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.

5:13 p.m. Hanabusa One of Nine ‘Lonely’ House Dems

The Washington Post has an article that says Colleen Hanabusa is part of a “Mighty Nine” freshmen House Democrats who got elected despite the GOP wave in November.

“They defied last fall’s Republican landslide — winning mainly in strong Democratic districts — to become the smallest freshman class either party has put forth since at least 1915,” the Post said. The article also called them the “lonely” nine.

“The challenge is going to be not only being in the minority, but also being bottom of the pecking order,” said Hanabusa, 59, who defeated Republican incumbent Charles Djou. “These are the deck of cards we’ve been dealt. And we’ve got to make the most of it.”

The Post noted that Hanabusa will become one of eight Asian American representatives when she is sworn in tomorrow. Along with Mazie Hirono, the two women represent the only all-female House delegation from any state and the only one that is Buddhist.

4:13 p.m. Appointed DOE Board in 140 Characters

The new Senate Education Committee chairwoman, Jill Tokuda will conduct a “Twitter Town Hall” Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Tokuda will answer questions and take comments regarding the upcoming implementation, per recent constitutional amendment, legislation for an appointed Board of Education.

Here’s the Twitter info for those wanting to tweet in: www.twitter.com; Username: @jilltokuda; Hashtag: #askjill.

3:18 p.m. Obama Signs Akaka Bill (No, Not That One)

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, introduced by Dan Akaka, is now law.

The act provides for a “streamlined, less complex, and more equitable program for veterans” who have served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. It expands the number of eligible groups of National Guard/Reserves veterans omitted from previous legislation, increases educational opportunities by paying benefits for on-job and vocational training, and provides a $1,000 annual book allowance to troops training on active duty.

“With the signing of this bill, young veterans will now have an easier time utilizing the education benefits they have earned,” said Akaka, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman and a World War II veteran who attended college on the original GI Bill.

11:46 a.m. Grilling Kalbert Young

The state’s Budget and Finance director got an earful from lawmakers today as he went over the grim biennium budget — the one that faces an $850 million shortfall over the next two and a half fiscal years.

Though he asked for the “patience and indulgence” of the Legislature as the Abercrombie administration “works through the process” of revising the budget, lawmakers wanted answers from Kalbert Young and expressed dismay that the administration may not have the full budget submitted until mid-March.

“That really scares me,” said Isaac Choy.

Civil Beat will report on the hearing later today.

Young was followed by a spokesman for the state judiciary, who presented a PowerPoint on the court system’s $130.7 million budget and encountered few tough questions. Lawmakers seemed sympathetic to helping the courts with problems faced by furlough woes and the possibility the courts may have to cut programs that could lead to greater recidivism rates.

9:17 a.m. POTUS Airlines

Carol Lee of POLITICO at 2:29 a.m. this morning filed a report on the departure of Barack Obama and his family from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Catching the ride back to D.C. were Dan Akaka, Maxie Hirono and Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa.

Here Come the Judges

The House Finance Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee will convene at 9 a.m. in the Capitol Auditorium for a joint informational briefing on the state’s financial plan and biennium budget and Hawaii’s courts.

Presentations are scheduled for the First, Second, Third and Fifth Judicial Circuits Courts; the Court of Appeals; the Judicial Selection Commission; and the courts administration.

Update on Investigation of SLARS Investment

A joint House-Senate investigative committee on the Budget and Finance department’s handling of Hawaii’s investment in Student Loan Auction Rate Securities is set to submit its draft report to the Legislature.

A hearing to discuss the findings will be held at 3:30 p.m. today in Conference Room 211 at the Capitol.

Seeing the Light

A new traffic light has been installed at the corner of Kapolei Parkway and Kolowaka Drive, although it won’t be operational for a few months.

Still, the area’s House representative Rida Cabanilla, who pushed for the light, says it will improve pedestrian and driver safety — something that her constituents requested.

The traffic light was installed as part of a unilateral agreement between the City and County of Honolulu, the state and Gentry Homes.


Catch up on our previous coverage:

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