Welcome to Capitol Watch. There’s a new governor, new leadership at the Legislature and other government branches, and Civil Beat is reporting on all of it.

5:05 p.m. Hooser In Da House

Gary Hooser is offering his spin on the power struggle in the state House of Representatives.

Hooser says understanding four rules helps understand what’s going on with the challenge to Calvin Say: majorities control power (so you better learn how to count), swing votes create leverage (the last member who comes on board to create a majority is the most important), leverage magnifies power (the most powerful position to be in as a legislator is to be in a situation where your vote or your support is essential) and factions maximize leverage (solid factions that stick together represent a powerful dynamic).

Fundamentally, it’s all about quid pro quo, says the former state senator and Kauai Councilman: “In the big square building, rarely is anything given without something being asked for in return.”

3:53 p.m. Local GOP In Financial Straits?

An Associated Press article reports that the Hawaii Republican Party is having trouble paying the bills and is thinking about selling its Honolulu headquarters on Kapiolani Boulevard.

Chairman Jonah Kaauwai dismisses the claims, but it seems some party members are increasingly dissatisfied with current leadership given the poor performance of Republicans in the 2010 Hawaii elections.

12:32 p.m. Abercrombie Still Living In Manoa

Although the inauguration was a week ago, Neil Abercrombie and Nancie Caraway have yet to move from their longtime Manoa digs into the governor’s residence on the grounds of Washington Place.

The governor’s press people were checking to see when the move would happen. But the governor and first lady will be on hand for a hosting of a Christmas Open House from 5:30-8 p.m. this Friday.

Reservations are required; call 586-0248 by Thursday. A $5 donation to the Washington Place Foundation is suggested for adults.

11:04 a.m. Akaka Bill Update

Dan Inouye has inserted a clause about the Akaka bill into the 2011 Consolidated Appropriations Act, the omnibus package that means to keep the U.S. government running. (Read the highlights here.)

The section on the Akaka bill — on page 809 of a 1,294-page bill, mind you — does not call for the controversial legislation’s passage, as some conservative groups have recently warned. Rather, it gives the Interior Department authority and funding to set up a “mechanism for the reorganization of a Native Hawaiian governing entity and recognition by the United States of the Native Hawaiian governing entity as an Indian tribe within the meaning of Articles I and II of the Constitution.”

As Dan Akaka‘s spokesman, Jesse Broder Van Dyke, explains, the provision essentially calls for the writing of a report on the best way to move forward should the Akaka bill become law — something that he says remains a priority for Akaka. But the Congress is consumed with myriad other issues as it works through its lame-duck session, he adds.

Of note: Clyde Namuo of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is in D.C. this week. OHA spokeswoman Jennifer Armstrong says one reason for the visit is “to support our Senators in the passing of the Akaka bill. However, their main focus this time around is to meet with respective people on topics that have an important role in supporting our initiatives, specifically involving education, health and human services.”

10:14 a.m. Musical Chairs on the Big Isle

Neil Abercrombie, pressed by local media during a Big Island visit Monday, said that yet another state senator from the island may go to work for him.

The name of Josh Green, an M.D., has been mentioned before as a candidate for health director. The names of several community health center doctors on Oahu have also cropped up.

Meanwhile, West Hawaii Today reports that more than 15 people have applied for Russell Kokubun’s senate seat (including Gary Safarik, Richard Ha and Faye Hanohano) and six (including Mark Nakashima, Lorraine Inouye, Malama Solomon and Donald Ikeda) are seeking the seat vacated by Dwight Takamine.

Hanohano and Nakashima currently hold state House seats, which would create more vacancies should they be named senators. Only three names will be selected for each seat by Big Island precinct officials, with Abercrombie making the final selection.

9:24 a.m. Hannemann’s New Gig?

Hawaii News Now is reporting that Mufi Hannemann will lead the Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association.

A spokeswoman for the association said she could not confirm the report, but the job is open: Former President Murray Towill retired in August and moved to Nevada.

Hannemann, a strong proponent of tourism, received the Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association’s endorsement during his unsuccessful run for governor. The nonprofit trade association is a key advocate for hotel management and owners in the local visitor industry.

Kawamoto? Kahala? Auwe!

Barbara Marumumoto, whose District 19 includes Kahala, and the Kahala Community Association meet at 7 p.m. at the Kahala Park Pavilion to seek input on a proposal by Japanese billionaire Gensiro Kawamoto.

“Mr. Kawamoto owns two-dozen homes on Kahala Avenue and has allowed most of these homes to become rundown and overgrown,” according to Marumoto. “He has accumulated over 50 citations in the process and demolished several multi-million dollar homes. Now he is talking about establishing an art museum on two adjacent lots in this single family neighborhood.”

Also at the meeting will be Councilman Stanley Chang, Neighborhood Board No. 3 Chairman Scotty Anderson, Rep. Mark Hashem and Sen. Sam Slom.

State Senators Head to Taiwan

Kalani English, Will Espero, Mike Gabbard, Michelle Kidani, Clarence Nishihara, Pohai Ryan and Glenn Wakai leave today for a seven-day visit to Taiwan.

The trip, sponsored by the Taiwan government and costing no Hawaii taxpayer money, is intended to “to enhance mutual understanding and cooperation between the Unites States and Taiwan,” according to the delegation. The trip was approved by the State Ethics Commission last week.

The itinerary for the senators, all Democrats, includes visits to the Tourism Bureau, the Department of Rapid Transit Systems, the Council of Indigenous Peoples and the Bureau of Energy. They will also visit the Luxgen Motor Co, which manufactures electric cars, and the iWind Energy Co., an alternative energy company.

‘Tax Bill Affects Us All’

Mazie Hirono is asking constituents to share their views on the package of tax cuts, unemployment benefits and the estate tax credit that is headed to the House.

Last week, Hirono sided with majority Democrats in opposing the bill — particular the part about continuing tax breaks for the richest Americans. But, she said in a recent e-mail, “This fight has real life pocketbook consequences for millions of unemployed Americans and middle class families next year.”

Hirono’s office can be reached at (808) 541-1986 or via HI02taxquestions@mail.house.gov. Charles Djou is expected to vote in favor of the package, as Hawaii’s senators have already done.

Catch up on our previous coverage:

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