Watching and reporting about Hawaii from Washington Place to Washington, D.C.

3:01 p.m. Public Housing Bills Now Law

Two measures regarding government housing agencies have been signed into law by the governor.

Senate Bill 1394 authorizes the Hawaii Public Housing Authority to enter into contracts with developers to develop public housing projects in exchange for commercial space in the project.

Legislators said the bill would give the authority the ability to develop new housing for the state’s lowest income populations “by enabling the agency to incentivize partnerships with market-rate housing developers.”

Senate Bill 1241 repeals the conveyance tax exemption for low-income housing projects certified by the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation.

Legislators said said the tax “has not been a significant barrier” to affordable housing development because the tax is paid by the seller and not the purchaser who develops the project. 

1:20 p.m. GOP Retweets Critical Abercrombie Columns

GOP Hawaii (@gophawaii) calls David Shapiro‘s Star-Advertiser column excoriating Neil Abercrombie for acting in an undignified manner “must read.”

Duke Aiona (@DukeAiona2010) tweeted out much the same today, too, as well as a Richard Borreca Star-Advertiser column on the governor’s “off-the-cuff charm.”

1:05 p.m. School Funds Released

The Abercrombie administration has released funds approved by the Legislature to improve safety and learning environments at nine public schools on Oahu and Maui.

The capital improvement projects include $7.7 million for construction of a multipurpose educational facility to support science curriculum at Stevenson Middle School, and $2.5 million for construction of covered play courts at Mililani Middle School.

10:05 a.m. Fitch Downgrades Hawaii’s Investment-Grade Ratings

Citing Hawaii’s high debt and dependence on the “volatile tourism sector” for revenue, Fitch Ratings today downgraded the state’s general obligation bonds rating to AA.

The highest rating is AAA.

According to a press release, “Fitch said the state’s broad responsibilities, particularly in education, have led to increased debt that amortizes at an above-average pace, and its pension-funding levels are considered weak by Fitch’s standard.”

9:42 a.m. Meeting: Reapportionment Panel

The folks carving up Hawaii’s political districts will meet at 10 a.m. today at state Capitol Room 329.

Agenda items include whether to count military personnel and convicted felons as part of the population.

In related news, the Apportionment Advisory Council for Oahu this morning said that military personnel should be counted as part of the voting population.

Deficit Talks With Inouye Continue

The second day of deficit-reduction talks let by Joe Biden have already wrapped today in Washington, according to The Washington Post:

Lawmakers who left the meeting with Biden at the Capitol offered few details of what was discussed but said they remain hopeful that a deficit-reduction deal can be reached ahead of an Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury Department.

A third meeting is set for tomorrow.

Dan Inouye today tweeted (@Daniel_Inouye, 3,089 followers) that the bipartisan group is working on a “comprehensive deficit reduction plan.”

Hirono’s Photogenic Cat

The Humane Society of the United States named Mazie Hirono‘s cat, Hemic, the winner of the U. S. “House Cat” division in the 2011 Congressional Pet Photo Contest.

According to Hirono’s office, members of Congress and congressional staff submitted more than 200 photos of their “favorite furry friends” for this year’s contest:

Hemic is 17 years old and still going strong. His family describes him as wise, caring, and obviously handsome. He’s been a member of Congresswoman Hirono’s family since she brought him home from the Hawaiian Humane Society on Oahu more than 16 years ago.

Town Hall: Waianae

Jo Jordan has scheduled a town hall tonight at Waianae District Park (85-601 Farrington Highway).

Marcus Oshiro is billed as the “special guest.”

Possible questions, according to a press release: “How was the $1.3 million budget deficit closed? What was cut from government? What was funded? What laws were passed and how will they affect me?”

Neighbor Isle Gov’t News

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that Billy Kenoi “remained mum” yesterday about whether he will approve next fiscal year’s $367 million operating budget:

“I’m taking a very good look at it and I will have a thorough and comprehensive reply,” Kenoi told members of the Rotary Club of Kona Mauka. “I haven’t made a final determination. There are a lot of questions when you send over a budget and it comes back with things nobody’s ever seen happen before. Are services going to be maintained? Yes. Has county government been reduced in size and cost? Yes. Are there going to be raised taxes and a burden on our community? No.”

The Maui News reports that a proposal to restore the county’s homeowner property tax exemption to 2005 levels was recommended by the Maui County Council Budget and Finance Committee yesterday:

If approved, the bill would set the exemption at $200,000, down from the $300,000 exemption taxpayers get now. That would net the county about $5.3 million in additional property taxes next year if the tax rate for homeowners stays the same. If approved, the lower exemption would take effect in July 2012.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that U.S. Army officials yesterday laid out “ambitious expansion plans” while advocating for high altitude flight training and continued monitoring of depleted uranium on the Big Island:

Pohakuloa Training Area is the military’s largest training maneuver area in the Pacific. The Army is currently undertaking an environmental impact study on the expansion and modernization of the area. It is expected to be completed by fall, said Lt. Col. Rolland Niles, PTA commander.

The Molokai Dispatch reports that Molokai nonprofit Ka Honua Momona has presented a plan to the Molokai Planning Commission to give the fishpond enterprise a base called the Kauhale Project:

A kauhale is a traditional Hawaiian complex — in this case, it will include a building for office space, restroom facilities with composting toilets and a traditional Hawaiian hale for their classroom work.

Catch up on previous coverage:

About the Author