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.

5:01 p.m. A Gay Rights Victory?

News reports say the U.S. Senate will vote this weekend on whether to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prevents homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

It appears supporters of the repeal have the votes, which include those of Dan Akaka and Dan Inouye. But nothing is certain, and the vote could be close.

Akaka is a co-sponsor of the repeal bill, a stand-alone measure that has already passed the House.

4:24 p.m. President Mufi Hannemann

Mufi Hannemann will be lead the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association effective Jan. 1.

The news had been leaked earlier this week, but the former Honolulu mayor was coy at the time.

Hannemann now says he’s psyched to lead the association, which has a statewide membership of 170 hotels, condominiums, timeshares and other lodging entities and an allied membership of more than 280 companies.

4:02 p.m. 2,600 words from Dan Akaka

Hawaii’s junor senator entered into the Congressional Record his tributes to 11 Senate colleagues that are retiring this year — some of them involuntarily.

They include Chris Dodd, George Voinovich, Byron Dorgan, Russ Feingold, Sam Brownback, Arlen Specter and Blanche Lincoln, and are a reminder how Washington has become a far more partisan battleground in recent years.

Dan Akaka‘s term is up in 2012, and he’s vowed to run again.

3:24 p.m. 2,500 Words from Dan Inouye

Hawaii’s senior senator is usually slow to anger and a man of measured words. Today, greatly frustrated at his Republican colleagues, he told them what he thought about their successful efforts to kill his FY 2011 Omnibus Appropriations Act.

Here’s the CliffsNotes:

“A regrettable decision…the alternative that I offered was a product of bi-partisan cooperation in the Senate in negotiations with the majority in the House…it represented a good faith effort to fund many of the priorities of the Administration shortchanging national defense and security…to support our wounded warriors…breast cancer research…additional F-18 jets for the Navy…address cyber security…essential needs were met, but any frills were deleted…the Congress tightened its belt…a year’s worth of work came down to a choice…countless hours of work…we didn’t use any gimmicks or tricks…the Congress owes it to the American people…you get what you pay for…this is no way to run a government…the United States of America is not a second-rate nation, we should not govern like she is…understand the consequences of this decision…the vacuum that this creates it is left to the bureaucrats to determine how taxpayer funds are allocated…it is simply not rational to object to a bill because of its length…let me repeat that, this election was not about earmarks…Mr. President, this election was about gridlock and partisan gamesmanship.”

The Senate, according to Inouye’s office, is now expected to take up a short-term Continuing Resolution.

2:10 p.m. Hanabusa Accepts Obama Tax Plan

She doesn’t take office until Jan. 3, but Colleen Hanabusa had this to say about the tax deal signed today by President Obama:

“This legislation is not perfect, and I am against continuing the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, but this compromise preserves a critical life line for those out of work and provides some tax relief for families struggling to emerge from the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.”

1:19 p.m. More Musical Chairs

Given Russell Kokubun‘s departure from the state Senate to run the Ag Department, Donovan Dela Cruz will now chair the Water, Land and Housing Committee while Clarence Nishihara will chair the Agriculture Committee.

Housing, by the way, used to be part of what was called the Agriculture and Housing Committee … until today. It’s Shan Tsutsui‘s prerogative.

11:49 a.m. Postscript on Rail EIS

Why did the Abercrombie administration choose to release the governor’s sign-off on the Honolulu rail environmental impact statement in such hurried fashion? The four-paragraph statement arrived in e-mail inboxes at 6:20 p.m. yesterday, the night before a city Furlough Friday; as of midday today, it has yet to be posted to the governor’s official website.

“He was busy all day,” says Abercrombie Spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz, “and we didn’t want to wait until the morning.”

The governor’s full plate yesterday included internal meetings on matters like naming an attorney general and health director, scrutinizing the budget (it’s due Monday to the Legislature) and going over the EIS itself — a sizable document, it turns out — with senior staff, who had consulted the study’s authors and concerned parties.

Of course, Peter Carlisle had been pushing for a decision on the EIS, too. Abercrombie’s people talked to Carlisle’s people yesterday, but it’s not clear if Neil called Peter himself.

Carlisle’s hastily arranged press conference at Honolulu Hale was held at 6:15 p.m. — within an hour of getting the EIS from the governor … but too late for the first round of local evening news. Abercrombie was not in attendance.

11:05 Aloha to Michelle, Sasha and Malia!

Hawaii News Now says the First Lady, First Children and First Dog (we hope he got all of his rabies shots) will leave frigid D.C. for sunny Hawaii Nei tomorrow — but without you-know-who.

The president won’t start his vacation until Congress wraps up lame-duck business, perhaps by next Wednesday. He’ll take Air Force One, his family a smaller Boeing 737.

The Obamas will fly back to Washington Jan. 1.

Aloha From Taiwan!

Will Espero sends greetings from Taipei, where he and six other state senators are visiting for a week, courtesy of the Taiwanese government.

Yesterday they met with tourism officials, visited with the American Institute in Taiwan (“basically the American Embassy,” Espero explains) and the Government Information Office (GIO) under the executive branch.

“It has been overcast, gray and raining almost nonstop since we arrived,” he adds in an e-mail to me. “Tomorrow it may start to clear.”

Lament Over Lost Earmarks

Peter Boylan, press guy for Dan Inouye, sends this postscript on the Senate Republican’s rejection yesterday of the $1.1 trillion omnibus bill:

“That was a disheartening session of the Senate. Hawaii’s working families and the country lost out on a lot of good projects and programs this evening. It’s very disappointing that thousands of hours of bipartisan effort collapsed in such a sudden fashion.”

To view the 141 Hawaii earmarks in the bill worth $321 million — and everyone else’s, too — please click here.

Meanwhile, the Senate is expected to pass some sort of stop-gap measure to keep the government in business — something the omnibus bill was intended to do.

Something that did make Inouye happy: Neil Abercrombie‘s signing of the final EIS for Honolulu rail.

“At long last, the White House, the Congressional Delegation, the Governor and the Mayor are all on the same page about the importance of a rail system for Honolulu to reduce traffic gridlock and put people to work,” he said in a statement.

Hirono Explains Tax Cut Vote

Mazie Hirono had this to say about the U.S. House’s 277-148 vote yesterday that sends the $858 billion tax cut, unemployment benefits and estate tax bill to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

“Hawaii needs jobs. This bill does not create jobs and it adds to our country’s deficit. What kind of compromise is that? I voted no because it doesn’t provide a fair deal to the middle class and the unemployed. It does, however, provide generous tax cuts to the wealthiest families, and it raids Social Security to provide a ‘payroll tax holiday.’ We needed to fight for a better deal,” said Hirono.

Charles Djou voted in favor the bill. So did Dan Akaka and Dan Inouye in the Senate, albeit reluctantly.

Matayoshi Goes To Hilo

State schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi will deliver the keynote address at the University of Hawaii at Hilo fall commencement at 9 a.m. Saturday in the UH-Hilo New Gym.

Matayoshi is the daughter of former Big Island Mayor Herbert Matayoshi and community leader Mary Matayoshi, and a graduate of Hilo High School.

Catch up on our previous coverage:

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