Maui County Officials Avoid Lanai Flight, Take Ferry

From KITV:

It’s been nearly two months since a fiery plane crash on Lanai that killed two county workers and injured three other employees.

Maui County officials took a ferry Friday to the first Lanai Planning Commission meeting since that February tragedy.

A spokesperson for the County says the panning staffers took the ferry to Lanai Wednesday and remained there overnight before heading back. Meanwhile, donations are still being accepted for the families of the victim’s killed in the February plane crash. Read more.

And here’s the latest in other neighbor isle gov’t, biz, culture and politics:

Okada gives a Ukranian egg for a gift of life

Hawaii County takes first step toward Oceanside foreclosure

Nurse Aide training center opens in Lihue

Kohala High students explore hospitality careers, learn etiquette

Corpuz trial date continued

Convicted felon, 52, receives 10 months for forgery, meth

Maui Council panel to discuss property tax revenues

Hawaii County fights Little Fire Ants at parks, zoo

Kauai County supports Project Graduation

UH scientists chart seafloor of Northwestern Hawaiian Islands 

Hawaiian Homes panel to meet on Maui

Learn about Hawaiian Nation-building in Lahaina

DAR official vows community input on fisheries

Molokai brushfires believed to have been intentionally set

Lava slowly creeping toward subdivisions

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Photo: The Valley Isle. (KITV)

—Chad Blair

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Anderson Joins Ige Seeking Speech Time at Democratic Party Convention

Honolulu Councilman Ikaika Anderson, one of seven Democrats running for the 1st Congressional District seat, supports equal time for major candidates at the Democratic Party of Hawaii's convention next month.

Anderson’s request, issued today, follows demands made this week by state Sen. David Ige to also be allowed to deliver a speech. Ige, who is challenging Gov. Neil Abercrombie, was told by party officials that candidates running for statewide office would not be allowed to address the convention from the podium, as has been customary.

Only top elected officials — including Abercrombie, the congressional delegation and Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, one of Anderson’s opponents — will be granted speaking slots. The reason given is that convention time has been shortened this year.

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Photo: Top Hawaii Democrats sing at the close of their state convention, Sheraton Waikiki, May 27, 2012. (Civil Beat)

—Chad Blair

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Lawmakers May Strengthen Hawaii’s Lobbying Laws

The fate of two bills to bolster Hawaii’s laws on lobbying will likely be decided next week.

Senate Bill 2629, introduced by Sen. Les Ihara, would force lobbyists to report the money they spend and who gave it to them within 30 days of the end of a special session. 

And Senate Bill 2634, introduced by Sens. David Ige and Ihara, would require lobbyists to itemize their expenses so the public can have a better picture of how they are exerting their influence.

A joint committee of House and Senate lawmakers postponed action on the bills until 1:30 p.m., Wednesday.

Read past Civil Beat coverage here.

Nathan Eagle

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Photo: State Sen. Les Ihara is seen here in this Civil Beat file photo.

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Hawaii Among States ‘Most Likely’ to Legalize Marijuana Next

The Huffington Post has this article. Excerpt:

While debates on marijuana’s health effects should and will continue even beyond the next wave of legalizations, it’s clear that the floodgates have already been broken. More states will legalize marijuana, and some will do it relatively soon. In states around the nation, pro-pot legislators bolstered by public opinion and the examples set by Colorado and Washington are putting the once-taboo issue before their colleagues, hoping to become the first state to legalize legislatively. …

Lawmakers in Hawaii have considered a number of bills to both decriminalize and legalize marijuana this year — and killed them before allowing them to reach a full vote. Activists don’t have a citizen ballot initiative process to allow them to pursue legalization, so they’re hoping the pro-pot momentum will carry over to lawmakers in the Aloha State this year and beyond.

Hawaii has already legalized cannabis for medical use, and lawmakers recently passed legislation to improve the system. A poll taken earlier this year showed that 66 percent of Hawaiians supported legalization. …

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Photo: Screen shot, April 18, 2014. (The Huffington Post)

—Chad Blair

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Group Demands Answers from State Amid Child Abuse Claims

From the Hawaii Tribune-Herald:

An advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse is asking the state Department of Human Services and Catholic Charities to explain how children were continually placed in the care of Jay Ram, accused in a lawsuit of abusing boys he fostered and adopted.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which helped five men previously under Ram’s care file the lawsuit against him, said Thursday it is requesting Human Services and the charity do an independent investigation of the processes that allowed dozens of boys to be placed with the former Big Island resident.

“It is time for action,” Joelle Casteix, SNAP western regional director, said in a press release. Read more.

And here’s the latest in other neighbor isle gov’t, biz, culture and politics:

Pay hikes planned for Hawaii County officials

Review: Kauai police shooting justified

World premiere of Kilauea documentary at Palace Theater

Travel website names Makako Bay in its Top 10 dive sites

A modern day Kauai paniolo seeks assistance

Tourism chief expresses concerns

Maui island planning officials elect to take ferry after crash

Snorkler drowns off of Haena

EPA official tours Kona reuse site

Mala Wharf’s closed for repairs, forcing businesses to move operations

Leeward planners return site visit bill with negative vote

Rename of pool and field after Shiraishi and Amoral mooted

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Photo: Screen shot, April 18, 2014. (Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

—Chad Blair

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House, Senate Lawmakers Resolve Disagreements over Hawaii Budget

House and Senate lawmakers found common ground Thursday on a few dozen differences between their chambers’ respective versions of the state budget, but it was mostly minor stuff on the second day of hearings in conference.

But with an April 25 deadline to iron out a final draft, the pressure will be on the 29-member joint committee to tackle the bigger disagreements when it reconvenes Monday. 

House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke and Senate Ways and Means Chair David Ige made their way through hundreds of pages of items they didn’t see eye to eye on in the $12 billion budget, stopping to announce the areas where they’ve reached a compromise.

Many of the agreements Thursday dealt with changing how certain positions are funded and removing vacant positions.

Department heads have a habit of holding onto vacant positions and using that money for things like vacation payouts and unexpected overtime costs. Starting last legislative session, Ige and Luke have endeavored to end this practice to create a more transparent budget.

Dozens of positions were cut and added to the University of Hawaii’s community college system, for instance, but the overall funding didn’t change much. The difference between the House and Senate versions is less than $2 million, which isn’t much considering the community colleges’ total budget is roughly $214 million for 2014.

The committee opted for the House version of the budget when it came to funding various University of Hawaii programs, agreeing to $45 million. The Senate version included $47 million, the difference being money for lab animal services.

The committee added 50 positions, mostly security jobs for the community colleges, but cut 49 positions, primarily instructors.

Lawmakers also resolved the disagreement they had over how much money to put toward a statewide voter registration system

The House yielded to the Senate position, which includes one position and $200,000 in federal Help America Vote Act funds. The House had wanted one position and $346,668 in state general funds.

The Senate also got its way with how the Division of Consumer Advocacy, which protects the public’s interest in electric rate cases before the Public Utilities Commission. The committee agreed to give the historically underfunded agency $749,714, which is expected to go toward an attorney position and outside consultants.

On Tuesday, the first day budget negotiators met, the committee agreed on $1.5 million for the Housing First Program to address homelessness in the state; $7.36 million for Wiki Wiki shuttle buses at Honolulu International Airport to support the state’s visitor industry at the points of entry and exit; $1 million in funding for campus enrollment support positions at University of Hawaii-West Oahu; and $318,486 for the Executive Office on Aging grant programs.

The next conference committee hearing starts at 3 p.m., Monday, at the Capitol. 

— Nathan Eagle

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Photo: Hawaii State Capitol Building. (Civil Beat file)

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What Are the Hot Political Races this Election Cycle?

Tune in to Insights on PBS Hawaii tonight (Thursday) at 8 p.m. for a discussion about the “races to watch” this upcoming election. 

Guests include Republican Chairwoman Pat Saiki, Democratic Chairman Dante Carpenter, University of Hawaii political scientist, Colin Moore, and Civil Beat’s chief political reporter Chad Blair. 

From PBS Hawaii

The political season will soon be upon us and Hawaii voters will be casting ballots in the August primary for several key races: gubernatorial, congressional, senatorial, local legislative races, as well as neighbor island Mayoral races. What issues will galvanize voters and get them to the polls? What seats are open and which incumbents face tough challenges? 

On the next INSIGHTS on PBS Hawaii, “What are the races to watch in the upcoming election?” Daryl Huff will moderate this discussion. 

Sophie Cocke

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Residents Warned About Informal Car Sharing Services

Hawaii residents seeking to earn some extra cash have been renting out their own vehicles at hourly, daily and even long-term rates.

Call it the informal economy or underground marketplace. But it’s in synch with a growing trend in which people are renting out everything from their lawnmower to salad spinner. 

Web sites like Craigslist and RelayRides are helping cultivate the marketplace for personal car-sharing services. A quick search of the sites, shows a cream Volkswagon Beetle offered for $89 a day. For those strapped for cash, there’s a Haleiwa cruiser, with “cosmetic problems,” that rents for just $20 a day or $120 for the week.

However, the state’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs is warning both those that rent their cars, as well as the renters themselves, that they should be cautious and check with their auto insurance policies first. 

Either party could find themselves on the hook for major damages or costs associated with injuries if there is an accident. 

"Companies or individuals who are not in compliance with state motor vehicle insurance laws or with Hawaii’s Motor Vehicle Rental Industry law may run significant risks if that vehicle is involved in an accident," Office of Consumer Protection Executive Director Bruce Kim said in a press release. "They could suffer significant adverse financial consequences as a result." 

DCCA stressed that the consumer warning applies to car-sharing programs where people rent out their own vehicles, and not to car rental companies such as Avis or Zipcar.

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Photo: random car (Flickr: JoshBerglund19)

Sophie Cocke

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Rep. McKelvey: House ‘Wedded’ to Broader Version of Financial Disclosure Bill

Sen. Clayton Hee wants to see how Gov. Neil Abercrombie feels about requiring some of the most powerful state boards and commissions to start filing public financial disclosure statements

If Senate Bill 2682 can avoid a veto, Hee said he’s inclined to go along with the House version of the legislation despite its broader reach. 

The Senate draft would just require the Public Utilities Commission to publicly disclose their financial interests. The House version adds 15 more agencies, including the Hawaii Community Development Association, Board of Land and Natural Resources and University of Hawaii Board of Regents.

Hee opened the conference committee debate on the bill Thursday by asking state Rep. Angus McKelvey how wedded the House was to its version.

“We’re very wedded to the House position,” McKelvey said.

Hee asked if there was any chance of “divorce,” but no. 

McKelvey agreed to defer the measure until Tuesday so Hee could take the administration’s temperature since a veto override seems unlikely.

Hee said if by Tuesday it’s still unclear how Abercrombie feels about the bill, the Legislature should just pass it and force the issue. 

Read past Civil Beat coverage of the financial disclosure bill here

Nathan Eagle

Photo: Hawaii Sen. Clayton Hee is seen here in this Civil Beat file photo.

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Hawaii Gov Reaches $48.5M Deal to Conserve Land at Turtle Bay Resort

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Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has announced a $48.5 million deal to conserve more than 660 acres of Turtle Bay Resort’s land on Oahu’s North Shore.

The agreement would create a 665-acre conservation easement that would be protected from development in perpetuity. 

If the Legislature approves the deal, the state will provide $40 million for the easement. 

The City and County of Honolulu would provide $5 million and the Trust for Public Land would add the final $3.5 million. 

The hotel would still be able to add two new hotels with 625 units and 100 homes but would refrain from building another 650 planned homes. 

Local residents have been fighting the resort’s planned expansion for more than a decade. Click here to read the full story. 

— Anita Hofschneider

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Sen. Slom: Government Accountability Office to Investigate Hawaii Health Connector

State Sen. Sam Slom, a Republican, says the federal Government Accounting Office will investigate the Hawaii Health Connector's use of $204 million dollars in federal grant monies. 

David Lewis, the GAO’s assistant director for the Office of Congressional Relations, told Slom yesterday that Hawaii will join six other states being investigated for their health insurance exchanges.

Lewis, according to Slom’s office, said the investigation will be focused on whether the Hawaii Health Connector “followed procedures relating to the use of federal funds as well as issues pertaining to security.”

Slom said, “the fact that the GAO does not usually take up issues referred to them by state representatives reflects the serious nature of the issues surrounding the Hawaii’s Health Connector, and its failure to act in a transparent manner.” 

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Photo: Sen Sam Slom, left, and an aide. (Sen. Sam Slom)

—Chad Blair

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Tell the City What You Think About Affordable Housing

Now’s your chance to weigh in on an affordable housing strategy for Oahu. 

The city’s Department of Planning and Permitting and Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s housing office are conducting an online survey that gives residents a chance to share their views on local housing needs, according to a city press release. 

Developing better housing solutions for Oahu — which has some of the highest rents and housing prices in the nation — is all the more pressing as transit-oriented development gets underway with construction of the Honolulu rail line. 

You can take the survey here:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Honolulu_Housing

"The Affordable Housing Strategy will prioritize city resources in the construction and maintenance of affordable housing," according to the press release. "The plan also will be used to revise land use regulations, financial policies, and affordable housing programs. The city’s partners in this effort include the state, housing advocates and developers."

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Photo: Honolulu housing (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)

Sophie Cocke

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Mauna Kea Observatories Find Possible Habitable Planet

From West Hawaii Today:

Two Mauna Kea observatories confirmed this week the discovery of the first potentially habitable Earth-sized planet found outside our own solar system.

“What makes this finding particularly compelling is that this Earth-sized planet, one of five orbiting this star, which is cooler than the sun, resides in a temperate region where water could exist in liquid form,” said Elisa Quintana of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center, who led a paper on the discovery published in the current issue of the journal Science. Read more.

And here’s the latest in other neighbor isle gov’t, biz, culture and politics:

Councilors advance a MAUIWatch settlement

Stop! Kapaa traffic study ahead

Terez Amato to run for Sixth District Senate Seat

Fate of Hilo man accused of shooting police rests with jury

Tagging Kioea: Learning about Molokai’s rare shorebirds

Kapaa woman sentenced for sexual assault

Astronomers discover potentially habitable, Earth-sized planet

Eight Big Isle vendors submit waste reduction bids

No alternative at hand yet for cane burning — HC&S

Nakamoto appointed judge

Firefighters tackle brush fire in Kihei

Real estate sales increase in Puna

Maui police lieutenant: Cluster of fatalities all ‘avoidable’

Kikiaola harbor project gets go-ahead

Kilauea lava flow watched closely as it creeps northeast

Coast Guard suspends search for Japanese crewmember

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Photo: The stars from Mauna Kea. (Matt Rafferty)

—Chad Blair

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Gabbard Part of Congressional Group to Visit Japan, China, South Korea

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will be part of bipartisan congressional delegation traveling to Japan, South Korea and China to meet with leaders in those countries.

"The meetings will focus on economic growth and trade, regional security challenges, and strengthening our alliances in the region," according to a press release from Gabbard’s office.

Tomorrow, the delegation will also visit with U.S. Pacific Command leaders in Hawaii for a roundtable discussion before they head to Asia.

The delegation includes House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL).

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Photo: Map of East Asia circa 1930s. (david)

—Chad Blair

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On Tap at the Hawaii Legislature: April 17

A selective list of bills, resolutions, hearings, briefings and events for Thursday at the state Capitol. Click here for more.

Conferences:

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Photo: Hawaii state Capitol. (Civil Beat)

—Chad Blair

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