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.

2:10 p.m. Shipboard Gaming Bill Sails On

House Bill 1651 on shipboard gaming passed the House Economic Revitalization and Business Committee today, but its survival is not assured, since it has to go before two more committees, a full House vote and then on to the Senate.

Here’s what the Associated Press had to say:

The legislation would create a board to create rules and manage offshore gambling. It doesn’t spell out exactly what type of gambling would be allowed.

Committee Chairman Angus McKelvey said his committee is amending the bill to require a minimum of 1,000 passengers on no more than two eligible ships.

Hawaii and Utah are the only states in the country without any form of legalized gambling.

1:30 p.m. Alaska and Earmarks

An article in The Anchorage Press argues that it is time for Alaska to “grow up” and live without federal earmarks.

With the nation facing a $14 trillion fiscal hole and congress looking to tighten its belt, it’s inevitable that Alaska is going to feel some of the pain.

Alaska has long been looked upon as the pig at the trough when it comes to federal pork, subsidies and preferential programs, even though the numbers don’t justify that distinction. Earmarks account for less than 1 percent of the overall budget, and Alaska’s overall burden on the federal budget is equally as light.

The amount of money that Alaska brings home from the federal government is also tempered by the fact that the federal government has such a sizeable footprint in the state. From military bases to federal lands and Native health programs, Alaska will always attract federal dollars to pay for these. In fact, Alaska receives far more from the feds in formula spending for things like transportation than anything else.

But with the new reality, the question has to be asked: Is it time for Alaska to grow up and start being more independent?

12:17 p.m. Latest GOP Swipe At Abercrombie

Statement from the Hawaii Republican Party via e-mail:

Governor Abercrombie says he supports the men and women in uniform who defend our country. But his proposal to tax pensions would hurt thousands of retired military personnel who have served our country and reside in Hawaii. Many of them were in the armed forces for over 20 years before they were eligible to get a military pension, and now live on a fixed income. How can you say you support those who defend our freedoms and then turn around and tax them for having served our country?

11:04 a.m. House Moves Along Publishers Liability Bill

House Bill 548, which would hold authors and publishers of visitor websites and publications liable “to readers who suffer injury or death as a result of being enticed to go onto private lands that are not open to the public,” passed second reading in the House today.

“Visitor website” includes any commercial travel website, social media wireless communication, forum, Twitter account or blog. This means it could affect any person using social media.

HB 548 now goes to House Water, Land and Ocean Resources.

A hearing on HB 548’s companion, Senate Bill 1207, is set for tomorrow afternoon in Senate Economic Development and Technology.

SB 1207 is opposed by the Association of American Publishers, which calls the legislation “ill-conceived.”

9:39 a.m. Big Isle Shops Don’t Like Plastic Bag Ban

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that a proposed ban on plastic shopping bags is not going over well among grocers and other retailers. That could lead to changes in the ban, which is set for a vote next Wednesday.

“Subway even gives plastic bags when you eat inside,” said Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann, who is the author of Bill 17.

8:40 a.m. Kauai May Relax Plastic Bag Ban

The Garden Island reports the Kauai County Council has given preliminary approval to “allow establishments serving ready-to-eat food to distribute plastic bags to customers.”

Ordinance 885 states that merchants can no longer distribute plastic bags at the checkout point, although they can offer paper bags and accept reusable cloth bags from customers.

Councilman Mel Rapozo said he introduced the bill because of safety concerns that were brought up to him since the law went into effect on Jan. 11.

“Bacteria love to live in this temperature. Bacteria need several things to exist: food, acidity, time, temperature, oxygen, moisture,” said Chef Martina Hilldorf, adding that bacteria can easily grow on cloth after contact with food.

Kokubun Confirmation Hearing

At 2:45 p.m. in Conference Room 229, Agriculture Chairman Russell Kokubun will be vetted by the Senate Agriculture Committee. (UPDATE: The vote was unanimous!)

Another love fest will happen during the full Senate’s midday floor session when Labor Director Dwight Takamine receives a final confirmation vote. (UPDATE: The vote was unanimous!)

Peacocks and Pornography

At 10:15 a.m. in Conference Room 016, the Senate Judiciary agenda includes Senate Bill 1533, which clarifies that peacocks are “not included as pests for purposes of the law on cruelty to animals in the second degree.” Ca-CAW!

At 2:50 p.m. in Conference Room 224, two Senate committees will hear a half-dosen measures including Senate Bill 1234, which strengthens the law on the offense of distributing pornography to minors.

Fish and Ships

Senate Bill 580 on new regulations to prevent aquatic life from ending up in aquariums is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. in Conference Room 225.

Decision-making on House Bill 1651 — allowing shipboard gambling — is set for 11 a.m. in Conference Room 312.

Slots and Taxes

Donna Mercado Kim‘s Senate Tourism Committee will hear bills on slot machines and video poker and applying the transient accommodations tax to rooms “furnished on a complimentary or gratuitous basis, or otherwise at no charge.” Kim is the lead introducer of both measures.


At 2:45 p.m. in Conference Room 224, three senate committees will consider a single bill — Senate Bill 112, which appropriates an unspecified amount of cash so that Hawaii can apply for a spaceport license from the Federal Aviation Administration to establish space tourism.

Open House

The state House of Representatives will open the House Chamber daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for Capitol visitors and guests to tour the gallery during the remainder of February.

The pilot project will be evaluated and a decision will be made on perhaps extending access to the chamber year round.
For more information, call the House Sergeant-at-Arms Office at 586-6500.

Insights on Gaming

Tonight on PBS Hawaii’s “Island Insights” Dan Boylan welcomes Earl Grinois, professor of economics at Baylor University; Violet Horvat, First Vice-President with the Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling; and Joe Souki.

The topic is a perennial — gambling!

Catch up on our previous week’s coverage:

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