Welcome to Capitol Watch. The Hawaii Legislature is in full swing and Gov. Neil Abercrombie is delivering straight talk that’s not always welcome. Civil Beat is reporting on all of it.

2:58 p.m. Abercrombie To Sign Civil Unions Feb. 24

In a statement released today, it was announced that Gov. Neil Abercrombie will legalize civil unions on Thursday, Feb. 24, at a 1 p.m. ceremony at Washington Place.

1:22 p.m. Three’s the Charm for House Human Trafficking Bills

After hearing tearful testimony from human trafficking victims this morning, the House Human Services Committee advanced House Bill 576, which would establishes class A and B felony sex trafficking offenses.

Committee Chair John Mizuno said the bill, which passed with amendments, is one of three still alive in the House. The others are HB 946 and HB 497. All three are headed for the House Judiciary Committee next.

—Sara Lin

10:30 a.m. Hirono Fights for Flight Attendants

Mazie Hirono is pushing an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 that she says will provide occupational safety and health protections for flight attendants. Hirono states:

These protections are long overdue. Flight attendants work in one of the most hazardous workplaces of any in this country. They spend their days—and nights—at different altitudes, in different air pressure conditions, and in the case of those travelling to and from Hawaii, in different time zones. While in the air, they are the first responders to emergencies that can expose them to any number of viruses or bacteria carried by passengers.

These and other situations that flight attendants are forced to face on a daily basis has made them exceedingly likely to be exposed to workplace injuries and illnesses.

According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics the occurrence of injury and illness among air transportation workers is more than twice the national average. Yet, unlike workers in industries like mining, construction, and manufacturing, flight attendants are not protected under occupational safety and health standards.

Gov, LG Head to Pearlridge

Neil Abercrombie and Brian Schatz will participate in a Aiea-Pearl City town hall tonight from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Pearlridge Elementary School.

“We are very excited to bring together all of the state-level elected officers at one event for the people of Aiea and Pearl City,” said **Donna Mercado Kim, who organized the program, in a statement. “We hope many people will attend as nothing is more important than direct communications between the people and their elected representatives, especially in challenging times such as these.”

Area lawmakers Glenn Wakai, Clarence Nishihara, David Ige, Blake Oshiro, Roy Takumi and Mark Takai** are expected to attend the town hall.

Kauai Pot Protest Planned

The Garden Island reports that the Kauai Police Department, County of Kauai Anti-Drug Program, Office of the Prosecuting Attorney and others have scheduled an anti-drug protest at 4 p.m. at the Historic County Building on Rice Street.

The rally is intended to raise awareness about bills pending at the Legislature that “could decriminalize possession and open the door for island dispensaries.”

“If passed, these measures will result in increased violent crime, economic crisis, and a rise in marijuana usage among our children,” Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho said in a county press release.

Assistant Chief Roy Asher of the Kauai Police Department also expressed concern over the House and Senate bills, including SB 1460, SB 175 and SB 1458.

Collective Bargaining, and UH and DOE

A list of more than a dozen bills on collective bargaining for government workers awaits Senate Ways and Mean at 10:15 a.m. in Conference Room 211.

Big question: Does the state have the kala?

In that same room before that same committee, but at 9 a.m., the University of Hawaii and the Department of Education will brief lawmakers on their respective repair and maintenance backlogs.

Big questions: Does the state have the kala?

Happy Obama Day!

House Culture and the Arts will hear at 10:30 a.m. in Conference Room 329 House Bill 1124, which would make Aug. 4 President Barack Obama Day.

Sex Trafficking

At 10 a.m. in Conference Room 329, House Human Services will hear House Bill 576, which would establishes class A and B felony sex trafficking offenses.

At 9 a.m., in that same room before that same committee, an informational briefing on sex and human trafficking will be held.

“On September 3, 2010, six job recruiters were indicated in federal court in what FBI has called the largest human-trafficking operation ever to result in the United States,” according to the House. The indictment accuses employees of a California-based company of luring 400 people from Thailand with false promises of lucrative jobs. In one case, several Thai workers were allegedly detained at a pineapple farm on Maui and told to pay an additional fee of $3,750 to keep their jobs.”

Cabinet Confirmations

At 2:45 p.m. in Conference Room 224, a Senate hearing will consider the governor’s nominations of Darryll Wong to head the state DOD, Bruce Coppa to head DAGS and Jodie Maesaka-Hirata to run Public Safety.

A Senate hearing for Pat McManaman to run Human Services is set for 1:15 p.m. in Conference Room 016.

Sick Leave, Bingo and Casinos

At 2 p.m. in Conference Room 325, House Judiciary will hear House Bill 341, which makes it unlawful for any employer or labor organization “to suspend, discharge, or discriminate against an employee solely because the employee uses accrued and available sick leave” and “allows an employer or labor organization to require written verification by a physician that the employee was ill.”

At 3 p.m. in that same room before that same committee, bills on casinos and bingo get a hearing.

Catch up on our previous week’s coverage:

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