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.

4:10 p.m. Rotunda Round-Up Tonight

Common Cause Hawaii and Kanu Hawaii launch a new series of meet-ups for citizens to get involved in the legislative process.

The “Rotunda Round-Ups” start at 5:30 p.m. at the State Capitol rotunda.

The Rotunda Round-Ups are designed as informal meet-ups where Kanu Hawaii and Common Cause Hawaii leaders will provide an update on selected legislative issues, share ideas about how citizens can effectively participate at the State Capitol, and walk the halls of the Capitol to visit legislators.

“Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for citizens to participate at the legislature,” said Nikki Love, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii. “Most people cannot come to the Capitol during the day to testify at a hearing or watch a floor session. So instead, we’re trying to create an opportunity for people to participate at a time that is more convenient for them.”

The weekly events will continue every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. throughout the 2011 legislative session. For more information, visit http://kanu.me/citizen2011.

3:45 p.m. Morita Named PUC Chair

Gov. Abercrombie this afternoon named Kauai legislator Mina Morita as his chairwoman of the state’s Public Utilities Commission. The appointment requires Senate approval.

Morita, a Democratic state representative, would fill the remainder of a term that ends in June 2012. Abercrombie said he thanked current PUC Chairman Carlito Caliboso for his service.

Morita is a strong advocate for the state’s environment and a major proponent of legislation on clean, renewable energy. Abercrombie’s New Day In Hawaii agenda calls for an aggressive expansion of such programs.

Abercrombie called Morita a person of “caring and compassion” who is known for her fair treatment of all parties that have come before her House committee hearings. Morita said she leaves the House where she has served since 1994 with “bittersweet” feelings but welcomed the “daunting task” of running the PUC.

Morita’s appointment also creates yet another vacancy in the Legislature, which will again be filled by the governor. Morita was among more than a doen dissidents who wanted to replace Calvin Say as speaker.

In other news, Abercrombie declined to comment on whether his administration had made progress in naming a new Health Director of chief labor negotiator.

1:15 p.m. Super Bowl In Honolulu?

On Monday, two House committees are scheduled to hear House Bill 1583, which establishes a Hawaii Super Bowl task force “to plan and coordinate efforts to bring the Super Bowl to Hawaii.”

No joke. The bill reads in part:

The State possesses the necessary infrastructure and resources, including a modern, state— of— the —art convention center, and the hotel capacity to handle the activities, personnel, equipment, and all of the other preparations that the Super Bowl would entail. Hawaii also possesses the ancillary personnel and infrastructure, such as police, fire department, emergency medical services, parking and traffic control, and appropriate motor vehicles for transportation of personnel and equipment, needed to ensure that all of the activities and programs planned during Super Bowl week leading up to and including the Super Bowl itself, are conducted and staged in a smooth, efficient manner.

HB 1583 says zilch about where the Super Bowl would be played, however, or the fact that the governor wants to scrap refurbishment of the aging Aloha Stadium.

That said, it is 78 degrees and sunny in Honolulu while sleet and snow have paralyzed the Dallas-Fort Worth region this week — just days before the Green Bay Packers face the Pittsburg Steelers.

(UPDATE: The Super Bowl bill was deleted from the Monday hearing this afternoon.)

12:44 p.m. Big Island Quibbles Over Redistricting

West Hawaii Today reports that a divided County Council yesterday advanced new rules for dividing the island into council districts.

Council district boundaries will be expanded or contracted to accommodate population changes to make the districts as near the same size population-wise as possible.

The issue can’t help but be political, and Committee Chairman Angel Pilago of North Kona had to call a recess to restore order after tempers got heated.

Other than confirming the mayor’s nominees to the Redistricting Commission, the County Council has little say over where the lines are drawn. The nine-member Redistricting Commission must be confirmed by the council by March 1 and must submit its redistricting plan to the county clerk by Dec. 31.

11:47 a.m. Lutheran Pastor Delivers House Invocation

Pastor Max Fowler of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church was scheduled to deliver the invocation on the floor of the state House of Representatives today.

It is the first time since session opened this year that someone other than a state representative (with the exception of opening day) has delivered the invocation.

The House has not yet announced whether they will follow the state Senate in ending mandatory invocations, although House rules do not require them. Rather, invocations are at the discretion of the speaker.

11:05 a.m. Inouye + Elmo = Love

Dan Inouye has posted a photo on TwitPic of the distinguished senator wishing Elmo the muppet a happy birthday.

The occasion was a reception for the National Children’s Museum in Washington.

The museum says it will work in partnership with the nonprofit Sesame Workshop to establish an educational museum.

10:27 a.m. Akaka On GOP Challenge To Federal Workforce

Dan Akaka is the focus of a Washington Post article about federal workforce issues and a resurgent GOP.

Sen. Daniel K. Akaka is starting his fourth year as chairman of the Senate subcommittee on the federal workforce. It promises not to be like the last.

Being chairman of the subcommittee this year means taking the point for Democrats as they deal with a beefed-up crew of Republicans who see budget cuts when they view a workforce that Akaka (D-Hawaii) has long championed. …

It will fall to Akaka, the first senator of Native Hawaiian descent and a World War II veteran who witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor, to fend off moves against the workforce that federal labor unions and Democrats, generally, believe go too far. At the same time, he is not of a mind to try to overturn President Obama’s two-year federal pay freeze, something that federal employees would like to happen.

9:48 a.m. Bachmann Hawaii Trip Noticed in Minnesota

Civil Beat received an e-mail from Ken Avidor of The Dump Bachmann website after they picked up and quoted from our story of Michelle Bachmann’s Honolulu talk yesterday.

“There has been a little controversy here about Bachmann flying to Hawaii while her staff told a reporter she was doing ‘district work,'” he wrote, linking to a second Minnesota blog with a similar negative disposition toward the controversial U.S. Representative.

That blog, Ripple In Stillwater, ran this headline yesterday: “Michele Bachmann is in Hawaii today — not her subzero district, as her staff claimed.”

An excerpt from that post:

When Bloomberg reporter and former Time magazine White House correspondent Margaret Carlson called Michele Bachmann for a comment on the people’s uprising in Egypt, Carlson wrote that Bachmann’s office told her the Minnesota congresswoman “wouldn’t be giving any interviews this week while she concentrates on district work.”

Bill Potpourri!

It’s going to be tough deciding which hearings to go to today at the Legislature. So much interesting stuff!

A sampling:

• At 8:30 a.m. in Conference Room 309, House Public Safety and Military Affairs will hear House Bill 142 that asks the attorney general to review of the impact of diverting marijuana drug offenders out of the criminal justice system and into treatment; and House Bill 1085, which increases the fee for the registration certificate for medical marijuana patients.

Also scheduled for the same hearing are House Bill 532, which transfers oversight of Iolani Palace from DLNR to Public Safety; and House Bill 318, which creates a task force to study vog and find ways to address it (like anyone can possibly “address” Pele).

• Speaking of Iolani Palace, two Senate committees will hear a similar measure on transferring control — Senate Bill 57 — at a 3:30 p.m. hearing in Conference Room 224.

• At 2 p.m., the House Judiciary will hear about a dozen bills in Conference Room 325. They include two related to penalties for animal crueltyHouse Bill 108 and House Bill 243 — and House Bill 132 concerning DNA collection from those arrested for sex offenses against minors.

• A number of bills relating to homelessness and affordable housing are slated for 1:15 p.m. in Conference Room 016 before Senate Human Services.

• And a number of bills on disposing of solid waste and the environment are set for 8:30 a.m. in Conference Room 325.

Catch up on our previous week’s coverage:

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