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. Say, Say, Say

Calvin Say was expected to meet late this afternoon to once again try to resolve the impasse over speaker.

Last time we checked, Say had the support of 25 of the 42 House Democrats (there is one vacancy) and the offer of support from eight House Republicans.

The 17 House dissidents, meanwhile have tried to hammer out a deal with Say’s people, a deal involving leadership posts and committee chairs. But it’s not clear who would then get to be speaker (although is seems unlikely Say would agree to step down the job.)

The high-stakes drama continues mostly behind closed doors. Yet, the “Who will be speaker?” pilikia is all over the news and constituents are starting to ask their representatives when it will all end.

Session opens a week from today.

4:14 p.m. Who Will Be Abercrombie’s First Justice?

The Judicial Selection Commission met today to come up with a list of nominees for the vacant seat on the Hawaii Supreme Court.

The vacancy was created when Associate Justice Mark Recktenwald was elevated to Chief Justice last fall.

When Linda Lingle was considering a CJ last summer, the JSC suggested Recktenwald, 1st Circuit Court Judges Bert Ayabe and Richard W. Pollack, and Intermediate Court of Appeals Judges Dan Foley, Craig Nakamura and — ahem — Katherine Leonard.

The position pays $151,118 and offers employment up to age 70. It was unclear when the list of candidates will be forwarded to Neil Abercrombie.

3:09 p.m. Seese Replaces Peck as Energy Head

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that Estrella Seese will serve as acting energy administrator following the resignation last week of Ted Peck, who has formed a private energy company, Kuokoa Inc.

Seese handled energy planning policy in the energy office and worked previously with Hawaiian Electric Co.

Peck’s company is trying to purchase HECO parent company Hawaiian Electric Industries.

12:49 p.m. Mayors + TAT = Love

No surprise: Peter Carlisle, Billy Kenoi, Alan Arakawa and Bernard Carvalho, Jr. are all on the same page when it comes to the island counties’ share of the transient accommodations tax — don’t touch it, as lawmakers considered doing last year.

That was the main message the four mayors had for the Legislature at a hearing this morning.

But there were other requests as well. For one, they want county employees to have “a place at the table” when it comes to decision-making on things like the benefits trust fund and retirement system.

They also want help in their own backyard — in Kauai‘s case, $950,000 for upgrades to the emergency bypass in Wailua; in Maui‘s case, additional water resources for Upcountry; in the Big Island‘s case, expansion of higher education. All would like the state to move forward with expanding broadband access, too.

Lawmakers seemed sympathetic, especially neighbor island senators like Malama Solomon and Kalani English.

One other note: Carvalho said the Garden Isle was making progress in dealing with retrofitting stadium lighting and its adverse impact on Newell’s shearwater.

11:19 a.m. Gingrich to Address Local GOP

As had been rumored, Newt Gingrich will be the special guest speaker for the 2011 Lincoln Day Dinner, sponsored by the Hawaii Republican Party.

The cost to attend the reception, cocktail hour and dinner — set for Feb. 18 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village — ranges from $150 (general admission) to $15,000 (Alii Sponsor, which includes two seats at the head table, a table of 10 with VIP access, photo opportunity, preferred seating and a signed copy of the former House Speaker’s latest book).

Aloha attire, please!

10:39 a.m. Maui County: Apply Now

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa announced today that applications are still being accepted for boards, councils, commissions and committees that serve Maui, Molokai and Lanai. The deadline for applications has been extended to this Friday.

The positions include those on the Police Commission, Animal Control Board, Commission on Children and Youth, Commission on Culture and the Arts, Council on Aging, Hana Advisory Committee, Liquor Control Adjudication Board, Molokai Planning Commission and a dozen or so others.

Interested? Applications are available here.

9:50 a.m. Meet Hawaii’s Newest Senator

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald profiles Gil Kahele, the governor’s appointment to the state Senate.

The article notes that Kahele, who led Neil Abercrombie‘s campaign in East Hawaii, supports civil unions.

As for other issues, he says this:

“I want to work with the governor and we’ll see what are the priorities. There’s many issues facing the state on education, on energy, on agriculture. Look at the price of gasoline, or the prices that people are paying for electricity. We need to do something.”

8:54 a.m. Task Force: Inspect Cargo for Banned Fireworks

After six months of work, the Legislature’s Illegal Fireworks Task Force has approved recommendations to help curb availability and use of illegal fireworks.

Among the recommendations: more resources for law enforcement and education, a cargo inspection program using explosive sniffing dogs, granting authority to other city and state agencies to conduct cargo inspections and consideration of a civil fine system to deal with illegal usage.

The task force, created by Act 170 last year, consulted lawmakers, law enforcement, industry representatives and government agencies. Its report summarizes the current incidence of illegal fireworks use in all four counties, commercial and law enforcement climate.

Mayors to Talk Kala With Lawmakers

Budget hearings continue today at the Capitol:

• At 9 a.m., Kauai Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho, Jr., Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi and Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa will talk money at a joint hearing of the Senate Ways and Means and House Finance committees in Conference Room 309.

• At 10:30 p.m., Ways and Means will hear from the Department of Agriculture in Conference Room 211.

• The University of Hawaii System is on the Senate Ways and Means hot seat beginning at 1:30 p.m. in Conference Room 211.

• Also at 1:30 p.m., House Finance will hear from charter schools and state libraries in Conference Room 308.

Catch up on our previous coverage:

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