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State briefs for January 31

Son of state Senate president hired as chamber lobbyist

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s leading business advocacy group hired a new lobbyist, the son of the state Senate president.

Chamber of Commerce Hawaii hired 28-year-old Dan Kouchi to serve as its new assistant vice president for government affairs and alliances, which some state officials say could disrupt proposals to increase the state minimum wage.

The chamber has been an outspoken opponent of proposals for minimum wage increases. Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, introduced a new bill that would incrementally increase the state minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Democratic Senate President Ron Kouchi said he sees no problem in his son lobbying at the state Legislature.

When asked if his son might use family ties to influence state issues, Kouchi said “the last time I checked, I paid his tuition and paid for his braces, so I don’t see how he has something over me.”

The Senate president’s obligation “first and foremost” is to his caucus, he said.

“Our business advocacy team tracks numerous bills and Dan, as part of the team, will be advocating at the county and state levels, including at the Legislature,” said Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of the chamber.

Carcass of young humpback whale washes up on Kauai

LIHUE, Kauai — Officials are investigating the death of a young humpback whale that washed up on a Kauai beach.

Kekaha resident Kevin Rogers told the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration about the carcass after finding it during a Monday morning beach walk.

The nearly 10-foot whale carcass was covered in wounds, Rogers said.

Kauai County Ocean Safety officials helped remove the carcass and took it to the Pacific Missile Range Facility for a necropsy.

A veterinarian contracted by NOAA and a University of Hawaii stranding team were flown from Oahu to examine the carcass, said David Schofield, a stranding coordinator for the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program. Officials were working to determine the cause of death.

The whale calf was likely dead in the water for some time, and the lacerations could have been caused by sharks, Schofield said.

“It’s too early to tell — we have to wait for the necropsy to be sure,” Schofield said.

Suspect in deadly Honolulu crash hospitalized

HONOLULU — Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said Tuesday that a suspected drunken driver who drove a pickup truck into a crowded intersection remains hospitalized after the crash killed three pedestrians.

Ballard said Monday evening’s crash is likely one of Honolulu’s deadliest pedestrian crashes in many years. She called it senseless.

She said the 26-year-old suspect is under arrest while hospitalized and faces manslaughter charges. She said speed and alcohol were involved.

Ballard said the truck veered across three lanes, climbed a traffic island, hit six pedestrians, hit a pole and then crashed into another truck. Two men and a woman were pronounced dead at the scene. Three, including the driver of the second truck, are in critical condition, and one was treated and released.

The two men killed were identified as 26-year-old Casimir Pokorny of Oreland, Pa., and 39-year-old William Lau of Honolulu. The identification of the 47-year-old woman is pending.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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