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.

5:58 p.m. GOP Chair Disses ‘State o’ State’

Hawaii Republican Chairman Jonah Kaauwai released the following statement in response to Gov. Abercrombie’s State of the State address:

The first thing we must do when looking at a speech like the one Governor Abercrombie gave today is look past the presentation and examine the substance. If you boil the substance of this speech down, it is clear that the Governor’s number one priority is satisfying the public sector unions at the expense of everyone else in the state. We heard about numerous taxes that he will increase or create to balance the budget and avoid public sector furloughs. The Governor wants to create taxes for soda, beer and retirement income, he wants to cut funding to Medicare, social services, the Hawaii Tourism Authority and let Aloha Stadium fall apart, just so public sector unions do not have to face furloughs and share in the economic burden. It looks like the only people benefiting from this “New Day in Hawaii” are the HGEA, HSTA, UPW and UHPA bosses.

Guess he didn’t like it.

4:10 p.m. Inouye, Akaka Urged To Modify Filibusters

The Hawaii chapters of the Sierra Club and Common Cause, in concert with national groups, hope to persuade Dan Akaka and Dan Inouye to vote to change the way the U.S. Senate handles filibusters.

The Senate reconvenes Wednesday and has a narrow 24-hour period to enact rule changes with a simple majority vote. Afterwards, a two-thirds majority is required.

The Sierra Club’s Robert Harris says the last Congress had 91 filibusters, more than any in U.S. history, and that the use of filibusters — which allows one senator to talk a bill to death unless 60 senators vote to stop the senator — continues to block important bills and nominations.

Common Cause’s Nikki Love says more than two-dozen senators support changes to rules that protect the rights of minority parties to offer amendments, to have greater transparency, to eliminate secret holds on bills and reduce the time wasted on legislation.

The Senate resolution can be viewed here.

2:40 p.m. Dueling Civil Unions Bills

Neil Abercrombie made no mention of Hawaii civil unions in his “State of the State” address, although he told reporters afterwards that legislation is moving in the direction.

Turns out that there was a plan for the governor to submit a bill as part of his administration’s legislative package, but “complications” prevented it from being included.

Here’s the state of civil unions as of this afternoon, however:

  • Senate Bill 232, which will be heard at 10 a.m. by Senate Judiciary in Conference Room 016, is NOT the bill favored by most supporters of civil unions. Rather, it merely corrects a major flaw in last year’s HB 444 in terms of when the new law would be implemented (in this case, Jan. 1 of 2012).

  • The preferred Senate measure is Senate Bill 231, a bill which fixes not only the implementation date but also concerns about tax and benefits issues, for example. But Hee refuses to hear this bill.

  • Meanwhile, the House is working on a near-identical bill as SB 231 — a bill that, like SB 231, was hammered out by lawmakers and the administration with lots of input from the Attorney General’s office and GLBT groups. THIS is the bill, sheparded by Blake Oshiro, that will likely lead to the passage and signing into law of civil unions.

One other note: Many supporters of civil unions and civil rights in general were alarmed by the governor’s extensive praise of Father Marc Alexander in the “State of the State.” While he may be a good candidate for addressing homelessness, bitter feelings remain over Alexander’s role in opposing same-sex rights.

11:16 a.m. Key Point’s in Abercrombie’s Speech

  • End the current practice of state funded reimbursement for federal Medicare Part B benefits for Hawaii government employees.

  • Modernize the terms of the government employee retirement system

  • Repeal state tax deduction for state taxes

  • Treat pension income like all other income for tax purposes

  • Increase alcohol taxes

  • Charge a fee on sodas and similar drinks

  • Collective bargaining should achieve savings without disrupting services, resolve “crisis of unfunded liabilities” in pension funds and “runaway” health costs.

  • Bring fees paid by timeshare occupants into line with hotel room occupants.

  • Reallocate funds from the Hawaii Tourism Authority to basic government services.

  • Scale back on social services for which funding no longer exists.

  • Cut back on benefits provided to Medicaid patients.

  • Launch a series of capital improvement projects called “New Day Work Projects.”

  • Restore Lihue Courthouse and Kamamalu building as part of New Day effort.

  • Convene task force to consider future of sports and future of development on Oahu.

  • No capital improvement dollars for Aloha Stadium other than maintenance related to health and safety.

  • Hawaii positioned to receive nearly $100 million in new federal dollars in fiscal years 2012 and 2013 for military facility upgrades and veteran cemetery improvements.

  • Immediate resolution to appointed school board issue, allowing governor to make the appointments.

  • Organize a Hawaiian language university-within-a-university as a next step at UH.

  • Develop a leadership position in governor’s office for early childhood education.

  • Restructure Public Utilities Commission to move energy projects and better connect islands.

  • Implement plan of Hawaii Broadband Task Force.

  • Improve outdated information technology through a public-private partnership.

10:43 a.m. Gov: ‘Canoe Could Capsize’

Neil Abercrombie is poised to make very difficult decisions, including on social services, to right the ship of state — the canoe — that he says is in danger of capsizing.

The breakdown of our government is tearing our social fabric and undermining our economic recovery. As Governor, I will take full responsibility for our current situation. But with that responsibility comes an obligation to tell the truth. The truth is that the canoe, which is our beloved Hawaii, could capsize. We are in that unnerving moment when we could all huli. All of us are at risk and we have to face this.

The governor is serious and sober in his “State of the State” address, although he can’t resist his usual jokes and extemporaneous comments. Applause is respectful here in a packed House chamber.

Here is the full text.

Wordle: Neil Abercrombie State of the State

10:01 a.m. Focused On Care

The nonprofit PHOCUSEDProtecting Hawaii’s Ohana Children Under Served Elderly and Disabled — is in strong attendance in the House gallery and Capitol rotunda. Well over 100 of them in bright green shirts are hard to miss.

PHOCUSED is a nonpartisan organization “dedicated to increasing the safety for, visibility of, and investment in children and adults in Hawaii who are marginalized, impoverished, and underserved, and for whom access to health, human services and housing is critical.”

As such, they are one of many social services groups trying to get legislative help.

9:33 a.m. Rep. Carroll May Face Fines

The Maui News reports that Mele Carroll and three other Maui candidates could be fined “for failing to file required campaign spending reports for the 2010 election.”

Carroll missed deadlines to file all five spending reports required for the election period, due between Aug. 2 and Dec. 2, and did not respond to letters notifying her that she had failed to file, said Tony Baldomero of the Campaign Spending Commission. Carroll said last week that she missed the deadlines because she was missing some information, and noted that she handles her campaign’s books herself. She filed all five reports Tuesday. “I had to wait for some receipts,” she said. “I like to get it right.”

Carroll, a House dissident, was named one of the state House’s majority whips on Friday as part of the negotiated leadership agreement.

Neil Abercrombie’s New New Day

All eyes will be on the governor’s State of the State address, set for 10 a.m. in House chambers at the Capitol.

The last time we saw Neil Abercrombie in the House was opening day, when he was boogieing to “Mustang Sally” as belted out by Sean Naauao and Friends.

Today, expect the governor’s usual passion, yes, but also leadership — namely, on how he address the budget deficit and still pay for ambitious new programs.

The Birther Story That Lives On

The governor’s well-publicized quest to settle the “birther” controversy has turned into a flop. Per the advice of AG David Louie, the administration late Friday unceremoniously killed Abercrombie’s plan to prove Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.

That’s because it is against state law to release private documents without the person’s consent.

The question now is whether the “birther” conspiracy will die down. Leading up to Friday’s announcement, the story was gaining new momentum — especially in right-wing circles.

For example, Newsmax reported on Friday that Rush Limbaugh questioned why Abercrombie could not get Obama’s support to resolve the matter.

Limbaugh said of Abercrombie:

“Remember, he started out, the whole reason for doing this, was to get it off the table so it wasn’t an election issue for 2014.

But he’s done the exact opposite now. How many of us could get away with saying, ‘Yeah, there’s a little notation somewhere there in the archives, but we can’t find the birth certificate.'”

Limbaugh compared Abercrombie’s vow to demonstrate Obama’s Hawaii birth before he knew he could produce the birth certificate to a lawyer granting immunity to someone before knowing what the person was going to say.

Limbaugh also called Abercrombie a “well-known socialist,” something which progressive watchdog Media Matters soon countered was false.

Meanwhile, last Thursday on Fox Nation, in a post headlined “Hawaii Governor Claims Record of Obama’s Birth ‘Exists in Archives’ But Can’t Produce the Vital Document,” the comment section included this passage from “jediwarrior”:

Neil’s scheme obviously went awry. If Obama was truly born in a hospital in Hawaii as claimed- a hospital by now would have seized upon the opportunity to celebrate this celebrity birth. We’re supposed to believe in a Hawaii birth without a hospital, birth doctor or a single eyewitness. As a result, Americans do not know if Obama is “natural born”- and they don’t even know if he is a legal US citizen- if born in Kenya in 1961, his mother did not meet age and residency requirements to transmit US citizenship to a son born on foreign soil to a foreign father.

There’s much, much more, including the usually loonies — like this posting on Sad Hill News, which calls itself “the truth network.” The headline says it all: “Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie Is A Marxist.”

Yesterday, however, the birther issue surfaced in a David Gregory interview with Eric Cantor on “Meet the Press.” Cantor declined Gregory’s invitation to get him to distance the GOP from the issue, though he did say he believes Obama is an American citizen.

Also yesterday, one online wag suggested the birther story was far from over: “Thank you Gov. Abercrombie, your attempt to end the ‘birther controversy’ has guaranteed that Obama’s missing birth certificate will be the primary campaign issue in the 2012 presidential campaign.”

Bill of the Day: Appointed BOE

Speaking of the need for education, at 1:15 p.m., Jill Tokuda‘s Education Committee will hear Senate Bill 8, which establishes implementing legislation for the appointment of Board of Education members but also establishes “considerations” for the Senate during the advise and consent process.

SB 8 is the first bill to be heard this session, and the only bill to be heard today.

It was also introduced by 20 of the 25 senators, including the lone Republican, suggesting senators want to have a say on how that board will be appointed.

Community Policing in Makiki

Della Au Belatti, Carol Fukunaga, Ann Kobayashi and Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo will join members of the Honolulu Police Department from 6-7:30 p.m. to learn about community policing and organizing Neighborhood Security Watch programs in Makiki.

“Community policing provides residents with a greater sense of security,” said Au Belatti, the district’s representative. “Residents can aid police in combating crime in our community by acting as extra eyes and ears of HPD.”

The public meeting is at the Christ United Methodist Church Educational Chapel. 

Catch up on our previous week’s coverage:

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