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.
Answer: “To ensure their taxes are not raised, control government spending, maintain fiscal discipline, increase government accountability, reduce the size and scope of government, stimulate and accelerate student learning and create an economic environment that will help local businesses thrive, create jobs and attract international investments.”
That’s the summary of the legislative package submitted by the House Republican Caucus today.
Among the two dozen our so proposed measures are the following:
• A constitutional amendment that would require a super-majority or two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to raise or create taxes and fees;
• a bill lowering the costs of medical practice in an effort to limit doctor shortages and avoid further increases in the costs of health insurance;
• a bill protecting farmers by exempting them from liability if a trespasser injures themselves on the agricultural land;
• a bill prohibiting the construction or operation of new facilities that produce energy solely from fossil fuels;
• a bill disallowing public employers from withholding any portion of an employee’s paycheck for a political contribution unless the employee has submitted a specific written request;
• a bill calling for a periodic, independent and comprehensive review of the Department of Education, to increase accountability and encourage efficiency;
• a bill requiring all bills with a fiscal impact to include an estimate of the impact of the bill on state revenues and taxpayers;
• a bill making any salary increases for legislators recommended by the Commission on Salaries subject to public hearings; and
• a resolution to change House rules to require that the Speaker of House be “conditionally selected” at least 45 days prior to the start of the legislative session — “In the event that new leadership is not established by the requisite date, the Representative with the most proportional votes in the General Election would become Speaker, thereby preventing a stalemate.”
Bet the House Democrats will be all over that last one, eh?
Tuesday’s hearing with the Senate Ways and Means Committee was supposed to focus on budgetary questions for the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. But with medical waste spreading down the Leeward Coast and popping up on the front page, DLNR’s role in the cleanup became a topic of conversation.
Will Espero, whose district stretches from Ewa Beach back toward Honolulu, took the opportunity to ask interim DLNR Director William Aila what role the agency has played in the response to what Espero termed a “catastrophe.”
Aila — himself a Leeward guy, hailing from Waianae — told Espero that the Department of Health is taking the lead on the response. He said DLNR is standing by, ready to help if it receives a request for assistance.
That appeared to appease the senator, but only temporarily.
At the end of the hearing, saying he didn’t want to “belabor” the point, Espero did in fact belabor the point. He asked, incredulously, why the agency tasked with protecting the state’s natural resources, including beaches and reefs, has sat on the sidelines concerning such an important issues as medical waste. Surely, he said, more bodies and more eyes could only help with the cleanup.
Aila, slightly miffed, said health officials hadn’t asked for any help but reiterated his offer to assist if called upon.
In other news, other senators asked Aila to discuss budgetary issues relating to the Bureau of Conveyances, the State Historic Preservation Division, rockfall mitigation and state park land on Kauai. — Michael Levine
Four House Democrats have sent a letter to Blake Oshiro proposing to change House rules so that the speaker, vice speaker and other top jobs would be limited to six consecutive legislative sessions.
The term limits would apply as well to majority and minority leaders, floor leaders and committee chairs. The idea is to help “ensure routine succession in the House, and … help promote fresh ideas in the work we do.”
A second rule change proposes reducing the size of committees. The idea is to cut down how many committees a member serves on, allowing them to build expertise in key areas.
The rules changes are proposed by Denny Coffman, Gil Keith-Agaran, Chris Lee and Mark Nakashima — all members of the bloc of House dissidents who want to oust Calvin Say after his 11 years as speaker.
The House Republican Caucus will share its legislative plans for the new session at a 1:30 p.m. press availability in the House Republican Caucus Room on the chamber level at the Capitol.
Expect pro-small business legislation and calls for fiscal accountability, among other initiatives.
The caucus is Minority Leader Gene Ward, Minority Floor Leader Kymberly Marcos Pine, Minority Policy Leader Barbara C. Marumoto, Assistant Minority Leader Cynthia Thielen, Assistant Floor Leader Corinne W.L. Ching and Minority Whips George Fontaine, Aaron Ling Johanson and Gil Riviere.
As of late Monday it appeared there was no rapprochement between the 25 House Democrats who support Calvin Say and the 17 who support Sylvia Luke or Roy Takumi.
An end to the stalemate could still come today, however, though there are bound to be hard feelings because leadership positions and chairmanships would likely change hands under any deal cut by Say and Luke.
There will be winners and losers under the reorganized House, with consequences for legislation. But at least the Democrats will have “united” behind one leader.
What about the eight House Republicans who say they support Say?
Dan Inouye says it would be “disgraceful” for Say to accept GOP help. And Inouye is expected to be at the Capitol for opening day ceremonies.
If there is no breakthrough, come tomorrow at 10 a.m. — opening day of the 2011 Legislature — Mark Nakashima becomes temporary presiding officer. Nakashima, who will assume the position because he represents House District 1, is one of the 17 dissidents.
The introduction of a resolution to decide who will be speaker will soon follow, according to House rules.
Civil Beat will be there, live-blogging from House chambers.
Depending on one’s reading of the House rules, Calvin Say either stopped being speaker at midnight last night or will stop being speaker tonight at midnight.
Rule 1.5 reads as follows:
The Speaker and Vice Speaker shall hold office during the term for which they are elected to the House, unless sooner removed by majority vote of the House. If they are reelected to membership in the House for the succeeding term, they shall retain their respective positions until the day before the opening day of the succeeding Legislature.
With the GOP-controlled House set to vote on repealing health care reform, Mazie Hirono is asking constituents who share her concern for “stories.” There’s a place on her website to designated especially for that purpose.
“Tthe House will debate the Patient’s Rights Repeal Act, which will undo all the progress that has already been made in ending unfair insurance practices and providing real consumer protections,” Hirono says. “I do not support repeal.”
The conservative Big Island website Hawaii Free Press has posted a letter from the Kona Tea Party urging concerned citizens to contact the state House and Senate and ask them to keep religious invocations before floor sessions.
“Invocations offered by clergy before floor sessions have been a traditional and time-honored tradition at the State Capitol,” the letter reads. “The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii wrote to both the Senate and state House in August with complaints about ‘decidedly Christian prayers — with reference to Jesus Christ.'”
“The Hawaii session convenes this coming Wednesday … The change of policy is part of a new rules package the Senate will consider for the opening session. Senate President Shan Tsutsui (D, Kahului) will recommend that the Senate end the tradition of invocations based on the ACLU complaint.””
“This is an opportunity to let the Hawaii Legislature know that you are in favor of God’s blessing upon the decision-makers of the State of Hawaii.”
In a related matter, Mitch Kahle of Hawaii Citizens for Separation of State and Church told Civil Beat that a lawsuit filed by him and Kevin Hughes following a physical altercation involving the two men and Capitol security last April 29 will not be halted even if the invocations are banned.
The incident (which can be viewed here) occurred when Kahle and Hughes interrupted a Senate invocation.
Arakawa had criticized predecessor Charmaine Tavares for renovations that included a locked security door mayor’s office reception area, located on the ninth floor of the Kalana O Maui Building.
The paper says county spokesman Rod Antone said the doors would be “open all the time now” during business hours — although visitors must still check in with a receptionist when they arrive to set up a walk-in appointment with an available staff member.
At 9 a.m., the Department of Land and Natural Resources — which is underfunded and understaffed — will present its budget to Senate Ways & Means in Conference Room 211.
William Aila is the governor’s nominee to lead DLNR, and senators will be interested to hear from him.
The Department of Human Resources Development is also scheduled to present its budget.
At 1:30 p.m., Ways and Means will hear from the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (a fiscally challenged body) and from the Department of Health in Conference Room 211 (there may be questions about medical waste on beaches … and birth certificates).
The Department of Human Services will present its budget at 1:30 p.m. in the same room.
At 11:45 a.m. in Conference Room 329, an informational hearing by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees expects to hear from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources and other likeminded groups.
Catch up on our previous week’s coverage: