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.

3:30 p.m. Hanabusa, Hirono, Inouye on GOP Spending Fix

Colleen Hanabusa and Mazie Hirono were among 91 U.S. Representatives to vote against the Republican-led measure to keep the government funded for two more weeks yet also cut $4 billion in spending.

Only a handful of Republicans voted against the measure, but 104 Democrats joined 231 Republicans in passing it.

The bill is expected to pass the Senate as well, but Dan Inouye wants a a 30-day spending bill.

“The House has come forward with two weeks. I personally feel that is rather inadequate,” Inouye said, according to a report in The Hill. “They should give us a few more weeks.

1:25 p.m. Huckabee ‘Misspoke’

POLITICO now reports that Mike Huckabee didn’t really mean what he said about Pres. Obama and Kenya.

Says his spokesman Hogan Gidley:

“Governor Huckabee simply misspoke when he alluded to President Obama growing up in ‘Kenya.’ The Governor meant to say the President grew up in Indonesia.”

“When the Governor mentioned he wanted to know more about the President, he wasn’t talking about the President’s place of birth — the Governor believes the President was born in Hawaii. The Governor would however like to know more about where President Obama’s liberal policies come from and what else the President plans to do to this country — as do most Americans.”

12:09 p.m. Huckabee: Obama Raised in Kenya

Yep, that’s what he said.

The Washington Post, among other news sources, reports that Mike Huckabee, the ex-Arkansas governor, conservative commentator and former GOP candidate for president, says Punahou grad Barack Obama actually grew up in Kenya:

“During an interview with The Steve Malzberg Show, Huckabee said the president, ‘having grown up in Kenya,’ would have a different — more hostile — perspective on the British:

“‘I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, [is] very different than the average American.’

“‘…if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.'”

11:42 a.m. Senate WAM Approves Revenue-Raising Bills

Senate Ways and Means passed several bills aimed at bringing cash into the general fund and balancing the budget.

They include Senate Bill 120, which repeals dozens of state special funds; and Senate Bill 1186, which applies a daily $10 transient accommodations tax on complimentary furnished rooms.

WAM also approved Senate Bill 99, which restructures the Public Utilities Commission; Senate Bill 1385, which seeks to generate money from unused public school lands; Senate Bill 1357, which calls for a master plan to bring Hawaii inmates back from the mainland; Senate Bill 1078, which specifics that benefits of the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund are subject to negotiation; and Senate Bill 608, which allows for the lease of lands at Sand Island.

The measures now await a full Senate vote before crossing over to the House.

10:39 a.m. Masons Rejoice Over Bill’s Passage

The minute Senate WAM passed the film-tax credit bill that the Hawaii Masons Union supports, the dozens of members wearing pink shirts rose and quietly left Conference Room 211.

Outside, the Masons waved shakas as they posed for photos, exulting in the passage of SB 318.

How will the measure benefit them?

Several Masons told Civil Beat the tax credits will enable a developer to build film studios on Oahu and Maui.

9:33 a.m. Masons Crowd WAM Hearing

Conference Room 211 is full of members of the Hawaii Masons Unions, who are hard to miss in their bright pink T-shirts.

The Masons — Local 1 and Local 630 representing bricklayers, plasterers, cement finishers, tile installers, rock wall setters and caulkers — have showed up to let Senate Ways and Means know they support Senate Bill 318. An amendment proposes to change the bill so that it offers an increase in tax credits for movie, digital media and film production.

It’s about jobs for the local economy, the Masons say.

Decision-Making in Senate WAM

Senate Ways and Means will decide the fate of some 60 bills beginning at 9:20 a.m. in Conference Room 211.

Among the measures to be addressed include ones repealing some special funds and giving the money to the general fund, modifying the levying of the transient accommodations tax, specifying that benefits of the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund are subject to negotiation, rejiggering the Public Utilities Commission, reopening Kulani prison on Oahu, bringing Hawaii inmates back from the mainland and putting the administration of medical marijuana into the Department of Health.

Paying for Human Services

Senate Human Services has invited the Department of Human Services to talk about its budget requests.

Testimony is expected on a number of areas including payments for the aged, blind and disabled; cash support for child care; homeless services; and health care. The hearing is at 1:15 p.m. in the Capitol Auditorium.

Equal Pay Day?

The Legislature is beginning to hear resolutions, now that bills are nearing the first-decking deadline this Friday.

Though non-binding on law, a “reso” is intended to convey the opinion of lawmakers. At 11 a.m. in Conference Room 309, a House committee will hear two resos that would recognize the fourth Tuesday in April as Equal Pay Day in Hawaii and urge the U.S. Congress “to provide more effective remedies for victims of wage discrimination based on gender.”

Bills: Lawmaker-Lobbyist Gifts

At 9 a.m. in Conference Room 016 Senate Judiciary and Labor will hear Senate Bill 671, a bipartisan measure addressing reform of state law on ethics, disclosures, lobbyists, legislators and gifts that is now on the cusp of being amended into an entirely different measure.

Read Civil Beat’s article to find out more, but in short an amendement to SB 671 creates, according to Common Cause Hawaii, that would fatally weaken the original bill and effectively let lobbyists have undue sway over lawmakers.

Bills: Pasha v. Young Bros.

At 9:30 a.m in Conference Room 229 the agenda includes Senate Bill 98, which requires public hearings before PUC approval of a water carrier’s application for certificate of public convenience and necessity.

SB 98 is a direct result of the PUC’s granting Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines permission last year to compete against Young Brothers in the interisland shipping market. Pasha says it’s all about consumer choice but Young Brothers says Pasha gets to serve only the most lucrative island ports.

SB 98 has the “strong support” of Young Brothers and key neighbor island lawmakers who have heeded the carrier’s warnings that residents and businesses might actually be hurt by the competition — hence the need for public hearings.

Bills: Liquor, Smokes, Lap Dancing

At 2 p.m. in Conference Room 325 House Judiciary will hear measures including ones that make int against the law for minors to possess or use tobacco and make county liquor commissioners amend or adopt rules regarding conduct of patrons and to define the term “dancing”.

Bills: Mental Retardation

At 2 p.m. in Conference Room 308 House Finance will hear a bill that changes references to “mental retardation” or similar terms in the Hawaii Revised Statutes to “intellectual disability.”

Bills: Ferry System

At 1 p.m. in Conference Room 308 House Finance will hear a bill that establishes the Hawaii State Ferry System and a fund to pay for a system to ferry people and cargo between the islands.

The bill is a favorite of Joe Souki, who was a strong proponent of the now-defunct Hawaii Superferry. At present, there exists only a limited ferry system between Maui, Molokai and Lanai. Souki is also pushing a bill that would create a Hawaii Marine Highway System to be run by the Department of Transportation.


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