Ryan Finnerty

Government and Public Policy Reporter

Ryan Finnerty is Hawaiʻi Public Radio's award-winning Government and Public Policy reporter focusing on state and county politics, business, economics, the military, science, and the environment. Before that he was a producer and reporter on HPR's local public affairs talk show The Conversation. His work has been featured nationwide on NPR programs Morning Edition,  All Things Considered, and Here and Now, American Public Media's Marketplace and C-SPAN Radio's View from the States project. Before coming to Hawaiʻi Public Radio, Ryan was an officer in the U.S. Army stationed at Schofield Barracks on Oʻahu. He graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in economics.   

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A legislative proposal to build affordable apartment housing on state-owned land has come back from the dead. The bill appeared to have failed back in March, but was resurrected in the closing days of the legislative session.

Ryan Finnerty

Honolulu’s Ala Wai canal is one of the most polluted waterways in the country. It’s so contaminated that in 2006, a local resident died from bacterial infection after falling into the Ala Wai boat harbor. But one local group thinks they can make the canal safe for swimming and fishing in just 7 years, without spending millions of dollars.

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On May 1st, a stretch of Kuhio Highway on Kauai’s North Shore will reopen to the general public for the first time in more than a year. State and County officials are rolling out a new permit system that aims to limit the human impact on one of Hawaii’s most popular attractions: the Na Pali Coast.

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Local lawmakers are making another attempt to regulate short-term rentals. On Wednesday, the Honolulu City Council held a public hearing on the latest proposals to rein in Oahu’s vacation accommodations, like those rented on Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO.

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Problems counting mail-in ballots and an extremely small margin created chaos in the 2018 Honolulu City Council election between Tommy Waters and Trevor Ozawa. Several bills at the legislature aim to correct those problems.

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State lawmakers are scheduled to wrap up their 2019 session in less than three weeks. Friday marked a critical deadline for any bills that are still alive, a process called Second Crossover. 

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From the arrival of the first Polynesian settlers, to short term rentals and the tourism industry, a new book chronicles the history of human society in the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii: Eight Hundred Years of Political and Economic Change is the work of University of Hawaii economist Sumner La Croix.

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President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order requiring colleges and universities that receive federal funding to guarantee protections for free speech on campus. But according to one expert, there is a long history of free speech being constraining and pushed to the limits on campuses in the U.S.

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Hawaii lawmakers are on the path to eliminating a decades’ old exemption on corporate taxes for a certain class of real estate company. Real Estate Investment Trusts, or REITs, were created in Congress in 1960 and their profits are exempt from taxes by the federal government and 49 states.

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REITs Tax ExemptionBishop Museum, Flies & Biological Survey; Mayor Kirk Caldwell

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In December, President Trump signed the First Step Act into law. The bipartisan legislation was the first major reform to the federal criminal justice system in 30 years. The new law aims to reduce recidivism and lessen some mandatory minimum sentences. Last week the President announced a follow up effort: the Second Step Act.

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State lawmakers are looking for ways to improve healthcare for Micronesian residents, many of whom seek care at Hawaiʻi emergency rooms which often results in the state paying for their treatment.

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Raising Taxes on REITs; Arting and Writing; Oral History Project Waikiki Segment

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Honolulu is the third most expensive housing market in the country. That is according to a February analysis from the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization. But Hawaii has always been an expensive place to live, according to one of the state's top economists. 

Ryan Finnerty

Repair work continues on Oʻahu’s Pali Highway where landslides in February blocked the tunnels that connect Honolulu with the Windward side.

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Kunia Solar Farm; Monster Homes Bill; Molokai Renewable Energy; Remembering Linda Kaiser

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Eighty percent of Singapore’s 5.6 million residents live in public housing. A 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment can be purchased on the resale market for around $250,000 U.S. dollars. The island nation’s success in making housing affordable has caught the attention of lawmakers in Hawaiʻi.

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Humans are pumping a lot of carbon into our environment. Since most of those emissions come in the form of exhaust from power plants, ships, and cars, you might think that carbon stays in atmosphere. But much of it is actually stored in the oceans.

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Both Chamiande University and Hawaii Pacific University have plans to take over the doctoral psychology program from the now defunct Argosy University Hawaii. But uncertainty over accreditation has left students feeling vulnerable.

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Eighty students from six different islands rallied at the state Capitol on Wednesday to protest the high rates of teen vaping seen in Hawaiʻi's schools. According to the Hawaiʻi Public Health  Insititute, one in four Hawaiʻi middle school students has tried an e-cigarette device.

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Members of the Honolulu City Council’s Planning Committee advanced two measures that would represent a sweeping change to the way short-term rentals are regulated on Oahu. The move comes in the wake of a court decision upholding similar regulation in Santa Monica, California.  

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Chaminade University has gained approval from a court appointed manager to continue the doctoral program in clinical psychology previously run by the now defunct Argosy University Hawaii. The Argosy program was one of only two in the state that produced doctoral-level clinical psychologists.

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When Argosy University abruptly closed its nationwide network of campuses last week, 800 Hawaii students suddenly found themselves adrift. Argosy was home to one of the state’s two programs for producing doctoral level-clinical psychologists. Dozens of students were faced with the prospect of having to completely restart their training, which can take as long as six years.

More than $300 million in funding for military construction projects in Hawaii could potentially be diverted to pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. After declaring a national emergency, President Trump directed the Defense Department to identify projects from which funds could be repurposed.

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In 2012, the city of Hoboken, New Jersey experienced flooding in excess of 9 feet above normal levels. The city of 50,000 people, which sits just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, had sustained a nearly direct hit from a Category 3 hurricane. One source of flooding was a long-forgotten river, which had been paved over decades earlier.

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Argosy University is expected to permanently close its doors today. The private university has 22 campuses around the country, including three in Hawaii. Earlier this week, Argosy said it would likely cease operations at the end of the week, sending students and faculty scrambling.

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At a time when international institutions created by the West are increasingly under fire from growing nationalist sentiments, a group of nations in East Africa is pursuing greater unity. The East African Community began as a trade bloc between three countries. It has since expanded to include six member natinos, a common passport, and its own parliament and court system.

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A proposal currently with the state Senate would drastically increase funding for Hawaii’s public schools. SB 1474 would raise the state’s general excise tax, or GET, by 0.5%. It’s estimated that the increase would generate up to $350 million in revenue annually, with $200 million going to the Department of Education.

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Around the country, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies seize millions of dollars’ worth of property every year. That property is then sold and used to expand the budgets of those police agencies. A recent Supreme Court decision may signal a change in how the process can be applied.

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This week the nation's highest court announced it would hear a case concerning the discharge from a wastewater treatment plant in Lahaina. The case has potentially huge impacts for water pollution rules nationwide. At the center of the debate is how to regulate treated wastewater being injected underground.

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