Welcome to Capitol Watch. Governor-Elect Neil Abercrombie is already in transition mode, there’s new leadership at the Legislature and other government branches, and Civil Beat is reporting on it all.

6:28 p.m. New gov wants to pick school board appointees

Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie said after meeting with the Senate Democratic caucus that he wants to hand-pick school board members, rather than having the appointment process come through a legislative committee or by some other means.

“That’s what I would prefer to do, and let the Legislature then — in the form of the Senate confirmation — make its views known as to whether they thought the appointments are good or not or in the best interest of education,” Abercrombie said. “That would be, I think, the most simple and direct response to what was passed by the public in early November.”

“That was his preference,” Sen. Clayton Hee said. “He also said that whatever the Legislature deemed to be appropriate … He said he’s not in the business of vetoing legislation but if there are difference of opinion then he’ll discuss them but at the end of the day he might exercise that prerogative.”

5:40 p.m. Abercrombie to release rainy-day funds

Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie said he will release rainy-day funding for a variety of programs “as quickly as I am able.”

“It was clearly the intent of the Legislature that those funds be utilized in this emergency,” Abercrombie said. “I fully intend to cooperate with the Legislature. I think that’s where the change comes in. It’s not a matter of the Executive and the Legislature dueling with one another. It’s a matter of each meeting their responsibilities on behalf of the public interest.”

Incoming Ways and Means Chairman Sen. David Ige said it’s a relief for legislators to hear Abercrombie’s stance.

“The current governor feels like it’s not worthy, so that was good news for us,” Ige told Civil Beat. “We believe that the social services safety net has been shredded. The rainy day fund not only provides much needed services to our community, it creates jobs, keeps people employed, and I think all of those things are good things.”

3:35 p.m. Governor-elect meets privately with senators

This afternoon represents the first time the new Senate is getting the chance to meet with Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie, and it’s a moment officials want to enjoy privately.

“This is the first time we’ve gotten together since the election and we’re really, really happy,” said Sen. Brickwood Galuteria. “But we also want to talk seriously. And we want to do this appropriately.”

Senators are meeting with Abercrombie in the Senate president’s office conference room, where pupu, soda and wine — three bottles — are set out for them.

3:07 p.m. State rolling out new website

The Legislature is revamping its web presence, with personal pages for House and Senate members that look more like dynamic Facebook profiles than static lawmaker bios.

Profiles include space for biographical info, but also links to bills and other documents, embedded video and photo galleries. As with any website, how useful it will be will depend upon the timeliness and quality of content provided.

The goal is to have the site ready to go by the time the new Legislative session begins in January.

Incoming Senate President Shan Tsutsui, for example, doesn’t have any videos or record of measures introduced. Sen. Roz Baker‘s page includes records of testimony and a video about state government’s paperless initiative.

2:51 p.m. Moving day at the Capitol

It’s likely they’ll keep their phone numbers the same, but about eight elected officials are moving into new offices at the State Capitol. The changes aren’t being made public yet, but they are expected to be finalized today. Judiciary Chair Sen. Clayton Hee, for example, is headed from the second floor up to the fourth floor.

1:58 p.m. Abercrombie to meet and greet senators

The governor-elect will address members of the Hawaii Senate at the State Capitol this afternoon. Incoming Senate President Shan Tsutsui invited Neil Abercrombie to meet with the Democratic caucus this afternoon.

11:29 a.m. Thousands apply to work with new governor

The Abercrombie transition team is sifting through 2,430 résumés submitted since Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie put out the call for applicants less than two weeks ago.

Today marks the suggested deadline to apply through the new administration’s new website, but those interested in working with Abercrombie are encouraged to continue to apply. Spokeswoman Laurie Au told Civil Beat that about 100 resumes are flowing in per hour so far today.

11:03 a.m. Abercrombie attends lecture by Daniel Ellsberg, who lauds Hawaii for electing the Democrat

Capitol Watch is always in effect, even when we run into the governor-elect by accident. Civil Beat caught a glimpse of Neil Abercrombie at the ACLU’s Davis Levin First Amendment Conference Saturday morning.

The event’s keynote speaker was Daniel Ellsberg, famous for leaking the Pentagon Papers to the press. When asked what regular citizens can do try keep the government in check, Ellsberg commended Hawaii voters for electing Abercrombie.

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