Welcome to Capitol Watch. We’re well past the halfway point at the Hawaii Legislature and hundreds of bills are still moving. Meanwhile the state’s budget shortfall is getting worse. Civil Beat is reporting on all of it.

4:30 p.m. Boylan to Talk Homeless on PBS Hawaii

“Island Insights” tonight features host Dan Boylan talking about homelessness.

The panel includes Marc Alexander, Bridget Holthus, Christy MacPherson and Darlene Hein.

3:59 p.m. Trump L’oiel

POLITICO reports another Donald Trump birther moment, this time on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Hosts Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie, both White House correspondents for the network, tried schooling Donald Trump today about his “birther” obsession.

“If you want to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, do you think this issue of the president’s birth is the most serious issue you could raise?” Guthrie asked Trump, who was on the show by telephone.

“I am proud of this issue,” Trump said. “I think somebody has to embrace it.”

If Obama was born in Kenya, “it would be the greatest scam in the history of this country,” Trump enthused. He also complained that the term “birther” is derogatory.

There’s more. Worth a look.

3:09 p.m. UPDATED: Gifts Bill Dies in House

House Judiciary this afternoon voted unanimously to defer Senate Bill 671, the so-called gifts bill that only lobbyists and lawmakers liked.

State Ethics Director Les Kondo told Civil Beat he welcomed the deferral, which in all likelihood means the bill is dead for this session.

The bill had come under strong criticism from government reform groups like Common Cause Hawaii and news media editorials.

Robert Brown

2:20 p.m. Net Energy Metering Bill Back From the Dead

A clean energy proposal that appeared to have stalled in committee was revived Thursday when it was re-referred from its two subject matter committees straight to House Finance.

Senate Bill 199, if passed, would give customers who sell electricity to the grid through net energy metering the choice to continue with those contracts even if new programs are created.

The Senate passed the bill, but it was deferred by House Energy and Environmental Protection two weeks ago. House Consumer Protection and Commerce was next on the referral list.

Now, both have been bypassed in favor of just one committee, breathing new life into the bill.

The Public Utilities Commission, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative and Hawaiian Electric have opposed SB 199, because they say the state and utilities are making similar energy metering efforts already.

Blue Planet Foundation, the Sierra Club Hawaii and the Hawaii Solar Energy Association support the measure.

Michael Levine

12:35 p.m. Legislature Honors ‘Hawaii Five-0’

The state House and Senate each recognized the contributions of “Hawaii Five-0” today by welcoming cast and crew to their floor sessions.

“The success of the new series tells others that Hawaii is good place for other shows,” said Mark Takai in the House ceremony.

On hand for the occasion were Alex O’Loughlin (Steve McGarrett) and Daniel Dae Kim (Chin Ho Kelly) as well as Al Harrington, who played Ben Kokua on the original series.

12:09 p.m. Civil Unions Lawsuit Dropped

Now that Hawaii civil unions are state law, Lambda Legal, ACLU Hawaii and Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing have dropped their lawsuit against the state.

“I can’t think of many occasions when we’ve been more delighted to dismiss a lawsuit than this,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, National Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal in a press release. “Governor Abercrombie removed the need for the lawsuit with the stroke of a pen — approving the Legislature’s diligent work and giving thousands of Hawai’i families badly needed protection.”

Young v. Lingle (retitled Young v. Abercrombie following last year’s election) was filed in July 2010, after then-Governor Linda Lingle vetoed HB 444, the previous civil unions bill.

7:29 a.m. Wildman Withdraws as Circuit Court Judge Pick

Joe Wildman yesterday asked Neil Abercrombie to withdraw his nomination for judge of the Circuit Court of the Second Circuit.

Abercrombie’s office released this statement:

“I’m grateful for Governor Abercrombie giving me the opportunity to serve,” Mr. Wildman said. “However, because of an unresolved situation with my law firm, I have decided to withdraw my nomination to prevent any distraction for the Abercrombie Administration and disruption for my family.”

Governor Abercrombie accepted Mr. Wildman’s request and will make a new appointment for Circuit Court judge shortly.

“I’m sorry that Joe won’t be serving the people of Hawaii as Judge of the Circuit Court,” Governor Abercrombie said. “There are other very qualified individuals recommended by the Judicial Selection Commission, and I will be making a selection soon.”

Circuit Court judges are appointed to 10-year terms by the governor from a list of between four and six nominees provided by the Judicial Selection Commission. But the governor’s policy is to not release the names of those nominees, reversing the policy of his predecessor.

Bill: Gifts from Lobbyists

House Judiciary is scheduled for final decision making on Senate Bill 671, the measure that would exempt from restrictions on gifts under ethics law invitations or tickets for a charitable event from a charitable entity.

As Civil Beat has reported, the bill would open the door to gifts of tickets, golf and travel to lawmakers and state employees despite the opposition of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission.

Bill: Kakaako Advisory Committee

Senate Water, Land and Housing is scheduled for final decision making on a bill that repeals the requirement that the Hawaii Community Development Authority consider recommendations by the Kakaako Makai Community Planning Advisory Council in developing plans for the area.

Land Use Research Foundation of Hawaii and Kobayashi Development Group support the bill, HCDA supports the intent and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, The Outdoor Circle, the Sierra Club Oahu Group, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends and Friends of Kewalos oppose it.

Bill: Spaceport License

House Finance is scheduled to hear a bill that would fund the application of a spaceport license from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The idea is to establish “space tourism” in Hawaii. Here’s what the4 bill says:

Space tourism is a potential billion dollar global industry that could significantly increase state revenues, provide new aerospace jobs, and rejuvenate economic development in the Kalaeloa area. The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to issue a limited number of spaceport licenses and the legislature finds that it is crucial to position Hawaii for that economic opportunity.

The Hawaii Academy of Science, Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, Enterprise Honolulu, The Aerospace States Association, Hawaii State Aerospace Advisory Committee, Mars Institute, Real World Design Challenge and the Onizuka Space Center support the idea.

Bills: Money In, Money Out

House Finance is also scheduled to hear a bill taxing out-of-state businesses doing business in the state, such as online companies.

It is also scheduled to hear bills raising the rental car surcharge, car registration fees and passenger facility charges.

It is scheduled as well to hear bills approving millions of dollars in emergency appropriations so the Department of Human Servies can continue to provide medically necessary services to low-income adults and children.

House GOP to Introduce Budget Plan

The House Republican Caucus will present a “balanced budget proposal” and release and interactive online version at 1:15 p.m. in the House Republican Caucus Room at the Capitol.

Catch up on previous coverage:

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