Welcome to Capitol Watch. There’s a new governor, new leadership at the Legislature and other government branches, and Civil Beat is reporting on all of it.
4:42 p.m. Save Our School!
Barbara Marumoto, the Republican House representative, has posted a YouTube video in which she opposes the closure of Queen Lydia Liliuokalani School in her Kaimuki district, as has been suggested by the Board of Education.
“It would indeed be ironic to shut its doors on the 100th school year since the Queen dedicated its opening,” says Marumoto.
A public hearing on the consolidation of Queen Liliuokalani and other area schools is set for tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Kalani High School cafeteria.
3:11 p.m. Suicide Attempt at Capitol
An unidentified man was prevented by deputy sheriffs from jumping over the fourth-floor railing around 1 p.m. The incident startled Capitol denizens who heard the man crying out things like “Help me!”
Kyle Fujisue, a deputy sheriff at the Department of Public Safety, told Civil Beat that he and three other deputies — Fatu Salima, Brandon Noguchi and Fred Lucas — pulled the man away from the railing in what Fujisue said appeared to be a suicide attempt.
The man was taken to Queen’s Medical Center for observation.
2:02 p.m. Hold the Shave Ice
It was always a possibility, but now the White House is confirming that President Obama will not start his Christmas vacation until Congress finishes its lame-duck session.
Obama and his family had planned to fly to Hawaii this weekend, as has been the tradition the past two years.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says the president “wants to see Congress approve his tax deal, ratify START and hopefully make progress on passing the DREAM Act and repealing the military’s ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ ban on gays serving openly,” according to The Hill.
1:01 p.m. Fireworks Task Force to Meet One More Time
The Legislature’s task force on illegal fireworks wrapped up business today with plans to meet one more time later this month or early in the new year — the sixth meeting in six months.
“There’s no perfect solution,” says co-chairman Will Espero, adding that lawmakers don’t expect to be able to stop the illegal import, but they want to find ways to limit them nonetheless.
Espero and co-chairwoman Faye Hanohano will now see to it that a final report on recommendations to the Legislature is prepared by mid-January. Recommendations to county governments, private companies and law enforcement might also be forthcoming.
11:57 a.m. Imua Tax Plan
They may not be crazy about it, but Dan Akaka and Dan Inouye helped Harry Reid get the 60 votes needed to end Bernie Saunders‘s filibuster and approve an $858 billion package of tax cuts and benefits.
The Senate could hold a final vote as early as tomorrow or Wednesday.
The package would then have to go House Democrats (including Mazie Hirono), who last week passed a symbolic resolution against bringing it to the floor. The reps especially don’t like a proposal to set the estate tax at 35 percent for individual inheritances above $5 million.
11:16 a.m. How to Stop Illegal Fireworks?
Horizon Lines says increased penalties, more funding for enforcement, greater public outreach and “further study” is a better way to crack down on dangerous fireworks coming into Hawaii.
What Horizon opposes, however, is a more intense inspection of containers that will affect the flow of cargo to retailers like Costco and WalMart, which will ultimately pass the cost on to consumers.
“We struggle as an industry to accommodate this,” said Horizon executive Mar Labrador. “I just can’t see an aggressive container insurance program actually working.”
Only about 5 percent of domestic cargo coming into the state is currently inspected.
Gov, LG Continue Neighbor Island Events
Neil Abercrombie and Brian Schatz plan to be in Waimea on the Big Island today from 4-6 p.m. at Kuhio Hale (Hawaiian Homes Hall) as part of their inaugural confirmation ceremonies that began Dec. 6.
The events — themed “E Hoomalu O Hawaii,” or “To Protect Hawaii” — conclude Wednesday from 5-6 p.m. on Kauai at Hikina a ka la Heiau in Wailua.
Meanwhile, many are awaiting the appointment of the administration’s last four Cabinet heads, and they’re big ones: Health, Attorney General, Defense and Transportation. Pat McManaman was quietly named director of Department of Human Services over the weekend. (Neil and Brian were in Lahaina.)
The Legislature’s 33-member Illegal Fireworks Task Force convenes at 10 a.m. in Conference Room 309. Matson Navigation and Horizon Lines have been invited to make presentations.
The task force was created by Act 170 with the goal of finding ways to stop importation of illegal fireworks. A preliminary plan to the Legislature is due no later than Jan. 10.
Co-chairman Will Espero says most of the illegal goods come via ocean carriers, often going from China to the U.S. mainland and then to Hawaii. Yet a majority of the cargo is not inspected — an authority that lawmakers may consider giving the state D.O.T.
“We the Powerful” Workshops on Big Isle
They’re free, they’re popular and they help regular citizens participate in their democracy. And you don’t even have to fly to Honolulu.
The Capitol’s Public Access Room continues its outreach to the neighbor islands with its workshops on the legislative process — e.g., learn how to track bills of interest and to deliver effective testimony.
This week PAC is on the Big Island: Monday in Kailua-Kona (5:30 p.m.), Tuesday in Naalehu (6 p.m.), Wednesday in Hilo (5:30 p.m.) and Thursday in Honokaa (5:30 p.m.). Go here for more info.