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.
This information was passed along by a helpful and knowledgeable reader concerning new civil union’s legislation:
Today’s Capitol Watch has a major error. It says that the tweaked civil unions bill 231 contains more benefits for unmarried couples. That is completely untrue. It contains the exact benefits as last Year’s bill only it is more specific following many of the tax and other implementation questions that were raised last year.”
Thank you, dear reader!
Here are the two Senate bills in question and their current status:
SB 231 is the bill with the “fixes” described above. Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee has not yet allowed a hearing on SB 231.
SB232 is the bill Hee has scheduled to be heard Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Conference Room 016.
Should be a very interesting hearing, no?
Cynthia Thielen spoke out against committee chair assignments made by House Democrats earlier today.
Thielen, one of eight Republicans in a 51-member body, said several of her GOP colleagues have valuable experience in certain areas that would be of great use to certain committees. And yet, no Republican sits as chairman or vice chairman of any House committee.
“I know you have a minority faction among the Democrats,” Thielen said in comments directed toward Calvin Say. “And you’re trying to work things out among each other … but you are incredibly discriminatory against the Republican caucus.”
Thielen said the caucus represents the interests of over 200,000 constituents
“On the agenda will be the 2011 redraft of last year’s controversial HB 444, the civil unions bill,” according to the story. “The bill numbers will be assigned by the clerk on Monday.”
“There are actually two separate measures in the Senate. One mirrors exactly the bill that was enacted at the last moment of the last day of the 2010 session, then vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle. Another bill tweaks the first version and adds even more tax and other benefits for unmarried couples.”
Hawaii today joined eight other states in filing an amicus brief in support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in order to affirm a Michigan U.S. District Court ruling upholding the act.
Attorney General David Louie said the purpose of the act — to provide greater access to affordable health care for those who need it — “is an appropriate use of Congress’ power and serves a good purpose. The challenge to the individual mandate is without merit, and should be opposed.”
“States across the nation, including Hawaii, are dealing with an unprecedented fiscal crisis in large part because of rising health care costs,” said Neil Abercrombie. “To change course now would compound the already daunting challenge of addressing increasing health care costs and providing quality health care to all.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org, three of the top four contributors to Dan Inouye‘s campaign committee over the past five years are defense contractors: Lockheed Martin ($85,700), Northrop Grumman ($45,700) and Boeing Co. ($28,300).
Lobbying company Van Scoyoc Assoc. was third ($30,214).
Hawaii’s Alexander & Baldwin ranked fifth ($26,150).
More on Larry Geller‘s video of the House speaker vote — you know, the one that was not broadcast as scheduled Wednesday, even though a lot of people really wanted to watch.
Rather, someone recorded it from the Capitol’s own internal TV system — each chamber has a dedicated channel — that is sent directly to Capitol offices but does not transmit out of the building. The House system, which is staffed by the House Sergeant-At-Arms, has four cameras.
Apparently, someone concerned about government transparency made sure events were preserved for posterity.
Majority Floor Leader — Rep. Cindy Evans
Majority Whip — Rep. Mele Carroll
Culture and the Arts — Rep. Jessica Wooley
Education — Rep. Roy Takumi
Energy and Environmental Protection — Rep. Hermina Morita
Hawaiian Affairs — Rep. Faye Hanohano
Higher Education — Rep. Scott Nishimoto
Judiciary — Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran
Tourism — Rep. Tom Brower
Vice Speaker Joey Manahan
Majority Leader Blake Oshiro
Majority Whip Pono Chong
Majority Whip Ken Ito
Majority Whip John Mizuno
Majority Whip James Tokioka
Agriculture — Rep. Clifton Tsuji
Consumer Protection and Commerce — Rep. Robert Herkes
Economic Revitalization and Business — Rep. Angus McKelvey
Finance — Rep. Marcus Oshiro
Health — Rep. Ryan Yamane
Housing — Rep. Rida Cabanilla
Human Services — Rep. John Mizuno
International Affairs — Rep. Karen Awana
Labor and Public Employment — Rep. Karl Rhoads
Legislative Management — Rep. Kyle Yamashita
Public Affairs and Military Affairs — Rep. Henry Aquino
Transportation — Rep. Joe Souki
Water, Land and Ocean Resources — Rep. Jerry Chang
Democratic Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria said, according to AP, inviting speakers from various religions to preach before every session “wouldn’t survive a likely court challenge.”
“The House will likely continue allowing invocations as long as they don’t mention a specific deity or religion, said Democratic Majority Leader Blake Oshiro.”
Colette Machado told The Maui News there is “no dispute” that the state owes the Office of Hawaiian Affairs $200 million in past-due payments of ceded-land revenues.
“We want to be able to get land — and cash if possible,” she told the newspaper. “Let’s talk. Cash is fine, but land would be OK, or combine the two. Not just any lands, but certain lands that would give us an economic benefit, and for housing too if possible” for OHA’s Native Hawaiian beneficiaries.
Trustee Oswald Stender said the OHA board held a “very constructive meeting” recently with Neil Abercrombie.
“We realize the Legislature and the state have cash-flow issues, but there are resolutions that we proposed,” said Stender. “As we said to Governor Abercrombie, a payment in land would do as well.”
Next Wednesday, Jan. 26, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito will address the Hawaii State Bar Association at the Hawaii Supreme Court.
Alito’s presentation — titled “Top Things You May Not Know About the U.S. Supreme Court” — is from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Alito is in Hawaii as part of the William S. Richardson School of Law‘s Jurist-In-Residence Program.
Kudos to Larry Geller for posting a 17-minute video of the state House voting on Calvin Say‘s speakership.
“As you will see, there is little reason why it should have been kept from the public,” Geller writes. “Stay with it a few minutes or skip ahead to hear Speaker Calvin Say’s extensive reading from Abraham Lincoln.”
Geller adds, “In the end, though, the finish was pretty dull. This video is not going to win any awards.”
In late 2009, you may recall, Geller made news by taking videotape of rats in Chinatown markets.
Despite the switch in party control, Mazie Hirono will still sit on the same committees she did before Democrats handed the U.S. House of Representatives’ gavel over to Republicans.
Hirono says her committee assignments for the 112th Congress remain serving on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
“Jobs and education are two of my highest priorities,” said Hirono. “I feel very fortunate to have retained membership in these two major committees.”
“This might be the right opportunity,” said House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro. “We haven’t had a real discussion for several years, so I think we will have the discussion.” The discussion will only be the first step in what figures to be a long process. Legislators want studies done on the advantages and disadvantages of gambling expansion.
Hawaii already has one of the top tourism industries in the US, and adding a casino resort or two will only improve their tourism. Lawmakers are concerned, however, about the possibility of the locals falling into a trap of problem gambling. It is a fear that for a long time kept gambling expansion from progressing across the US.
Bills are already in the hopper.
Senate Bill 3 from Malama Solomon and Brickwood Galuteria: Requires DBEDT to investigate the possibility for Hawaii to participate in the multi-state Powerball lottery operated by the Multi-State Lottery Association or the Mega Millions lottery operated by the Mega Millions consortium, or both. Report to legislature.
Neil Abercrombie spoke about the possibility of a mega-lottery during his campaign for governor, but last week Amy Asselbaye told lawmakers the idea was not at this point a major priority.
UH’s Hawaii Energy Policy Forum will brief legislators and the general public on the state’s clean energy programs and showcase energy industry experts on new technologies and developments.
It runs from 10-11:30 a.m. in the Capitol Auditorium and 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the fourth-floor lanai.
The Boat Owners Association of The United States this week honored Linda Lingle as one of 12 recipients of its national 2010 Recreational Boating Access Awards.
Ray Pendleton, Honolulu Boating Examiner, writes:
“Hawaii’s small boat harbors were once called ‘dysfunctional’ by the Honolulu Star Bulletin,” said BoatUS Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Podlich. “Under former Governor Lingle’s watch, the state had begun a multi-year effort to replace or was in progress of replacing 664 of the 2,260 state-run slips. The state’s flagship recreational boat facility on Oahu, Ala Wai Harbor, has seen nearly two-thirds of its moorings replaced with state-of-the-art modular dock systems,” Podlich continued. “There is a way to go, but this is good progress. These facilities provide vital access to the ocean and generate economic dividends for their communities.”
Now that the House has a speaker — meet the old boss — he and the Senate president (the new boss) have agreed on a legislative timetable.
Of immediate interest: The non-administration bill package cutoff deadline is today, administration’s bill package cutoff deadline is Monday and the bill introduction cutoff is Wednesday.
The 20112 Legislature will adjourn on Cinco de Mayo — but who’s counting?
At 9 a.m., House Finance will hear budget requests from the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation.
The University of Hawaii System will present its budget at 1:30 p.m. Both briefings are in Conference Room 308.
Catch up on our previous week’s coverage: