Much of the Senate’s time this week will be taken up by amendment from Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] and his Republican colleagues to strike earmarks from the bill. Subscription-only CongressDaily has the scoop:
McCain is looking to block $195,000 for renovation of the Emmett Till Memorial Complex in Tallahatchie County, Miss., as well as $500,000 to construct a beach park promenade in Pascagoula, Miss., both requested by Appropriations ranking member Thad Cochran and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. McCain also wants to strip $500,000 from the bill requested by Reid to provide a credit counseling service in Las Vegas. The Arizonan has targeted transit projects, including $85 million requested by Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Mark Warner, D-Va., to help fund an extension of Washington’s subway system to Washington Dulles International Airport. McCain also wants to strike $30 million for the Honolulu High Capacity Transit Corridor Project, sought by Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye and Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, as well as $75 million for the Houston North Corridor Light Rail Transit requested by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.
Gossip has been swirling around DC lately that there would be a big game of musical chairs in Senate committee chairmanships, due to the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy. Today the music got turned up loud, and chairs were, in fact, moved. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark) will become the new chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry (Lincoln, in photo). Sen. Lincoln is the first woman and first Arkansan to ever lead the Ag committee in its 184 year history, but it’s not her only first: She was the youngest woman ever elected to the senate, at age 38, in 1998. She also has long experience with Ag issues; her father was a farmer, and she’s a second term Dem who defends crop subsidies, has served on Ag sub committees, and founded a Senate group that focuses on hunger. She also has lots of constituents who are farmers, particularly of cotton, poultry, and rice.
KAHULUI – Environmentalists and farmers lashed out Thursday night at the announced layoffs of state agricultural inspectors, arguing that the move planned by the Lingle administration would uproot efforts to preserve the island’s agricultural industry and pristine environment.
Close to 100 people turned out at a Senate Ad Hoc Committee meeting held in the Maui Waena Intermediate School cafeteria. The crowd applauded those who spoke against the layoffs, some even attacking Gov. Linda Lingle.
KAHULUI – The Hawaii State Senate Ad Hoc Committee will hold an informational briefing today on how the layoffs of agricultural inspectors will impact Maui.
Coordinated by Maui Sens. Roz Baker, J. Kalani English and Shan Tsutsui, the meeting will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Maui Waena Intermediate School.
The Maui office of the state Department of Agriculture Plant Quarantine Branch would lose six of 17 positions in layoffs planned for November. Statewide, more than half the department’s agricultural inspectors would be cut.
The head of the Plant Quarantine Branch said last week that the layoffs could mean long delays for imports into the state and could make Hawaii vulnerable to invasive pests.
Similar briefings were held in Kona, Hilo and Honolulu.
Last Friday’s daylong meeting of the State Land Use Commission, to rule on a petition by mega-developer D.R. Horton-Schuler to change the current zoning on 1,500 acres of prime ‘Ewa farmland from agriculture to mixed-use residential and commercial, was anything but boring.
Here’s Kioni Dudley, intervenor in the case, whom some have called the leader of the opposition: “In the beginning, over two years ago, this was just a gut feeling I had.” Now, it is more than a feeling, as Mr. Dudley–and everyone else with a sore gut over the proposed zone change–has picked up some unexpected allies, in the form of at least three State agencies and several local politicians.
Listen to Bryan Yee of the Attorney General’s office, speaking for the State Office of Planning: “We now know that if the petition [for the zoning change] goes through, H-I will be a parking lot from Waiawa to Makakilo. And the petitioner (Schuler) isn’t proposing any solutions.”
CTAHR dean details impacts of ag. inspectors layoffs
Updated at 3:27 am, Thursday, August 20, 2009.
Andrew Hashimoto, dean and director of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, gave the following testimony to the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee about the potential impacts of laying off Department of Agriculture staff.
I am pleased to provide personal testimony relating to the potential impacts on the community and agricultural industry on the Big Island, arising from the anticipated reduction and possible elimination of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Plant Quarantine Branch. This testimony does not represent the position of the University of Hawaii or CTAHR.
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) has 329 “permanent” employees, of which 118 (approximately 36 percent) have received notices for layoff.
The Plant Quarantine (PQ) Branch will be especially hard hit. It has a total of 78 inspectors and 16 technicians (aides).
Of that, 50 inspectors and two technicians (all general funded) have been given notices. The remainder (11 inspectors and 14 technicians) are paid from special funds.
Most of the inspectors to be laid off will be from the neighbor islands. Information on the number of layoffs for each of the other HDOA branches is not known. The impact of the layoff in the PQ branch is discussed.
The Senate Ad-hoc Committee chaired by Sen. Russell Kokubun is hosting a series of info briefings to address recent proposed changes by the Lingle administration and discuss the potential impact these changes will have on the state.
Gov. Linda Lingle last week announced her plans to layoff approximately 80 percent of Department of Agriculture personnel in an effort to help close a budget deficit.
Many Big Island lawmakers and residents are concerned about the devastating effect this will have on the local agriculture industry.
The announcement followed a news conference Lingle held the week prior during which she announced plans to cut staff and close Kulani Correctional Facility.
In addition to the Big Island meetings, more are scheduled early next week on the island of Oahu.
* Hilo: 5-8 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 13 at Aupuni Center – County Conference Room
* Kona: 5-8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14, Kealakehe High School Cafeteria
For more information, contact Senator Kokubun’s office at (808) 586-6760.Big Island legislators to host info briefing
We conducted this audit in response to Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 176, of the 2007 legislative session. The Moloka’i Irrigation System provides about 1.4 billion gallons of water annually to its users. Construction was started in 1957 to bring water from the eastern end of Moloka’i to the central farming areas as part of a federal and state commitment to native Hawaiian homesteaders. The system consists of collection dams and deep wells; a transmission tunnel, pipes, and flume; a reservoir; and distribution pipes to customers. Among the customers is the Moloka’i Ranch, via a rental agreement.
We found that while the Department of Agriculture inherited a broken system, little has been done to learn about system problems or to create a plan to address them. The department received historical data on the system from the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and yet it was not clear that department personnel understood the significance of its history. Numerous studies recommended management and operational improvements. For example, problems reported in a 1987 study still exist today, unadressed.
The department?s flawed management endangers agriculture in Moloka’i. It has been unable to reconcile its responsibilities as stewards to the irrigation system and obligations to the Hawaiian homesteaders. While it recognizes the homesteaders’ two-thirds water preference accorded by Section 168-4, HRS, this is not reflected in any planning. Non-homestead farmers consume approximately 80 percent of the system’s available water. Effectively, the two seemingly complementary responsibilities have become competitors with the needs of the homesteaders subsumed to the interests of larger agricultural business.