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.

ADDENDUM

Mitch Kahle of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church told Civil Beat that there are factual errors in the “God Bless the Senate” item posted yesterday (see below).

Here is Kahle’s e-mail to me, which was sent Saturday morning, Jan. 14. Italics indicate my original post, plain text Kahle’s response:

Chad please fact check your reporting.

“The state Senate’s proposal to end the practice of beginning a floor session with an invocation, which will be voted on in Senate rules changes next week, does not have the complete support of every senator.

David Ige and Suzanne Chun Oakland told Civil Beat some senators would prefer to have more discussion and perhaps reach a compromise – for example, an invocation before the Senate is gaveled into session.

Some senators are also uncomfortable that the invocation is being halted to essentially kill a lawsuit from the Hawaii Citizens for Separation of Church and State. Members of the group allege they were roughed up by Capitol security after they verbally interrupted an invocation last April.”

HCSSC did not file a lawsuit. I did, along with Kevin Hughes.

Our lawsuit will NOT be “halted” by any change in the Senate invocation.

Read the complaint.

“The invocations have been given by a wide variety of people of faith over the years, and no single religion has been promoted above all others.”

This is entirely false. Olelo video proves 90% of Senate invocations over two years were delivered by Christian ministers with decidedly Christian themes.

The law prohibits ALL sectarian language – one violation is all it takes to trigger a lawsuit.

“The state House, meanwhile, is seeking legal advice on what it should do about House invocations, while the Honolulu City Council has considered making its invocation secular.”

The AG has provided both the Senate and House with rules and guidelines, which they are legally obligated to follow.

Sincerely,

Mitch Kahle

My response: Several state senators told me dropping the invocation was proposed as a way to settle Kahle’s lawsuit. There is also a complaint that was filed by the ACLU of Hawaii last August about the “decidedly Christian prayers — with reference to Jesus Christ.”

I was also told that invocations have included members of other faiths, and I know from my own coverage of floor sessions that that has been the case. But, I have not reviewed the Olelo video Kahle refers to.

Kahle is correct — the complaint was filed on behalf of him and Kevin Hughes. Read it in its entirety here.

4:20 p.m. Willie K! Society of Seven! Mark Recktenwald!

The state Senate has released its opening day agenda for next Wednesday.

In addition to speeches by Shan Tsutsui and Sam Slom, the event features Danny Kaleikini singing the National Anthem and “Hawaii Ponoi” and entertainment by the Kamehameha Schools Children’s Chorus, Society of Seven and Willie K.

Mark Recktenwald will administer the oath of office for the lawmakers.

Over in House chambers, meanwhile … um, sorry, nothing set yet. Please check back later.

3:51 p.m. Republican Caucus ‘Moving Forward’

The eight GOP state House members today said they are “moving forward with committee assignments regardless of the Minority Democrats dispute with Speaker Say.”

The members — including three freshmen — will cover 30 positions on 18 different subject committees.

The caucus will also introduce a package of bills to “ensure taxes are not raised,” “control government spending and maintain fiscal discipline,” “Increase government accountability and reduce the size and scope of government,” “create an economic environment to help local businesses thrive, create jobs and attract international investment ” and “stimulate and accelerate student learning.”

2:55 p.m. Kaauwai: Fare Thee Well, Michael Steele

Hawaii Republican Party Chairman Jonah Kaauwai released this statement today on the election of Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus:

“I would like to congratulate our new RNC Chairman on his election. I am proud to have joined the other Island members of the RNC in voting for Chairman Priebus. We recognized that Reince is a proven winner and the effective leader the RNC needs going into the 2012 election. I look forward to working with him to take back the majority in the U.S. Senate and win back the White House. I would also like to thank former Chairman Michael Steele for his service to our party and country. Chairman Steele supported Hawaii like no other RNC Chairman in history and we will forever be grateful. I wish Michael well on his future endeavors, our country needs more leaders like him.”

1:11 p.m. $1.15 For a Cup of Joe

Legislative staffers have noticed that the snack shop on the chamber level of the Capitol raised its prices sometime over the past month or so. A 12-oz. coffee, for example, is up 15 cents to $1.15.

Civil Beat — which cannot survive without caffeinated beverages — asked the gentle man manning the cashier about the price increases. “Sorry, braddah, I just take your money,” he replied. “Ask Dave.”

“Dave” wasn’t around, so a message was left with the Hawaii Association of the Blind, as Civil Beat was told the Hawaii Blind Vendors Association manages the snack shop.

This much Civil Beat can confirm: If a Starbucks replaced the Capitol’s snack shop and a 1 cent surcharge was levied on all purchases, the state would easily eliminate the $800 million deficit in the next biennium.

11:09 a.m. God Bless the Senate?

The state Senate‘s proposal to end the practice of beginning a floor session with an invocation, which will be voted on in Senate rules changes next week, does not have the complete support of every senator.

David Ige and Suzanne Chun Oakland told Civil Beat some senators would prefer to have more discussion and perhaps reach a compromise — for example, an invocation before the Senate is gaveled into session.

Some senators are also uncomfortable that the invocation is being halted to essentially kill a lawsuit from the Hawaii Citizens for Separation of Church and State. Members of the group allege they were roughed up by Capitol security after they verbally interrupted an invocation last April.

The invocations have been given by a wide variety of people of faith over the years, and no single religion has been promoted above all others.

The state House, meanwhile, is seeking legal advice on what it should do about House invocations, while the Honolulu City Council has considered making its invocation secular.

10:28 a.m. What to Call the Governor’s Residence?

Until Linda Lingle, Hawaii governors lived in the historic Washington Place, the home of Queen Liliuokalani. When Lingle was elected in 2002, she moved into a newly built residence on the property.

Neil Abercrombie and wife Nancie Caraway have yet to move into the residence, comfortable in their longtime Manoa digs and busy with transition, Amy Asselbaye told lawmakers this morning.

The governor will move in soon, however, and he’d like to come up with a formal name for the residence, ideally after consulting Native Hawaiian cultural experts. One possibility: Hale Kia Aina, or “home of the governor.”

Sen. Pohai Ryan has this suggestion: Hale One.

9:55 a.m. Hirono Aide Lands New Job

Pacific Business News reports that John White, former chief of staff to Mazie Hirono and an unsuccessful candidate for Honolulu City Council in 2010, is the new executive director of Pacific Resource Partnership.

PRP represents top contractors and the 7,600-member Hawaii Carpenters Union concerning relations between labor and management.

White, 35, who replaces Kyle Chock, may be a candidate for future office, so the labor cred and developer support will come in handy.

8:50 a.m. Maui Wowee

Appearing on the PBS show Island Insights last night, Calvin Say said lawmakers may have to be open to ideas that have previously received lukewarm interest.

Those ideas: legalizing gambling and marijuana, and leasing or selling state lands not being used for other purposes.

Say was not taking a position but merely suggesting that “everything be on the table” as Hawaii looks for ways to find revenue streams to close budget deficits.

Budget Hearings Continue

Almost done, but not quite. Another week, tops. Maybe.

  • At 9 a.m., the office of governor and lieutenant governor will present their budget requests to the Senate Ways and Means committee.

  • At 1:30 p.m., House Finance will hear from the same departments.

    Possible question: Is it true that some staff are working without pay, as has been reported? Funding actually expired Dec. 31.

  • At 9 a.m., House Finance will listen to testimony from the ag department and the AG’s office.

  • At 1:30 p.m., Ways and Means will hear from state libraries and charter schools.

    Possible question: Will library hours ever be restored to previous schedules? Not without more funding.

Cam Cavasso ‘Worst’ Senate Candidate

The Swing State Project, which reports on elections across the country, has included Hawaii Republican Cam Cavasso its “worst” Senate candidate in 2010.

Cavasso, you’ll recall, was creamed by Dan Inouye, who took more than 70 percent of the total vote.

Cavasso “won a mere fifth of the vote” against Inouye, whom Swing State called “an institution.”

Quoting Lingle

Internet “answer engine” True Knowledge turns up four “quotables” from Linda Lingle:

“Politicians all too often think about the next election. Statesmen think about the next generation.”

“I truly believe the brightest days lie ahead for the Great State of Hawaii.”

“Good schools, good jobs, good government. These are not unreasonable demands. But sadly, some of our people have already lost heart and have left Hawaii to look for these things elsewhere.”

“Chronically homeless means constantly homeless; it means repeatedly homeless.”


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