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.

5:27 Pot News

Drug possession charges against two medical marijuana patients on the Big Island were dismissed yesterday by a District Court judge.
The two were arrested in separate incidents at the Hilo airport overt the past two years, even though state law allows for possession of up to 3 ounces to registered patients and federal law allows them to transport it. An appeal is likely.

Meanwhile, pot guru Roger Christie was denied bail by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this week because he is considered “a danger to the community.” He remains incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu, charged with conspiracy to possess, manufacture and distribute hundreds of marijuana plants.

3:01 p.m. Kauai Kerfuffle

Peter Nakamura, appointed to continue serving as Kauai County clerk on Dec. 1 by the County Council, is the subject of some contention because his $114,848 salary is greater than that of Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s salary of $114,490.

Same goes for the salaries of the county’s auditor and prosecutor, reports The Garden Island.

Council Chair Jay Furfaro defended the salaries, saying County Charter rules were followed in granting the pay raises. Just to be sure, though, he’s asked the county attorney to take a closer look at the matter, which came from a 2009 Salary Commission recommendation.

12:55 p.m. Inouye: Republicans are Hypocrites

In full defense mode, Dan Inouye continues to take on GOP critics who say Inouye’s omnibus appropriations bill is laden with pork.

He has now tweeted (or had someone do it for him, perhaps) a link to the Senate’s Democratic Policy Committee, where visitors can view a list of recent congressionally directed funding that Republican senators have sponsored.

The committee page includes this passage: “Will the Senate GOP vote against the upcoming appropriations bill just to appease the right wing of their party — and despite that fact that doing so will kill valuable new funding for their constituents back home?”

It also notes that the current earmarks total $8 billion, which Democrats compare with the $830 billion cost of tax breaks for the wealthy.

11:39 Executive Vice President Aiona

Duke Aiona has given Saint Louis High School a two-year commitment as its new executive VP for development and recruitment. His job, beginning Jan. 3, is to rustle up money and students, and to market the all-boys school, which Aiona attended and where he later coached varsity basketball.

Aiona said he would evaluate his political future following the 2012 elections, reiterating that the only office he covets is the governorship.

Asked by a reporter whether he would grow his moustache back, the former lieutenant governor said his wife, Vivian, likes him clean-shaven.

10:03 a.m. Audit Looks at Arizona Prison Contract

The Hawaii State Auditor expects to release a study later this month or in early January that examines Hawaii’s contract with Corrections Corporation of America.

CCA incarcerates nearly 2,000 inmates in two Arizona prisons. The audit also looks at the Federal Detention Center at the Honolulu airport.

“It’s not technically a management and financial audit, but it is financial in the sense that it looks at money and contracts — but not specifically at expenditures,” said Marion Higa.

Higa said Linda Lingle vetoed a bill this year that called for an audit of CCA. But lawmakers still asked Higa’s office to look into the matter.

Wednesday, Neil Abercrombie said he wants to bring all Hawaii prisoners back to Hawaii.

9:22 Inouye vs. McCain and Earmarks

Daniel K. Inouye this morning tweeted Hawaii News Now’s story on John McCain going ballistic over a $300,000 earmark for the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

The tweet includes a statement from Inouye’s office: “Rather than learn anything about the Hokulea, how the Pacific was populated by Polynesians sailing with nothing more than the stars, wind, sun, moon and currents as their guide, Sen. McCain wants to vilify the Polynesian Voyaging Society as emblematic of wasteful government spending.”

This is not the first time — and likely not the last time — that the Arizona Republican has slammed the Hawaii Democrat over doling out the pork, in this case in the $8.3 billion omnibus bill that Inouye, the Senate Appropriations chairman, introduced this week.

8:38 a.m. Aiona’s New Position?

James “Duke” Aiona will discuss his “future plans” at a press conference at 11 a.m. today at Saint Louis High School.

“Following eight years of service to the people of Hawaii as Lieutenant Governor, Duke Aiona will formally accept a new position that will enable him to continue his passion of working with young people to develop Hawaii’s future leaders,” says a press release.

School President Walter Kirimitsu and Principal Pat Hamamoto will be on hand.

Island Insights with the Governor

Dan Boylan interviews Neil Abercrombie one-on-one in an hour-long conversation beginning at 7:30 p.m. on PBS Hawaii.

“They will discuss everything from public education to the economy and jobs, and the challenges ahead for Hawaii,” reads a promo.

OHA Lobbies Washington

Haunani Apoliona and Clyde Namuo met yesterday with Arne Duncan, who serves as co-chairman of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. They discussed “partnership opportunities” to provide Native Hawaiians with increased access to education and other federal programs.

“As of spring 2009, Native Hawaiian students comprised 28 percent of the youth in the Hawaii unified public school system,” says the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. “Enrollment of Native Hawaiians in public schools in rural communities exceeds 50 percent Native Hawaiians. We want to close the education achievements and outcomes gaps experienced by many Native Hawaiians.”

OHA officials are also meeting with the Department of Interior and Department of Justice, as well as Hawaii’s congressional delegation on possible passage of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act — aka the Akaka bill

House Republicans Have a Plan

State House Democrats are still trying to figure out who their speaker will be, putting a hold on pressing business like legislative priorities.

But the eight Republicans in the minority caucus already have a plan — one they actually introduced before the election.

In a nut shell, the plan states: no new taxes, provide tax credits for businesses, ease the permitting process for small business, provide access to photovoltaic and solar systems for homeowners and small businesses by defraying upfront installation costs, audit the D.O.E., require “price tags” for all legislation so voters know exactly how much each piece of legislation will cost or save, apply sunshine laws to the Legislature, push term limits for legislators and give citizens the power of referendum.

“The Republican Caucus pledges to take the above actions for the sake of our keiki, the development of our economy, and the accountability of our government,” reads the plan’s pledge.

Catch up on our previous coverage:

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