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In Brief | Big Island & State | 4-29-14

April 29, 2014 - 9:02am

Body of woman found in Wainaku

Hawaii Island police have initiated a coroner’s inquest case in connection with a body found in Hilo over the weekend.

South Hilo patrol officers responded to an 11:42 p.m. call Saturday and received information that a fisherman had discovered a body along the shoreline off Hawaii Belt Road in the Wainaku area, according to the Hawaii Police Department.

The body, believed to be that of a female Caucasian, has not been identified, according to police.

Detectives from the Area I Criminal Investigations Section, who are reviewing missing person cases, have not ruled out foul play. An autopsy is scheduled for today, to determine the cause of death and to attempt identification of the victim.

15 arrested for DUI

Hawaii Island police arrested 15 motorists for driving under the influence of an intoxicant from April 21 through Sunday. Four of the drivers were involved in traffic crashes. Three were younger than 21.

Kona officers arrested five drivers, South Hilo officers nabbed six motorists, South Kohala officers arrested three drivers and Puna officers arrested one motorist.

So far this year, there have been 422 DUI arrests compared with 432 during the same period last year, a decrease of 2.3 percent.

There have been 525 major accidents so far this year compared with 438 during the same period last year, an increase of 19.9 percent.

So far this year, there have been four traffic fatalities on Hawaii Island compared with 12 during the same period last year, a decrease of 66.7 percent.

To date, one fatality was related to drugs, one to alcohol and one to a combination of both.

HELCO ranked 7th for solar installations

Hawaii Electric Light Co. ranked seventh in 2013 for the most solar install that year, according to the Solar Electric Power Association’s annual report.

All four of the state’s power grids made the top 10 list, with Oahu’s Hawaiian Electric in fifth, Maui Electric Co. eighth and Kauai Island Utility Cooperative ninth.

“Solar power, both utility-scale and rooftop systems, is a strong part of our renewable energy progress, Scott Seu, Hawaiian Electric vice president of energy resources and operations, said. “More than 18 percent of the electricity used by our customers in 2013 came from renewable energy. And as we reach recordbreaking levels of solar, we’ve been working more closely with our Hawaii solar industry to address concerns about safe and reliable integration.”

The Solar Electric Power Association is a national educational nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., dedicated to helping utilities integrate solar power into their energy portfolios.

Legislators consider ‘Revenge Porn Bill’

Hawaii legislators will vote on a bill today that will make it a felony to post a photograph of an individual in the nude without their permission.

HB 1750, introduced by 13 state legislators, three of which represent the Big Island, will make it illegal for a person to install or use a device in a private place without the consent of another person for the purpose of observing, recording, amplifying or broadcasting another person in a stage of undress or sexual activity.

It will also make it illegal to disclose an image or video of another person either in the nude or engaging in sexual conduct without the consent of the depicted person with the intent to harm the other individually.

The measure has been referred to as the “Revenge Porn Bill.”

New solar install rules likely to raise costs

HONOLULU — A state board has issued new rules for solar panel installation that will require journeyman electricians to do more of the work. That move is expected to raise the costs of installing the panels.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that the Board of Electricians and Plumbers will require that electricians handle bonding and grounding the system. Those are safety measures that keep people from getting shocked by diverting current into the earth.

Solar energy systems contractors have handled that step. Leslie Cole-Brooks, the executive director of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, said solar panels are now made such that an electrician isn’t needed to ground and bond the systems safely. She says the rules change will make installations slower and more expensive.

Visitor spending drops 3.5 percent

HONOLULU — Spending by visitors in Hawaii fell by 3.5 percent in March compared with the same month one year ago to $1.2 billion, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said Monday.

The number of travelers to Hawaii also dropped, sinking 5.2 percent to fewer than 729,000 visitors.

The state tourism agency has been anticipating slower growth following two record-breaking years for the industry, CEO Mike McCartney said in a statement. The outlook for the summer is strong, McCartney said, but the fall season should be challenging because of increased competition, a strengthening U.S. dollar and a hike in Japan’s consumption tax.

Travelers from the state’s biggest market — the western region of the U.S. — led the declines in March.

There were 9.2 percent fewer visitors to Hawaii from the area, and they spent 14 percent less money while here.

About 2 percent more Japanese visitors, who make up the state’s biggest international market, came to Hawaii. Spending by travelers from Japan declined 0.6 percent.

By county, spending fell 9.5 percent on Oahu and 4.3 percent on Kauai as the number of visitors to both places declined. But spending climbed 5.7 percent in Maui County and 4.9 percent on Hawaii Island. Both Maui and Hawaii counties also had more visitors in March.

Lawmakers extend life for key legislation

HONOLULU — State lawmakers are using an unusual legislative maneuver to extend the life of four bills on education and taxes.

Capitol officials said Monday that lawmakers extended procedures for conference committees to create a one-hour window for House and Senate legislators to consider certain bills.

The lawmakers planned to meet Monday afternoon.

The bills include three education bills. One changes Hawaii’s charter schools laws, another prohibits seclusion in schools and a third changes the salary cap for the state’s superintendent.

The tax bill creates an income tax credit for people who spend money to manufacture products in the state.

Conference committees were expected to finish their business last week with final votes in the House and Senate this week. The Legislature ends its session Thursday.

Abercrombie to sign bill for industrial hemp

HONOLULU — Gov. Neil Abercrombie plans to sign a bill to establish an industrial hemp research program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Officials in the governor’s office said Monday that Abercrombie planned a signing ceremony on Wednesday afternoon.

The bill approves a two-year program to study industrial hemp remediation and biofuel research.

Rep. Cynthia Thielen said in a statement that the law’s passing could lead to Hawaii becoming a national and global player in the market for an environmentally friendly crop. She estimates the U.S. industrial hemp market at $500 million per year.

Hawaii would be the 23rd state to pass industrial hemp legislation once Abercrombie signs the law.

Man dies while participating in event

HONOLULU — Honolulu police say a man has died while participating in a sporting event in Aiea.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser said the man has been identified as 29-year-old Sheldon Branch of Aiea.

The Honolulu medical examiner’s office said a cause of death is not yet available and an autopsy will be conducted.

According to the medical examiner’s office, Branch died shortly after 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Police have classified the death as an unattended death. The case has been forwarded to the homicide division for further investigation.

By local and wire sources