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.

5:12 p.m. Kenoi Talks Budget Realities

West Hawaii Today reports that Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi will ask the state for more financial help.

“The unavoidable truth is we now have a county government that we cannot afford,” Kenoi said in a letter to the Legislature. “Government must do more with less, and programs that are not essential to our core county mission must be set aside.”

Kenoi, the paper reported, said his administration is still deciding which programs may end up being considered outside of that core.

5:08 p.m. Koller Lands Job With Another Governor

The Associated Press reports former Hawaii Department of Human Services Director Lillian Koller has been named to lead South Carolina’s Department of Social Services.

The appointment was made by Gov. Nikki Haley a Republican.

The AP said Koller accepted the South Carolina job “because she was impressed by Haley.”

4:07 p.m. Inouye: Democrats Must Unite

Dan Inouye told reporters in his Honolulu office this afternoon that voters won’t be happy unless Democrats in the state House settle their interminable squabble over leadership.

“They may get disgusted,” he said of constituents, adding that the struggle is all the more glaring given the lopsided 43-8 majority Democrats have over the GOP.

Inouye plans to meet with the leadership of both the House and Senate tomorrow at the Capitol.

1:44 p.m. Gov: UH No Ka Oi

Neil Abercrombie brought a ballroom audience to its feet at the Sheraton Waikiki today, saying he owes everything he’s done to his education at the University of Hawaii.

“Everything I hope to be as governor, my justification for my time here on Earth, is because I had one of the best graduate educations in world,” said Abercrombie, who referred to the UH system as “one of the real secrets of this country.”

Abercrombie, who was addressing a UH-sponsored innovation-academic conference, also enthusiastically endorsed a draft report produced by the Advisory Council on Hawaii Innovation and Technology Advancement,” a council appointed by UH President M.R.C. Greenwood**.

The reports recommendations include identifying research as a Hawaii industry, establishing a Hawaii Innovation Technology Exchange Institute and encouraging collaboration by integrating entrepreneurship into the university’s curriculum.

The governor also elicited the usual laughs from his audience, especially when he noted that “the president of the United States was born Aug. 4, 1961, at Kapiolani Hospital.”

As is well known, Barack Obama‘s parents met at UH.

11:36 a.m. Ariyoshi: Space Is Hawaii’s Final Frontier

Former Gov. George Ariyoshi urged lawmakers at a hearing this morning to invest in the state’s potential for space exploration.

“I feel very strongly about this aerospace program to expand our economic base and have technology companies come here,” he said. “But we lose them a lot because there is no anchor here.”

Ariyoshi has spoke to Sen. Daniel K. Inouye about helping fund space programs in Hawaii.

Hawaii could serve as a site to launch satellites and commercial space transportation. The building of a lunar research park on the Big Island could attract international interest, lawmakers were told by industry experts.

Among Hawaii’s advantages in the space industry are telescopes on Mauna Kea and Haleakala and the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai.

10:59 a.m. House, Senate Leaders on PBS

Dan Boylan*’s “Island Insights” features Calvin Say, David Ige, Gene Ward and Andrew Aoki** to preview the 2011 session.

Should be some fireworks, yeah?

The program begins at 7:30 p.m. on PBS Hawaii. (There’s a online discussion as well.)

9:49 a.m. Roundtable With Lawmakers, Business Types

From noon to 1:30 today in Capitol Conference Room 224, Calvin Say, Shan Tsutsui, David Ige, Marcus Oshiro and other legislators will sit on a panel to talk with the executives of local companies like Aloha Tofu Factory and Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii.

The topics will no doubt include the economy, Hawaii’s poor business climate and what the Legislature can do about it. (Hint: Do not raise taxes.)

It’s a pre-registered program with lunch, but the public can be accommodated on a space-available basis.

The event sponsors are the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Advocacy Committees.

No Breakthrough in Speaker Saga

Calvin Say and his supporters met for about an hour late yesterday afternoon, but still no progress in the impasse over speaker.

Say supporters are hoping to receive an counteroffer from the House dissidents concerning leadership posts and committee chairs.

Dissident leader Sylvia Luke has requested a one-on-one meeting with Say, which he is trying to accommodate.

It’s Academic for Abercrombie

The governor is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the UH/National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Innovation Symposium at noon today.

The symposium will be at the Sheraton Waikiki’s Kauai Ballroom.

Dan Inouye will deliver brief remarks to the same group at 9 a.m. At noon, the senator will speak at a Navy League luncheon in the Pacific Beach Hotel’s Marlin Room.

Inouye: Now Not the Time to ‘Play Politics’

Speaking of Sen. Inouye, here’s highlights from his thoughts upon being sworn in for his ninth term:

As I begin my ninth term, I do so with the same passion and determination I have brought to Washington, D.C. over these many years.

I truly hope we will dispense with the harsh rhetoric in Washington and work together to provide for the unique needs of our individual constituents and communities.

Last month, we lost out on the opportunity to pass an omnibus federal budget. The failed omnibus included 141 earmarks, totaling about $321 million for Hawaii.

Hawaii was not the only state to lose out on funding that would have come from congressional initiatives. Many of my Republican colleagues spent the holiday season explaining why they did not deliver what they promised. Hopefully, those conversations provided some perspective to remind my colleagues that now is not the time to play politics with the financial security of the American people.

At the Ledge: NASA, DOH, AG, Public Safety

Hungry for an informational briefing?

• At 9:30 a.m., two Senate and one House committee will hear (in Conference Room 329) from NASA, the Hawaii Aerospace Advisory Committee, the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, UH and the Hawaii Office of Aerospace Development.

Why? Lawmakers believe there are opportunities in space.

• At 1:30 p.m., the House Finance committee hears (in Conference Room 308) from the Department of Health about their budget needs.

Don’t be surprised if legislators asks the DOH about Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

• And, at 2 p.m., Senate Ways and Means meets (in Conference Room 211) to listen to budget requests from the Attorney General‘s office and the Department of Public Safety.

Legislators may well ask about bringing Hawaii prisoners back home from mainland prisons.

Catch up on our previous week’s coverage:

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