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.

4:20 p.m. Kamita and Medical Marijuana

Among the five latest appointments the governor made to his administration today is Keith Kamita, who was named deputy director of law enforcement for the Department of Public Safety.

As the press release explained, Kamita was a narcotics investigator for more that 24 years, “17 of which were as the Chief of the Narcotics Enforcement Division in DPS. As Chief of this division, Mr. Kamita coordinated the implementation of several new enforcement programs including, Hawaii’s electronic prescription monitoring and pseudoephedrine tracking systems.”

What the press release did not say, however, is that in that capacity Kamita was a vocal opponent of medical marijuana, which has been legal in Hawaii since 2000 and is regulated by the Narcotics Enforcement Division.

Often, when there was a push by local proponents to ease access to medical marijuana (a Schedule 1 drug, a federal classification that includes heroin, LSD, PCP and crack cocaine), Kamita testified in opposition.

So persistent was Kamita that a Honolulu magazine story in November quoted a paraplegic patient who uses marijuana for medical purposes saying of Kamita, “It’s like putting the Klan in charge of civil rights.”

Abercrombie has been supportive of the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

3:11 p.m. Legislative Workshop Tonight

The second installment of a series of legislative workshops hosted by Kanu Hawaii runs from 5:30 to 7 p.m. this evening in Conference Room 329 at the Capitol.

This session centers on citizens voicing their concerns by submitting testimony or contacting their representatives. Scheduled speakers include former State Senator Gary Hooser.

The workshop will also be streamed live on KanuHawaii.org.

2:13 p.m. Inouye Retains Appropriations Chair

Harry Reid released committee assignments for the U.S. Senate today, and Dan Inouye is right where he wants to be — chairman of the committee that dishes out the kala.

Inouye also sits on Indian Affairs, which is now chaired by Dan Akaka, who, as reported earlier, no longer leads the Veterans’ Affairs Committee — a change some have interpreted as a demotion of sorts.

Akaka’s office put out a statement today putting the best spin on losing the Veterans’ post (Akaka still sits on the committee). It includes this quote from Inouye:

“A few weeks ago, Senator Akaka and I discussed this matter. He had strong feelings, understandably, on the future of Native Hawaiian self-determination and the rights of all indigenous people in America. It was a difficult meeting because Senator Akaka is a World War II veteran and a longstanding champion of veterans issues. At the time of our meeting, he told me, that as difficult a decision as it may be, he was considering the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs so he could focus on providing for indigenous people in rural communities all across America and to help provide the same kind of recognition for Native Hawaiians already enjoyed by more than 500 indigenous groups. This move does not mean diminished support for veterans. He will remain as a senior Democrat on the committee. Senator Akaka is a World War II veteran and he’s always supported Veterans and he will continue to do so.”

And this quote from Reid:

“He is an important member of our caucus, and I am excited about his new roles.”

Akaka will also join the Senate Democratic leadership as vice chair of the Steering and Outreach Committee during the 112th Congress.

1:08 p.m. Charging for Obama’s Birth Certificate

Five Democratic legislators — Rida Cabanilla, Calvin Say, Joey Manahan, John Mizuno and Jerry Chang — have introduced House Bill 1166, which “allows the Department of Health to issue a copy of the birth certificate of a person who is a candidate for, or elected to, a public office that requires the person to be a United States citizen for an additional $100 fee.

The bill states:

The state department of health has continued to be inundated with requests from various individuals and parties for information regarding President Barack Obama’’s birth. The continually increasing number of requests have caused the department of health distress as state resources, including employee time and energy, have to be diverted from other department responsibilities. It may be the case that if requesters were to have access to the actual birth records of officials who require United States citizenship to hold public office, any ambiguity surrounding the issue may be dispelled.

HB 1166 has been referred to two House committees.

12:10 p.m. Crime, Health Care Bills From Women’s Caucus

The Women’s Legislative Caucus today will formally announce its package of bills.

The measures include HB 125, which removes statute of limitations for prosecution of rape cases; HB 126, which amends the sex offender registration law to include violation of privacy offenses, including voyeurism; HB 126, which requires hospitals to provide survivors of sexual assault with accurate information on emergency contraception; and HB 132, which mandates collection of DNA samples from those arrested for sex offenses against minors.

Other measures strengthen laws regarding domestic violence, prostitution and prison reform for female inmates.

The members of the Women’s Legislative Caucus are:

Representatives: Karen Awana, Della Au Belatti, Rida Cabanilla, Mele Carroll, Corinne Ching, Cindy Evans, Faye Hanohano, Sharon Har, Linda Ichiyama, Georgette “Jo” Jordan, Marilyn Lee, Sylvia Luke, Barbara Marumoto, Daynette “Dee” Morikawa, Hermina Morita, Kymberly Pine, Cynthia Thielen, Jessica Wooley.

Senators: Rosalyn Baker, Suzanne Chun Oakland, Carol Fukunaga, Michelle Kidani, Donna Mercado Kim, Pohai Ryan, Maile Shimabukuro, Malama Solomon, Jill Tokuda.

News flash: There exists no Men’s Legislative Caucus.

Bills: Prison Reform

A slate of bills regarding prison reform are set to be heard at 2:45 p.m. in Conference Room 224.

Senate Bill 43 requires privately owned prisons or out-of-state detention facilities holding Hawaii prisoners to follow Hawaii freedom of information laws, while four other bills — Senate Bill 44, Senate Bill 46, Senate Bill 47 and Senate Bill 256 center on a prisoner reentry system.

Prison reform is a priority of the Abercrombie administration and several key lawmakers.

In related news: Courthouse News reported last week that another lawsuit was filed by a Hawaii inmate at Corrections Corporation of America’s Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz.:

“A man claims he was forced to give a private prison guard oral sex in his cell … It’s the latest in a string of abuses reported at the CCA prison, which is nearly wholly occupied by Hawaiian inmates. CCA is the biggest private prison company in the country.

Bills: Slaughterhouse and Quarantine

Set for 2:45 p,.m. in Conference Room 229 are several agriculture bills, including Senate Bill 249, which would fund a slaughterhouse within Campbell Industrial Park, and Senate Bill 281, which would authorize and fund the use or rent of animal quarantine facilities for commercial purposes.

The idea is that a thriving local beef industry makes Hawaii more self-sustainable … unless you are a cow, of course.

Dueling Earmarks

Still no word from Dan Inouye on President Obama’s call to end earmarks. But two of his colleagues have offered their thoughts.

Harry Reid told ABC News that “of course” earmarks will return. But Dick Durbin told The Hill that the Senate is “out of the business of earmarks.”

Curtailing Political Signage

Barbara Marumoto has introduced House Bill 1260 that would restrict duplicate signs posted indiscriminately on private property.

The bill restricts property owners to one sign per street frontage for each candidate or issue. If the property has very large street frontage, then the owner may place one sign per 1,000 linear feet.

“We don’t want to curtail the public’s freedom of speech,” says Marumoto, “but instead address the visual blight of multiple signs for multiple candidates.”

Marumoto noted that Kalanianaole Highway has been “an ugly corridor of numerous candidates each with a profusion of signs from Aina Koa to Hawaii Kai.”

EPA: Kudos to Kauai, Maui

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency applauds the mayors, County Councils and residents of Maui and Kauai counties for enacting restrictions banning plastic shopping bags.

“This will not only decrease the amount of plastic in the counties, but it will reduce the number of bags that end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – an enormous area of floating plastic waste,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.”

Catch up on our previous week’s coverage:

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