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

4:02 p.m. Prepping the Palace

Neil Abercrombie transition aides walked local TV reporters around Iolani Palace this afternoon in preparation for the Dec. 6 inauguration. Asked who the entertainment might be — Willie Nelson? Willie K? Dennis Kamakahi? — coordinator Karey Kapoi just smiled.

At Abercrombie’s campaign HQ at Ward Warehouse, phones were ringing and thank you notes were being penned, but otherwise it was pretty quiet. A note hanging on the door gave the phone number (587-4002) for the transition office downtown.

At that office, people were coming and going. One guest of note: a representative of the Secret Service, who politely declined to say more.

2:32 p.m. News From the Senators Dan

One of Daniel Akaka‘s bills is heading to President Obama for his signature. No, not the Akaka bill — the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which Akaka sponsored with George V. Voinovich (R, Ohio).

The bill, which passed the House today 254-152 — Mazie Hirono and Charles Djou voted “aye” — makes federal employees eligible to “telework” from home, saving travel costs and helping with retention.

In other congressional news, Akaka and Daniel K. Inouye announced today that they helped secure a $110 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand hydroelectric power plants and a biodiesel refinery on Kauai.

11:14 a.m. Senate Revises Committees

The state Senate has settled on final leadership and standing committee assignments for the 2011 session.

Of note: Friend of labor Dwight Takamine is vice-chairman on Clayton Hee‘s judiciary and labor committee; Kauai freshman Ronald Kouchi is vice-chairman of Donna Mercado Kim‘s tourism committee; and Michelle Kidani is vice-chairwoman of no less than three committees, including two big ones: Jill Tokuda‘s education committee (now combining higher and lower education) and David Ige’s ways and means.

Donna Kim also has a position on ways and means, which she formerly chaired. Lone Republican Sam Slom sits on all 14 committees — a minority voice, but one that will no doubt speak its mind freely. And whoever is appointed to replace Colleen Hanabusa in Senate District 21 will sit on four committees, including Hawaiian affairs (the district has a significant Hawaiian population).

10:02 a.m. Still No Decision On House Speaker

Despite the fact that House members still haven’t decided who will lead the chamber, representatives continue to work under existing chairmanships.

Ag chairman Clift Tsuji, for example, and the state’s Advisory Committee on Plants and Animals met yesterday to discuss Big Island quarantine zones to control infestation of the Kona coffee berry borer. And public safety chairwoman Faye Hanohano has been meeting with Will Espero, co-chair of a joint legislative task force on illegal fireworks.

But the stalemate on leadership does make it difficult to work too far ahead. Rida Cabanilla, who along with John Mizuno has led House efforts to address homelessness and affordable housing, told stakeholders this week that there might be changes in chairmanships, which could impact legislative priorities.

7:05 a.m. New Day, New Beginning, Old Inauguration Location

Team Abercrombie is working out the details for the Dec. 6 inauguration festivities. Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie will address the public from the Iolani Palace bandstand, as his predecessors Ben Cayetano and John Waihee did when they were elected governor.

Nearly eight years ago, Gov. Linda Lingle gave her inauguration-day speech from the State Capitol rotunda.

Lingle began a two-term stint as Hawaii governor with a “new beginning” campaign.

The Honolulu Advertiser wrote in 2002 that Lingle’s “three main” priorities were “restoring integrity in government, expanding and diversifying the economy and improving public education.”

Eight years later, those goals are echoed in Abercrombie’s “New Day in Hawaii” theme.


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