State roundup for July 2
Hawaiian Electric to close Honolulu Power Plant
HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaiian Electric Companies says it plans to close its Honolulu Power Plant and shut down units on other islands as part of a five-year-plan to use more renewable energy.
Hawaiian Electric said Monday that Honolulu Power Plant would be deactivated next year along with two of four units at Kahului Power Plant on Maui next year. The utility says it also plans to shut down two generators at Waiau Power Plant on Oahu by 2016, and the rest of the Maui plant by 2019.
The company says it is moving away from the older, oil-fired units as part of a long-term plan that calls for 15 percent of net electricity sales to come from renewables by the end of 2015.
Hawaii security guards face new requirements
HONOLULU (AP) — The state agency administering Hawaii’s new security guard licensing law stayed open over the weekend to accept a flurry of last-minute applications.
The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs received more than 350 applications over the weekend. The new law takes effect Monday, requiring security guards to have a state-issued card. To receive the card, guards must submit an application and meet certain requirements, including eight hours of training and a background check.
According to 2010 state data, there are an estimated 10,000 security guards in Hawaii. As of last week, less than half submitted applications.
DCCA spokesman Brent Suyama says applications were trickling in until recently when officials started receiving more than 100 a day. He says penalties haven’t been fully established but will likely entail fines.
Hawaii federal public defender predicts layoffs
HONOLULU (AP) — Some federal public defenders in Hawaii could lose their jobs because of automatic reductions for U.S. government agencies that took effect when Congress did not approve budget alternatives.
Hawaii Federal Public Defender Peter Wolff said he expects to lay off several members of his staff, including attorneys.
“I don’t feel good about it at all because we have people that moved here to take a job here,” he said.
The office represents poor clients charged with federal crimes, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Hawaii’s office started this year with a $3 million budget, which has been reduced to less than $2.8 million, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday. The new fiscal year will begin in October with an expected budget under $2.2 million, which will include some 20 furlough days, Wolff said.
Federal public defenders nationwide are expecting layoffs.
“Following deep funding cuts that began before the federal sequester and were increased after the sequester took effect, the nation’s federal indigent defense system is in crisis,” the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said in a statement.
There were 18 people in the Honolulu office in October, Wolff said. One employee retired in December and wasn’t replaced and another was approved for early retirement. Wolff said he still had to implement furloughs, which has closed the office every other Friday, except for one attorney who takes a furlough day on another day of the week.
Other steps to save money have included restricting travel and cutting back on costs for experts, interpreters and transcripts.
Wolff expects some layoffs to be made well before Sept. 30 because severance pay and unemployment benefits will have to come out of this year’s budget. Hawaii’s congressional delegation and Hawaii judiciary officials are expected to meet this week to see if any cuts can be avoided.
Public defenders in other states said cases likely will be shifted to private attorneys who charge more. In some cases, trials are being delayed and public defenders are rethinking costs associated with defending clients, including experts who testify at trial or help investigate.
Welfare program ends for Kauai farmers markets
LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — The Kauai Independent Food Bank no longer has the funds to continue a food stamp program at farmers markets.
As of Saturday, the Electronic Benefits Transfer funds are no longer accepted at farmers markets. EBT allows the state to deposit welfare benefits onto a debit card, which shoppers can use to buy groceries.
The food bank started the program with a grant in 2012 to allow EBT funds to be used at four of Kauai’s sunshine markets. The program was later expanded.
The Garden Island reports the county provided $40,000 to give EBT recipients double purchasing power, increasing their access to locally grown produce.
But the food bank has since run out of money to continue the program.
The food bank is hopeful an organization can resume the program.
Man charged in late-night dump truck chase
HONOLULU (AP) — Police in Honolulu say a 43-year-old man stole a dump truck and trailer and led officers on a chase that ended with a swim in the Pacific.
KHON-TV (http://bit.ly/14JIjVL) reports Allen James Pitts was led from the water in handcuffs Saturday night. He’s charged with criminal property damage, reckless endangerment and unauthorized control of a vehicle.
Witnesses spotted police chasing the truck past the Waikiki Aquarium. It made a U-turn and dodged a barricade before mowing down parking meters and a police car.
The truck smashed into a palm tree and the driver jumped out, ran into the ocean and swam away.
A Honolulu Fire Department helicopter spotted Pitts a hundred yards off shore.
Police say he spent 90 minutes in the water and was arrested at Sans Souci Beach.
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