State briefs, Feb. 22

Oahu police, lawmakers probe game rooms

HONOLULU — Authorities on Oahu have cracked down on illegal game room establishments found in both commercial districts and residential communities this year.

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The Honolulu Police Department has seized cash and more than a dozen gambling machines across two illegal game rooms in February – one in Waimanalo and another on Sand Island, KHON-TV reported.

The department said last month more than two dozen gambling machines, cash and drugs were seized from another two locations in Kakaako, a neighborhood in Honolulu.

Residents have raised concerns that the game rooms are contributing to other problems and safety concerns.

“Many times you have, you know, people loitering 2, 3 o’clock in the morning, fights, violence, and in some cases, residents hearing gunshots right outside their homes,” said Jacob Aki, a resident and former Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board member. “It’s become more rampant in recent years.”

Democratic state Rep. Sonny Ganaden, who represents Sand Island and Kalihi Kai, has said some of the gambling activity has returned to the same areas, creating what he called a constant cycle.

“They complain about the same pieces of property often. So, a game room will open. It will be shut down. It will be reopened with new operators,” Ganaden said.

Aki said he hopes authorities can come up with a solution to stop illegal game rooms from reopening once they are closed down.

“It’s not a quick fix and not something that can be solved overnight,” Aki said.

Oahu authorities catch illegal ball python, iguana

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Department of Agriculture has captured a ball python and an iguana in separate residential areas on Oahu, both of which are illegal to own in the state.

The Honolulu Police Department responded on Monday to home in Aiea after a resident reported seeing a 3-foot-long snake at a neighbor’s home. Arriving officers covered the snake, identified as a ball python, with a trash can and called agricultural inspectors, who then took it to a department quarantine facility.

Ball pythons are not poisonous and are commonly traded as pets in the U.S., but pose a threat to Hawaii’s environment as they can prey on native birds and their eggs. It is unclear if the snake escaped from the home, northwest of Honolulu.

The reptiles are native to western and west-central Africa and primarily subdues prey by constricting and suffocating them. Ball pythons can grow up to 6 feet long.

Police said in a separate incident that a woman on Tuesday reported an iguana in her backyard on Kumuhau Street in Waimanalo, northeast of Honolulu. Arriving officers contained the animal, more than 3 feet long, until agricultural inspectors arrived and transferred it to a quarantine facility.

Iguanas, native to central Mexico through South America, are known to have established populations in parts of the island, but they are illegal to import, possess and transport in the state.

Iguanas are typically vegetarian but are known to disturb bird nestlings and eat eggs. Department officials said their tails can be dangerous weapons in confrontations. The reptiles, like ball pythons, can also grow about 6 feet long.

Proposed law: tax gas cars worth $60K

HONOLULU — A proposed Hawaii state law would impose a new tax on gasoline-powered cars valued at $60,000 or more and use the funds to build electric vehicle infrastructure.

The proposed measure heard Tuesday by the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce would apply a 1% tax on such cars.

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Four out of five committee members voted to pass the bill out of the committee.

If passed, the tax would go into effect July 1 and sunset in 2030.

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