car Insurance, Speed Cameras And Slow Drivers Caught Lawmakers’ Attention This Session. The cost of auto insurance could soon be going up for thousands of Hawaii drivers. Other bills  lawmakers advanced this year will make changes in the rules of the road, including a measure to use cameras to ticket speeding motorists and another to require that slow-moving drivers on two-lane highways pull over and let the cars behind them pass. Civil Beat.

Nonprofits seek help as poverty in Hawaii hits 15%. Child &Family Service put out a call to action to other nonprofits Monday to join it in the battle to fight the harmful effects of poverty in Hawaii, where an estimated 15% of families are living below federal poverty guidelines. Star-Advertiser.

Education bills advance to full House and Senate. House and Senate conference committees plan to forward a host of education-­related bills this week to the full House and Senate for final approval, including a statewide registry that would document and share all school staff misdeeds, along with other bills to ease qualifications for teacher licenses in Hawaii and provide more funding for Hawaiian immersion education. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii is known for its macadamia nuts. Lawmakers want to keep it that way. The stakes are high for Hawaii’s 600-plus macadamia nut farmers, many of whom have small operations. Combined, they produced $62.7 million in nuts in 2021, just ahead of coffee in value and second only to seed farms that research genetically engineered corn. Associated Press.

Legislation would fund programs to help control the feral chickens. A pair of bills on the verge of passing the state Legislature would allocate $50,000 to each of the state’s four counties in order to develop management programs to address the growing feral chicken population — which, the bills argue, present not just a public nuisance but a legitimate public safety concern. Tribune-Herald.

Cancellation of ‘NCIS: Hawaii’ deals big blow to fans — and to Hawaii’s economy. After three seasons, the TV series “NCIS: Hawaii” that employed some 400 people will air its final episode in about a week. Hawaii News Now.


Families Testify In Red Hill Trial How Fuel Made Them Sick As Feds Express Doubt. Witnesses testified they became extremely ill after drinking the Navy's contaminated water. Government attorneys countered their exposure was brief. Civil Beat. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii Public Radio. KHON2.  KITV4.

Former Deputy Prosecutor Says He Had Probable Cause To Charge Honolulu Architect With Theft.
Jacob Delaplane testified in the ongoing bribery trial of former Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro about the theft charges he filed against Laurel Mau in 2014. Civil Beat.

Inmate missing after court transport was chased off jail property by corrections officers: Sources. An Oahu Community Correctional Center inmate was somehow lost during a court transport Friday afternoon and then told to leave the jail property when corrections officers didn’t know who he was. Hawaii News Now. KITV4.

Hawaii Island

Yagong, county settle lawsuit over legal fees: Ex-council chairman sought more than $300K. Dominic Yagong filed the suit in 2022 seeking reimbursement of almost $306,000 in legal fees he said he incurred successfully defending himself against a defamation lawsuit. Tribune-Herald.

Closures In Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Expanded Due To High Seismicity. In the late afternoon, the National Park Service expanded the closures to include the Chain of Craters Road from the intersection at Crater Rim Drive.  Big Island Video News. Tribune-Herald.  Big Island Now.  Hawaii News Now.  KHON2.

County Looks To Acquire ʻAnaehoʻomalu Coastal Lands. The County of Hawaiʻi could be looking to acquire 27-acres of land in the area of ʻAnaehoʻomalu, a parcel on the South Kohala coast that was identified late last year as a top priority for preservation.  Big Island Video News.

Nearly 5 tons in tires removed from Kailua Bay.
  The ocean floor is littered with nets, old car parts, barrels, derelict fishing gear, glass and plastic bottles and trash in general. Big Island Now.


Air Force proposes facility consisting of up to seven telescopes at Haleakalā on Maui. The Department of the Air Force is proposing to construct and operate the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site Small Telescope Advanced Research (AMOS STAR) facility on the island of Maui. Maui Now.

Maui fire compensation fund deadline is extended. Families who lost a loved one in the deadly Aug. 8 Maui wildfires — or victims who suffered serious injuries — now have until May 31 to register for the One ‘Ohana Fund, which offers them financial compensation. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now.

Maui Food Bank says distribution demand is up 65% since August wildfires
. Since the Maui wildfires devastated communities more than eight months ago, Maui Food Bank has seen a staggering rise in the demand for food. Hawaii Public Radio.

New County Recovery Permit Center now open in Kahului. The new County of Maui Recovery Permit Center officially opened its doors in Kahului on Monday, providing a vital resource for those who are looking to rebuild in fire-affected areas in Lahaina and Kula as they navigate the permitting process and take the next step toward returning home. Maui Now. Maui News.  KITV4.

Fine for 2023 Maui yacht grounding skyrockets to $1.8M.  The parties that damaged coral and live rock near Honolua Bay with a yacht in early 2023 were originally fined $117,000. Now they're on the hook for $1.8 million. Hawaii Public Radio. Maui News.

MHS transports 50 cats to Silicon Valley.
After taking in more than 880 displaced animals from the August 8, 2023, wildfires, Maui Humane Society is continuing to face capacity challenges with cats rescued from the Lahaina burn zone.  Maui News.


BLNR approves public auction of Wailua land parcel despite overwhelming opposition. Despite concerns over cultural preservation and climate change, a small plot of state-owned land in Wailua, Kauaʻi, near the old Coco Palms Resort, will be put up for public auction. Hawaii Public Radio.

Construction work on tap for recreational areas. A couple of County of Kaua‘i recreational areas are being closed in order for maintenance work to be done ahead of the summer season. Garden Island.

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