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.
4:16 p.m. Takayama Steps Down From LRB
After 31 years with the Legislative Reference Bureau, Ken Takayama is finally calling it quits. He started in 1979 as a staff attorney and retires today as its director.
Friends and co-workers — including House and Senate royalty — threw him a party on the Capitol’s fourth floor and state Senators presented him with an official proclamation.
“Ken’s retirement will allow him to care for family members, further polish his already considerable ballroom dancing skills, and satisfy his long-held dream of going to movies in the daytime,” the proclamation reads in part.
2:56 p.m. Labor, Budget Heads Chosen
Neil Abercrombie said Kalbert Young is his pick as Budget and Finance Director, while Dwight Takamine and Audrey Hidano will lead the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations as director and deputy director, respectively.
Takamine, 57, whose name had been rumored as an administration pick, is a state Senator from Hilo. (Abercrombie will select his Democratic replacement.) Takamine, a Colleen Hanabusa* acolyte, lost out in the recent Senate leadership shuffle when she left for Washington, D.C.
Hidano, 65, co-founded two construction companies including Hidano Construction — and was a generous donor to Abercrombie’s campaign for governor. Young, 41, has been the finance director of Maui County since 2004.
To date Abercrombie has identified six of his 16 Cabinet directors.
1:15 p.m. Assault and Battery at the Capitol?
Protestors Mitch Kahle and Kevin Hughes say their free-speech rights were violated on April 29, 2010, at the State Capitol.
Their attorneys are filing a 14-count civil suit in 1st Circuit Court today alleging assault and battery, false arrest and imprisonment, negligence and other violations.
The suit names the state, the state Senate sergeant-at-arms, Senate staff, sheriff’s deputies and other employees of the Hawaii Department of Public Safety.
The incident, which began in the Senate chamber gallery and ended in the Rotunda, was caught on videotape.
Kahle is a member of the Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of Church and State, which has protested issues such as the delivering of religious messages in government buildings — something that appears to have prompted the April 29 scuffle.
12:05 p.m. Inouye’s Stand on Earmarks
The bipartisan defeat of the proposed earmarks ban in the U.S. Senate today is a big victory for Dan Inouye and many in Hawaii who depend on his largess.
Inouye defended earmarks on the Senate floor Monday, saying, among other things, “The founding fathers bestowed upon the Congress the responsibility to determine how our taxes should be spent, rather than leaving those decisions to unelected bureaucrats in the Administration, and obviously with good reason. Certainly we can all agree that members of Congress who return home nearly every weekend to meet with their constituents have a much better understanding of what is needed in our cities and towns, and across rural America, than do the bureaucrats sitting in Washington D.C.”
The 18-minute video of Inouye can be viewed here, while the roughly 2,000-word speech can be read here.
10:29 a.m. Letting the Sun Shine In
The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has unveiled a new website to track Hawaii government spending, HawaiiSunshine.org.
The searchable site, which is free, details more than $12 billion in state spending from fiscal years 2008 and 2009. Plans are to get the fiscal 2010 data up soon, as well as spending data from the counties. Special features include a Pork Alert and a forum for comments.
The only media to attend the website launch at a Pacific Club press conference were Civil Beat and Hawaii Reporter. Sam Slom was on hand, and Les Ihara sent an aide.
The Gov-elect Travels to Washington
Neil Abercrombie left the state Monday night to attend the Democratic Governors Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. He and other governors-elect will also be at the White House Thursday. He returns to Hawaii Friday.
Many Republicans are calling for the head of national chairman Michael Steele, even though the party under Steele took over the U.S. House and picked up governorships and seats in state legislatures.
Contrast that with the situation in Hawaii, where the party lost the governorship and a seat in the U.S. Congress and only gained a single seat in the Legislature. Yet Jonah Kaauwai expects to hold his seat until his term ends next May, according to the local GOP.