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.

4:44 p.m. State Moves to Protect Dengue Outbreak

West Hawaii Today reports that the state Health Department asks the public to clear standing water from areas where mosquitoes like to breed. It’s to prevent a reappearance of dengue fever, the mosquito-transmitted illness.

“The Department of Health investigated five cases of dengue fever contracted outside of Hawaii by travelers who became ill during their stay here this year,” the paper says, noting that dengue is usually introduced by travelers to an area. “Six imported cases were reported in 2009 and 14 in 2008.”

“The last outbreak of dengue in Hawaii occurred in 2001, when the disease was transmitted to 153 people, many of whom lived on Maui.”

3:29 p.m. POTUS In Mokuleia

“POTUS’ motorcade departed Kailua at 12:40 p.m. HST, arriving at the North Shore home of Hawaii pal Bobby Titcomb at 1:35 PM. The name of the town is Mokuleia, pool is holding at Dillingham Airfield.

“”The often scenic drive across Oahu took us from Kailua on to H3 West, to H1 West, to H2 North, and ultimately local roads to our destination. One flashing sign on the highway urged: “Drive with Aloha.”

“With the larger-than-usual traveling party, I counted 18 vehicles, including pool van and local police vehicles.

“Other cars were stopped along the route at onramps and sidestreets. Onlookers were often waving or flashing the ‘shaka’ sign as we passed. Approaching our destination, a group standing near the airfield had a sign ready: ‘Hi Mr. Prez.’

“The airfield is dormant today because of security. A shame, says Bill Star, one the operators of Orignal Glider Rides, considering this is the first day of excellent weather this week.

“Pool is expecting a long stay here as the first family enjoys the BBQ (not a luau, pool is told). Will update as events warrant.” —Michael Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau

2:46 p.m. Dim Sum With Mr. Speaker

Calvin Say took nearly two dozen House Democrats to Empress Restaurant Wednesday in downtown Honolulu. Here’s what Civil Beat has learned:

• The invited were among the 24 reps who say they support Say’s staying on as speaker. (Say’s vote makes it 25 — one short of the required 26 to make it a done deal.) Only a couple of the reps didn’t make the lunch, either because they weren’t on Oahu or had work commitments.

• Say urged his comrades to stick together and talked about what might come next in the battle over the speakership. One possibility is a negotiated compromise between Say’s block of 26 and Sylvia Luke‘s block of 17, the latter of which includes three independents who favor one of the independents, Roy Takumi.

• If that doesn’t work, it seems likely the speakership and other House leadership and committee chairs won’t be settled until at least opening day of the new session, Jan. 19. Many members are expressing anxiety over that happening and how it might affect pressing legislative business.

• On opening day, Big Island Rep. Mark Nakashima — only in his second term in office, by the way — would serve as acting speaker because he represents the first of the 51 House districts. Resolutions will then be introduced to pick a new speaker.

• Because a speaker nominee must get 26 votes from the 43 House Democrats, Say would appear to have the upper hand: He only needs one vote, but the bloc of 17 needs nine. Members of both blocs say no one is budging. That said, anything can happen in high-stakes politics.

• Adding to the uncertainty is who Neil Abercrombie will select to replace Maile Shimabukuro, who was among the dissidents but has now been appointed to fill a vacant Senate seat. And Russell Kokubun resigned today from the Senate, meaning a replacement must now be found for him too — like, say, Rep. Faye Hanohano, who is also one of the House dissidents.

• What about the eight House Republicans? Can they vote for speaker? Democrats are not inclined to have that happen; it’s their House, after all. Who wants to share power?

That’s all for now. Kung hee fat choy!

1:32 p.m. Mazie’s Take on Congress, Colleen’s Swearing In

A 5-minute KITV interview with Mazie Hirono provides her view on the DADT repeal (“that was really important”), tax cuts for the rich (“I didn’t think it created enough jobs”) and other big issues. Her agenda for the new year: “I’ve been completely focused on jobs.”

Also: Details (and video) on how she and Dan Akaka finagled that ride on Air Force One with Barry O.

Meanwhile, Congresswoman-elect Colleen Hanabusa will be sworn into office Wednesday in D.C. at noon EST (7 a.m. HST).

11:06 a.m. Developers ‘Should Do More’ for Affordable Housing

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann wants developers to stop making affordable homes available only to those earning 140 percent of the island’s median income.

“That’s the highest-income bracket to qualify for affordable homes or lots under county law,” the paper says. “It’s also essentially market-rate prices, said Hoffmann, whose bill seeks to create more inventory for buyers earning less money.”

Hoffman wants the county’s Housing Agency to weigh in on his bill during its 9 a.m. Council meeting Monday in Keauhou.

10:09 a.m. Rhoads Takes On Gourmet Delite

House Labor and Public Employment Committee Chairman Karl Rhoads has asked Dwight Takamine and the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to look into a workers’ wage dispute against Bishop Street bakery Gourmet Delite.

Six employees who used to work at the company’s Iwilei bakery told Rhoads they are due $24,000 in back pay, and that other employees who still work there are having trouble cashing paychecks. The company may also have failed to provide health care benefits as is required by state law.

Rhoads says one or more of the workers filed a complaint several weeks ago with DLIR, and that the Attorney General’s office has been contacted as well.

“The credible allegations these former employees have made are very serious,” Rhoads said in a Dec. 29 letter to Takamine, adding, “Congratulations on your nomination to be DLIR Director!”

Civil Beat left a message with Gourmet Delite President Ronald Au.

8:55 a.m. Gov Now ‘Focused on Economic Recovery’

After a week of the words Neil Abercrombie and “birthers” zipping around the Internet in tandem, Hawaii’s governor made clear last night that what he’s really, really paying attention to is the economy — or job No. 1, as he described it on the campaign trail.

His team issued a news release with the headline, “GOVERNOR ABERCROMBIE REMAINS FOCUSED ON ECONOMIC RECOVERY.”

“This Administration will remain focused on economic recovery by creating jobs and restoring government services,” the release quoted Abercrombie as saying. (He’s on vacation in Hana.) “We will achieve this by working together with lawmakers, business and community leaders,” the governor said in a statement released in response to modest revenue growth projections from the Council on Revenues.

In the same statement, Budget and Finance Director Kalbert Young was more circumspect: “We must remain cautiously optimistic and hope that these initial signs are improvements that will be sustained in the longer term. The State still has significant challenges and issues to deal with in the near term and very significant fiscal and financial problems to address in the longer term.”

That it does.

8:32 a.m. Obamas, Friends Dine at Alan Wong’s

According to the White House press pool report, POTUS and FLOTUS, Maya Soetoro-Ng and her husband and the usual coterie of the president’s friends — Ramos, Whitaker, Nesbitt, Titcomb — chowed down at Alan Wong’s South King Street restaurant from 7-10 p.m. last night. Adults only, no First Kids.

True to form, POTUS headed straight for the K-Bay gym this morning to work off the calories.

Ways … and Means

Beginning next Monday and continuing most workdays until the Legislature officially convenes Jan. 19, the money committees in the House and Senate will hold a series of informational briefings involving state and other government agencies and entities.

The hearings, held prior to every new session, give lawmakers details on the fiscal challenges faced by departments like DLNR, OHA, the DOE, the University of Hawaii, the counties, the state judiciary and a host of other government organizations.

The Senate Ways & Means Committee has already scheduled its round of hearings, while the House Finance Committee on Wednesday announced its first two hearings, which will be held jointly with Ways and Means.

Marcus Oshiro is chairman of the House Finance Committee (barring an unexpected settlement on the House leadership reorganization), while David Ige is the new chairman of the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

Kauai Financial Woes

The Garden Isle reports that a county administration report for fiscal year 2010 (which ended June 30) reveals “a dim light at the end of the tunnel.”

“We are cautiously optimistic that Kaua’i’s economy is rebounding, but recovery will be slow and gradual over a 3 to 5 year period,” Finance Director Wallace Rezentes Jr. said in the report.

Thanks to fiscal conservatism on the part of the Kauai County Council and the administration, however, the county’s surplus increased to $43.1 million in FY ’10, up from $32.8 million in FY ’09.

Still, the island is still recovering from sharp declines in visitor arrivals that began in 2008, an 8.1 percent decline in non-farming jobs — “the largest loss among all counties,” according to the report — and an unemployment rate that peaked 9.5 percent in the summer of 2009.

On the bright side, says the report, a $113.8 million capital improvement budget for FY ’10 “helped to stimulate the economy.”

Big Island CIP Requests

West Hawaii Today reports that county administration officials “want to add nearly $26 million in projects to the county’s capital budget.”

The request for capital improvement projects will come in the form of budget amendments presented at a Hawaii County Council Finance Committee next Monday at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa.

The projects, to be paid for by $56 million in proposed bonds, include $8.8 million for Waiohinu Transfer Station repairs and enhancements, $5.5 million to develop a new park in Hawaiian Paradise Park and $2 million for repairs and upgrades at Keokea Beach Park.

There’s no guarantee the projects will be approved, though, as Council Chairman Dominic Yagong and others have questioned the administration’s inclusion of projects “not yet approved by the council in a proposed bond float.”

‘Birther’ BS

Neil Abercrombie‘s pledge to do something about all the controversy over Barack Obama‘s birth certificate has been all over the news. So have (mostly) anonymous comments about the story.

Here’s several, courtesy Huffington Post:

What is the big deal? Pull the piece of paper out of the folder, take a snap and upload. CASE CLOSED!!

Why don’t they release the original? Because if they did, there could never be a new certified copy, as the original would no longer exist! No one has their original!

What nonsense! Anyone who is born in the US is a natural born citizen. This would not even be an issue if his father were, lets say, German.

Kapi’olani hospital refuses to support the notion that Obama was born there. And Obama and his campaign claims to have been born at Queens? I might be going out on a limb here, but maybe Obama wasn’t born at Kapi’olani but born at Queens? The plaque at Kapi’olani should read, “Not the birthplace of the 44th President of the United States.”

If your mother conceived you through artificial insemination, would you be considered natural born?

PS my favorite birther BS is that his mother “slipped off to Kenya” to have her son there. One does not “slip off to Kenya” even today when air travel is widely accessible , relatively affordable , and comparatively easy to come by. I cannot imagine wanting to leave the comfort of Hawaii for the backwater that was Nairobi back in 1961, and it would certainly have been more than a little uncomfortable to travel from Hawaii to Kenya while in labor!

Old man McCain WAS NOT BORN ON AMERICAN SOIL – check your facts!!! and the BUSH family was CONVICTED of DEALING w/ the ENEMY of the United States…for supplying financial assistance and munitions to the Nazis in WWII. and we are REALLY NOT SURE about the graduation or last birth of Ms Palin – so if you want to be supplyin’ us w/ papers…start with those!


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