State briefs 3/15


Advocates urge lawmakers to adopt preschool bills

HONOLULU — Hundreds of children, parents and education advocates descended on the Hawaii state Capitol to spur lawmakers to vote for Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s preschool initiative.

Thursday’s rally came a day after the House Committee on Education adopted three bills relating to the cause.

The proposals passed the Senate last week but are still waiting to be heard by the House committees on judiciary and finance.

Despite their legislative momentum, the proposals hinge on what money is available. Lawmakers are still debating the biennial state budget. Funding for the multimillion dollar preschool program will depend on what’s left over.

Many said Thursday that early childhood education should be the state’s highest priority. In addition to conventional preschool, advocates want the state to adopt alternative programs that include parents in the learning process.

Hawaii House committee OKs reapportionment bill

HONOLULU — The Hawaii House judiciary committee has voted to move forward a bill to count nonresident military personnel when the state determines how many lawmakers should represent each district.

The process known as reapportionment is the topic of an ongoing lawsuit. Judiciary committee Chairman Karl Rhoads says he chose to keep the bill alive because it is helping to settle the lawsuit.

Reapportionment Project Manager David Rosenbrock says reapportionment excludes students and military service members who haven’t declared Hawaii residency. That means that in 2011 more than 100,000 people weren’t counted.

Advocates want to base district representation on the U.S. Census instead. They say it’s an issue of equality.

But opponents worry that doing so could decrease neighbor islands’ representation. Some also caution that a constitutional amendment might be necessary.

Hawaii House committee advances foster care bill

HONOLULU — The Hawaii House Committee on Human Services has approved a bill to create a new foster care program for young adults, extending the state’s foster services to cover people up to age 21.

Testimony about the bill this week was overwhelmingly positive. Advocates say that extending foster care services decreases the risk of homelessness and substance abuse while increasing the likelihood of education and employment.

Judith Wilhoite from Family Programs Hawaii says that if the bill passes, Hawaii would be the 16th U.S. state to extend foster care to age 21.

Both the House and the Senate approved different versions of the bill last week.

Committee Chairwoman Mele Carroll amended the Senate version Thursday to align its text with the House proposal. The bill now goes to the judiciary committee.

Hawaii grew slightly from mid-2010 to mid-2012

HONOLULU — A state analysis of new U.S. Census data shows Hawaii’s population grew by 1 percent per year in the two years spanning mid-2010 through mid-2012, with growth distributed relatively evenly throughout the islands.

The analysis released Thursday by the research division of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism Department said Hawaii gained people through births and immigration. At the same time, the state lost population through deaths and people moving to other U.S. states.

Annual growth was 1 percent in all counties except Kauai, which grew at an annual rate of 0.9 percent during the two-year span.

On July 1, 2012, Hawaii’s population was just under 1.4 million.

Officials say the population breakdown among Hawaii’s counties remained the same in 2012 as in 2010. Honolulu County accounts for 70.1 percent of the state’s population, while Hawaii County has 13.6 percent, Maui County has 11.4 percent and Kauai County has 4.9 percent.

On average, Hawaii gained 39 people per day.

A average yearly breakdown of births, deaths and immigration in the state showed:

— 18,581 births per year.

— 10,076 deaths per year.

— 7,753 net migrants from other countries to Hawaii.

— 1,947 net migrants from Hawaii to other U.S. states.

As of July 1, 2012, Honolulu ranked as the 44th most populous county in the United States, among 3,143 counties.

The second smallest county in the U.S. was Hawaii’s Kalawao, a remote peninsula on Molokai that’s only accessible by plane or mule and is home to Kalaupapa, a former leprosy settlement.

House committee advances solar tax credit bill

HONOLULU — The House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection has moved forward a bill to amend Hawaii’s renewable energy tax credits.

The committee voted unanimously Thursday to approve the bill, which now goes to the committee on consumer protection.

Committee Chairman Chris Lee amended the utility-scale tax credit section of the bill based on public feedback.

He didn’t specify how much the tax credits would be, saying that’s the job of the Committee on Finance.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie says existing solar tax credits are costing the state too much money and wants to decrease them.

Reps. Ty Cullen, Denny Coffman and Faye Hanohano voted with reservations for the bill.

Cullen says he can’t support the bill fully without knowing its actual cost to the state.

Man arrested in accident in which 5 people died

WAILUKU, Maui — A Maui man has been arrested in connection with an accident last year in which five people were killed.

Maui Police say 22-year-old Libert Qalivere was arrested at his home in Pukalani on Tuesday. He is charged with five counts of manslaughter and operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, as well as other offenses. He has pleaded not guilty and his bail was set at $750,000.

Police say Qalivere lost control of the car he was driving March 25, which crossed Kula Highway’s center line and slammed into a hatchback. The sedan was sheered in half and five of its six passengers were ejected. All five died of their injuries.

Qalivere suffered only minor injuries. Three people in the other car were injured but survived.

Honolulu family escapes house fire

HONOLULU — A Honolulu family of four was able to escape their home uninjured after a fire broke out.

Hawaii News Now reports that the blaze at a Foster Village home was reported at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Honolulu Fire Department said when fire crews arrived they found the single-story home engulfed in flames.

Two adults and two children who were inside at the time managed to get out safely.

Honolulu Fire Capt. Terry Seelig described the fire as fast-moving. It spread so quickly that it also destroyed two vehicles parked in front of the home.

The fire caused an estimated $350,000 in damage.

Autopsy report says fetus was nonviable

AIEA, Oahu — An autopsy report on a fetus found in a garbage can in a Honolulu park says there is no evidence the baby was born alive.

According to Hawaii News Now, the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s office said the male fetus was about 20 weeks and nonviable. The report says the cause of death was prematurity and congenital pneumonia with probable sepsis.

An Aiea resident who was collecting recyclables discovered the fetus at Napuanani Park in January.

The fetus was found inside a box that was painted white and had the words “love” ”forget me not” and “forever” written on it in blue. It also was carefully wrapped.

The report says the mother came forward and told police she was experiencing cramps and delivered the fetus into a toilet.

Hawaii House committee OKs e-cigarette youth ban

HONOLULU — The Hawaii House Committee on Health has voted to push forward a bill to stop people under the age of 18 from buying electronic cigarettes.

Hawaii currently prohibits youth from buying cigarettes. The law also requires stores to only sell tobacco products to people over the age of 18. But lawmakers want to take the ban a step further.

The bill would prohibit stores from selling electronic cigarettes to youth and expand the state’s definition of tobacco products.

Advocates of the measure say the bill is important because kids are targets of tobacco company advertising and tobacco has harmful health effects.

Some testifiers had concerns about how the bill defines e-cigarettes.

The Senate approved the measure last week. The bill now goes to the House committee on consumer protection.

House committee advances solar tax credit bill

HONOLULU — The House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection has moved forward a bill to amend Hawaii’s renewable energy tax credits.

The committee voted unanimously Thursday to approve the bill, which now goes to the committee on consumer protection.

Committee Chairman Chris Lee amended the utility-scale tax credit section of the bill based on public feedback.

He didn’t specify how much the tax credits would be, saying that’s the job of the Committee on Finance.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie says existing solar tax credits are costing the state too much money and wants to decrease them.

Reps. Ty Cullen, Denny Coffman and Faye Hanohano voted with reservations for the bill.

Cullen says he can’t support the bill fully without knowing its actual cost to the state.