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.

3:40 p.m. House Will Vote On Civil Unions Friday

Senate Bill 232, the Hawaii civil unions measure amended and passed by the House Judiciary last night, was approved for second reading by the full House today.

It now faces a third and final vote Friday before heading back to the Senate for consideration.

Interestingly, House members opposing SB 232 asked to record their individual votes today rather than go with a voice vote, as is usually the case on second reading of bills

It seemed a symbolic show: One by one, 18 members picked up their microphones and said “no” — Democrats Henry Aquino, Karen Awana, Jerry Chang, Isaac Choy, Ty Cullen, Joey Manahan, Sharon Har, John Mizuno, Joe Souki, Mark Takai, Jimmy Tokioka, Clift Tsuji and Ryan Yamane; and Republicans Corinne Ching, Aaron Johanson, Gil Riviere, Gene Ward and George Fontaine. Democrat Ken Ito was excused.

When House Bill 444 passed last April, 20 members voted “no” — Democrats Aquino, Awana, Chang, Choy, Cindy Evans, Har, Ito, Mike Magaoay, Manahan, Mizuno, Roland Sagum, Souki, Takai, Tokioka, Tsuji and Yamane; Republicans Ching, Ward, Kymberly Pine and Lynn Finnegan.

Pine, the minority floor leader, did not necessarily change her mind this time; she just chose not to formally say “no” — at least not today. Same goes for Evans. Finnegan, Sagum and Magaoay are no longer in the House. And Cullen, Johanson, Reviere and Fontaine are new members.

To put it another way, despite some turnover the House appears to have retained roughly the same proportion of those who support civil unions and those who are against — a proportion, incidentally, that is not veto proof. But then, Hawaii has a different governor this time around.

1:02 p.m. House Keeps Invocations

In a voice vote this afternoon, the state House voted overwhelmingly to retain its tradition of allowing invocations to open floor sessions.

The vote came on a resolution that adopts House rules. The resolution was worked out by Minority Leader Gene Ward and Majority Leader Blake Oshiro.

Ward called the agreement “an historic resolution … a proud day for the House … There is no church of Hawaii or church of the Legislature, but we continue to ask for guidance — we need it.”

Last month, the state Senate ended its practice of invocations, making it the first legislative body in the nation to do so.

12:25 p.m. Bingo Bill Passes House Committee

The House Hawaiian Affairs Committee approved a measure that would allow bingo on Hawaiian home lands. Two members voted with reservations and Gene Ward voted “no.”

Bobby Hall of DHHL said the department supports the intent of House Bill 1225 because “it provides for a more consistent revenue stream to the department.”

The Honolulu Police Department, the Rev. Bob Nakata and religious groups oppose the bingo bill.

But Democrat Rep. Jo Jordan said she is “gravitating towards the idea” because the federal government can allow bingo on its properties.

“I also like that a percentage (of revenue) goes to the general fund an Hawaiian Home Lands,” she said. “It’s out-of-the-box thinking.”

Another gambling measure, House Bill 1227, which would allow casinos on Hawaiian home lands, was deferred.

11:20 a.m. Horner Named to BOE

Don Horner, CEO of First Hawaiian Bank, was appointed by Gov. Abercrombie to fill a vacancy on the Oahu-at-large Board of Education seat. In 2009, he chaired the Legislature’s Reinventing Government Task Force that examined the Department of Education, among other government agencies.

He was vice chairman of the department’s Interagency Working Group that implemented key education reform laws and served on the Superintendent’s Advisory Council. Horner also serves on the advisory board for Teach For America and was instrumental in helping end last year’s Furlough Fridays through partnerships with other banks.

“Don is the embodiment of public service,” said Abercrombie. “My bottom line is that the children are utterly, totally, completely dependent on the judgment of the adults around them.”

Horner, who retires from the banking business by the end of this year, said he was “humbled and honored” to take the job. He declined to comment on policy but said he was reading to “listen and learn.”

The appointment of Horner, who replaces Lei Ahu Isa, takes effect immediately.

Abercrombie’s pick is interesting on several levels. Although Horner brings a lot of experience and credibility to the table, the appointment is only a temporary one. A new appointed board could replace the current elected board before summer.

This was also the Governor’s first opportunity to set the tone for the type of leaders he might select for the state’s first appointed Board of Education. Abercrombie is encouraging people to apply for appointments through his website. —Katherine Poythress

10:18 a.m. Hirono, Hanabusa Against Patriot Act Extension

Mazie Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa were among 148 U.S. House representatives last night who voted against legislation to extend surveillance authorities in the Patriot Act.

The House fell seven votes short of the two-thirds majority necessary to move the bill.

“More than two dozen Republicans bucked their leadership in the vote, by far the biggest defection for the House GOP since it took over the lower chamber,” The Hill wrote. “Democrats were gleeful that the bill fell short.”

9:36 a.m. Young, Pablo Get Unanimous WAM Support

Senate Ways and Means this morning unanimously recommended Kalbert Young as director of the Department of Budget and Finance and Fred Pablo as director of the Department of Taxation.

Both recommendations will go to the full Senate.

Of note: None of Neil Abercrombie‘s Cabinet appointments has yet to encounter serious obstacles to confirmation.

Ehime Maru Remembered

Gov. Neil Abercrombie will participate in a wreath presentation and tree-planting ceremony at Kakaako Waterfront Park to memorialize the 10th Anniversary of the Ehime Maru incident — the accidental sinking of a Japanese boat in Hawaii waters by an American submarine.

The event is set for 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Young, Pablo Await Senate Committee’s Nod

Budget Director Kalbert Young and Tax Director Fred Pablo will find out beginning at 9 a.m. in Conference Room 211 whether Senate Ways & Means will let them keep their jobs.

Both Cabinet appointments seem assured. So does that of Kealii Lopez, the DCCA director, who will receive a full Senate vote on her nomination at around 11:30 a.m. (UPDATE: Lopez was confirmed unanimously.)

Flags, Booze, Smokes, Homeless People

Resurrecting an issue that received tons of attention last year, the House Housing Committee is scheduled to hear House Bill 69, which says planned community associations may not ban members from displaying the United States or Hawaii flag. The bill is set for 8:30 a.m. in Conference Room 325.

That same hearing includes measures banning smoking in and around public housing facilities and banning open alcohol in the facilities’ common areas.

There is also a bill that would allow homeless people to sleep in their cars in parking lots.

Here’s a hot one: House Bill 30 prohibits the throwing of “burning material” from a motor vehicle. The bill is vague on what is meant by “burning materials” … maybe lit cigarettes? The hearing is set for 9 a.m. in Conference Room 309.

Casinos, Bingo and Hawaiian Home Lands

Beginning at 8:30 a.m. in Conference Room 329, a host of bills related to Hawaiian affairs are scheduled.

They include House Bill 1225, which would allow bingo on Hawaiian home lands to raise money for the state (as well as pay for “compulsive gambler program”); and House Bill 1227, which would allow casinos on Hawaiian home lands and also raise kala for da kine.

Meanwhile, at 9 a.m. in Conference Room 016, Senate Judiciary and Labor will hear three gambling bills, including Senate Bill 1097, which would allow a casino in Waikiki.

That same committee is scheduled to join a second Senate committee at 11 a.m. (and also in Conference Room 016) to hear Senate Bill 1528 on shipboard gambling.

OHA’s Revenue From Ceded Land

At 3:30 p.m. in Conference Room 224, the Senate’s Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs committees will hear Senate Bill 984, which calls for the transfer of cash or land to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to settle past-due ceded-land revenues.


Catch up on our previous week’s coverage:

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