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.

5:31 p.m. Lingle’s Parting Shot?

Less than four days before she turns the reins of power over to her successor, Linda Lingle has sent Peter Carlisle, Nestor Garcia, Neil Abercrombie and federal officials an “independent” financial analysis of the proposed Honolulu Rail Transit Project.

Lingle’s press release on the analysis late today provided virtually no detail about what it actually said (although the full report is sure to surface at some point). But the governor has never been wild about the rail project and has long expressed concerns about its funding.

Lingle drove Mufi Hannemann crazy by not signing off on the project’s final environmental impact statement before he stepped down as Honolulu mayor to run for governor. The perceived lack of progress on rail may have hurt his chances.

For his part, Abercrombie supports rail and has stressed that it is a county matter. But Duke Aiona wanted the financial analysis, and the issue came up in the governor’s race.

3:21 p.m. Students Play Lawmakers

Hundreds of Hawaii high school students are wrapping up three days of sessions at the Capitol auditorium as part of the Secondary Student Conference 2010. The conference gives students the chance to come up with solutions to school and other problems, with emphasis on problems that involve the Legislature and the Department of Education — just like grown-ups.

The students, who have been roaming the floors with their teachers when not proposing and debating mock legislation, have delighted Capitol veterans. How refreshing to see young people so enthusiastic about government, they say, when so many of their elders don’t bother to vote.

The conference’s theme this year: “Keep your coins, we need change.”

3:01 p.m. Hirono, Djou Split Vote on Rangel Censure

Charles Djou voted today, as did a bipartisan majority of his colleagues, to censure New York Rep. Charles Rangel.

But Mazie Hirono voted against the censure, which stemmed from Rangel’s violation of U.S. House ethical standards.

2:05 p.m. Democratic Gov’s Pat Selves On Back

Members of the Democratic Governors Association, which now includes Neil Abercrombie, said they did better than expected in 2010 elections, even though they went from holding 26 governorships to 19 (Minnesota is still counting votes, but the race is leaning toward the Democrat).

Meeting in Washington this week, they say they were outspent 2-to-1 by Republicans opponents. (Although not in Hawaii.)

The Democrats strategized on three 2011 races involving colleagues, talked about redistricting required because of new Census data and elected as vice chairman Bev Perdue of North Carolina — one of only two governors along with Abercrombie to hold a Ph.D. Today the group met with Barack Obama at Blair House. Abercrombie will return to Hawaii tomorrow.

12:02 p.m. Bring Your Own Cups to the Swearing In!

The transition office of Neil Abercrombie advises folks to carpool or find alternative transportation to inaugural festivities Monday at Iolani Palace. Traffic and parking will be insane.

Abercrombie’s people also advise people bring reusable cups or water bottles to minimize trash. No bottled water will be provided at the public event, though there will be water jugs. (Let’s hope there’s Porta Potties!)

One other caveat: A 19-gun salute follows the oath of office at noon. “Nearby residents and employees should not be alarmed,” we’re told.

9:54 a.m. Senators Grill Cargo Carriers

Worried about how Pasha‘s entrance into the interisland shipping business will affect Young Brothers and neighbor island businesses and residents, state Senators leading a public hearing on the matter are Roz Baker (Maui), Russell Kokubun and Dwight Takamine (Big Island), and Brian Taniguchi, Sam Slom and Clarence Nishihara from Oahu.

About 50 people are squished into Conference Room 229 at the Capitol.

Yesterday, the PUC rejected Young Bros.’ request to reconsider its decision allowing Pasha to operate.

Young Brothers and Pasha Talk Cargo

The state Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Affairs will hear arguments beginning at 9:30 a.m. today from two shipping companies fighting over interisland routes.

Assuming they show up to Committee Room 229 — and they probably will, as their very livelihoods are stake — Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines will say competition will be good for residents and businesses, while Young Brothers will say that Pasha is cherry-picking only the busiest harbors while it has to serve them all.

The Public Utilities Commission will be asked to explain why it gave Pasha the green light to ship locally, while the state’s consumer advocate will weigh in on the merits of the case. No public testimony is allowed, though.


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