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.

2:11 p.m. Governor Signs Civil Unions Bill

Before a large and enthusiastic gathering of civil rights supporters at Washington Place, Neil Abercrombie made good on a campaign pledge to sign a civil unions bill into law.

Senate Bill 232, which will be known as Act 1, makes same-sex and opposite-sex couples eligible for civil unions recognition beginning Jan. 1, 2012.

The law grants them nearly all the same rights and benefits as marriage, making Hawaii the seventh state to offer those rights and benefits.

Five state governments offer same-sex marriage.

11:10 a.m. Civil Unions Bill Signing on Schedule

A spokesperson at the governor’s office has told Civil Beat that Gov. Neil Abercrombie has not been hospitalized, though he visited a doctor this morning at Kaiser Moanalua Medical Center. The civil unions bill signing will go on as planned — with the governor in attendance.

10:59 a.m. Report: Abercrombie Just Has a Cold

Hawaii News Now has updated its report:

A spokesperson for Gov. Neil Abercrombie says he just has a cold and the signing of the civil unions bill will go on as planned.

10:54 a.m. Report: Abercrombie’s Hospitalization May Postpone Civil Unions Signing

Hawaii News Now is reporting that Gov. Neil Abercrombie “is ill and was taken to an area hospital Wednesday morning for tests”:

A spokesperson from his office says they are waiting for test results before deciding to go ahead with today’s planned signing of the civil unions bill or not.

9:53 a.m. Civil Unions Party At Hula’s

Not on the Washington Place invite list for the signing of civil unions?

A public viewing party of the live stream of the governor’s ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel‘s Peacock Room (3rd Floor). The event, courtesy Aqua Hotels, will include pupu, soft beverages and entertainment. “Leadership and members of the various LGBT groups are expected to attend,” according to a press release.

A signing after-party will be held at Hula’s Bar and Lei Stand right next door following the viewing party.

In related news, Evan Wolfson, founder and president of the national organization Freedom to Marry, issued a statement applauding Hawaii’s legalization but adding that “Hawaii should move swiftly to finish the job by ending exclusion from marriage itself, allowing all committed couples to share in the same responsibilities, same respect, and same rules.”

And, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force today welcomed the Obama administration’s announcement this week that the Department of Justice will not defend the national Defense of Marriage Act because it is unconstitutional.

8:59 a.m. Reid Turns To Inouye

The Democratic Daily reports that Harry Reid won’t back down in the budget battle with Republicans and is seeking the help of Dan Inouye to prepare “a clean Continuing Resolution” that Reid can bring to the Senate floor next week:

Approval of such a stopgap resolution will be required to fund federal operations beyond March 4, the date when the current continuing resolution expires. Without a new budget resolution in place, most of the federal government would have to shutdown

“Speaker Boehner should stop drawing lines in the sand, and come to the table to find a responsible path forward that cuts government spending while keeping our communities safe and our economy growing,” Reid says. “It would be the height of irresponsibility to shut down the government without any negotiations, as Republicans are threatening to do. A shutdown could send our fragile economy back into a recession, and mean no Social Security checks for seniors, less funding for border security and no paychecks for our troops.”

(NOTE: Here at home, an earlier post said Mina Morita’s confirmation hearing was set for today. It is, in fact, set for March 9.)

Audits and the DOE

The Department of Education will brief Senate Education at 1:15 p.m. in Conference Room 225. The agenda includes an overview and analysis of various audits, reviews and investigations of the DOE.

Hanabusa Town Halls

Colleen Hanabusa will hold a town hall meeting at Aiea Elementary School Cafeteria from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. tonight, and tomorrow at Waipahu Elementary School Cafeteria, also 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Liquor, Fireworks, Frozen Bread

House Consumer Protection and Commerce will hear at 2:05 p.m. in Conference Room 325 a bill requiring previously frozen bread products to be labeled “previously frozen,” not “fresh.” The bill would prohibit bread that has been frozen to be labeled or advertised as “fresh.”

At 2 p.m. in that same room and before that same committee and another, scheduled to be heard are a bill prohibiting the sale or distribution of caffeinated beer beverages labeled as “pre-mixed drinks” and a bill prohibiting the sale or distribution of caffeinated beer beverages unless labeled as an “intoxicating liquor” and accompanied by a warning about potential harmful effects.

And, at 9 a.m. in Conference Room 016, Senate Judiciary and Labor is scheduled to hear bills that call for greater regulation of fireworks.

Catch up on our previous week’s coverage:

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