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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.
2:45 p.m. Willie K, Na Leo Headline Inauguration Entertainment
The program begins at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 6, with swearing-in at noon and the ceremony ending at 12:30 p.m. A celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. on the grounds of the nearby Hawaii State Art Museum follows.
Entertainment includes the Niu Valley Middle School Band, the Hawaii Youth Opera, the 111th Army Band, Willie K, Na Leo, Kealoha, Beamer-Solomon Halau O Poohala and Kokua Kalihi Senior Group.
“Everyone is invited but tickets are required,” according to the Abercrombie-Schatz transition website. “Information regarding how to receive tickets will be available at a later date. Sign up at the top-right of this page to receive email alerts regarding ticket sign up and volunteer opportunities.”
1:45 p.m. Hirono Signs On To Social Security Pledge
Mazie Hirono is one of 81 U.S. representatives to lend their name to a letter to President Obama opposing any cuts to Social Security benefits, “including raising the retirement age,” and opposing any effort to privatize Social Security, “in whole or in part.”
New worries about Social Security’s vulnerability have arisen because of the Republican takeover of the House and the recommendation of a presidential commission calling for extension of the retirement age from 65 to 67 and a slight reduction in benefits.
11:16 a.m. Compromise House Speaker in the Works?
House Democrats remain stalemated over who will be their speaker — 24 for incumbent Calvin Say, 16 for Sylvia Luke, and Roy Takumi, Jessica Wooley and Cindy Evans on the fence.
Takumi, whose name is being bandied about as a compromise candidate, told Civil Beat today that he is open to new leadership if no candidate can get the necessary 26 votes among 43 House Democrats.
“But I believe a change should be a House that is united to as much a degree as possible rather then be divided. There should be a (leadership) lineup that really taps into the résumés and talents of everybody, as opposed to whoever is supporting the winning side.”
Takumi noted that many representatives have planned vacations, suggesting it may be difficult to get a vote over the holidays.
“It would be really tragic if we had to go to opening day to decide who is speaker,” said Takumi.
The 2011 Legislature opens Jan. 19.
Say has been speaker since 1999 and has survived coup attempts before from progressive types in the House, and he’s being advised to hunker down and wait for two more votes to come his way.
8:30 a.m. Abercrombie Won’t Fly To Colorado
Neil Abercrombie canceled his attendance this weekend at a National Governors Association seminar for new governors in Colorado Springs because his mother-in-law is ill.
Abercrombie’s chief of staff, Amy Asselbaye, and deputy chief of staff, Andrew Aoki, will represent their boss at the conference.
The NGA event is not to be confused with an RGA — Republican Governors Association — annual conference that concluded yesterday in San Diego and included Linda Lingle.
7:05 a.m. Civil Unions Bill Awaits House Re-Org
Democrats have the numbers to pass Hawaii civil unions legislation in the 2011 session and will have a Democratic governor who has said repeatedly he would sign such a measure. What Democrats don’t have is an end in sight to the leadership struggle in the House — and a new chair for the judiciary committee, where a new civil unions bill must be heard. Committee chairs largely determine whether a bill will even get a hearing.
As it stands right now, 24 Democrats have aligned themselves with Calvin Say, 16 with Sylvia Luke and three with neither candidate (there are also eight Republicans). Of all 51 members, it’s estimated 30 representative — including at least two Republicans — would vote in favor of civil unions, based on voter surveys and past voting records.
Discussion is already underway to introduce a new bill with a new bill number (i.e., it won’t be called House Bill 444). Changes will include fixing that retroactive clause that so upset members of the Hawaii Business Roundtable and including tax code and benefits language to address the fact that federal law does not recognize civil unions.
Catch up on our previous coverage: