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.

5:46 p.m. Gov Names Health Director

Neil Abercrombie has appointed Loretta Fuddy as the director of the Department of Health.

Fuddy has been serving as the acting health director since Jan. 26. Her nomination requires confirmation by the state Senate.

Abercrombie’s first pick for the job, Neal Palafox, resigned the position suddenly in late January. The Abercrombie administration has declined to comment on the matter.

4 p.m. Abercrombie, Inouye Praise Akaka

Here’s Dan Inouye‘s statement on the retirement of Dan Akaka:

“I want to thank Senator Akaka for his service to Hawaii and the nation. For nearly four decades, first in the House of Representatives and then in the Senate, Senator Akaka has fought hard for the people of Hawaii. He is a tireless advocate for Hawaii’s residents and a true ambassador of Aloha. He has been a willing and loyal partner and we have worked very well together over these many years. We have much more to do and I look forward to working with him over the next two years. Kanieala, thank you for your friendship and unwavering support. Irene and I wish you and Millie all the best in your future endeavors.”

And here’s Neil Abercrombie‘s:

“His soul is one with Hawaii. His love for Hawaii and ours for him is as one. He is a true son of Hawaii that we welcome back home with hearts full of the aloha that is Daniel Akaka. The words aloha and Akaka are interchangeable. Daniel Akaka is Hawaii.”

3:22 p.m. Obama Says Akaka ‘Will Be Missed’

President Obama released a statement today on the announcement that Dan Akaka would not seek re-election next year:

“Danny Akaka answered the call to serve right after high school by joining the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. When he returned to Honolulu, he continued to serve the people of Hawaii as an educator before embarking on more than three decades of distinguished service in both houses of Congress. Danny spent his career fighting for our troops, veterans and their families and for the rights of Native Hawaiians. He worked tirelessly to reform Wall Street and to make sure that consumers and small business owners are treated fairly in our system. His voice in the Senate will be missed. Michelle and I would like to join the people of Hawaii in saying ‘mahalo’ to Danny for his lifetime of service and offer both him and Millie our best wishes for the future.”

12:14 p.m. Poi-Pounding Bill Moves Along

House Hawaiian Affairs voted unanimously to move out of committee Senate Bill 101, which exempts the preparation of hand-pounded poi from certain Department of Health regulations regarding food safety.

SB 101 would also impose labeling requirements on hand-pounded poi and authorize DOH to conduct inspections of a poi producer’s premises.

Supporters of the bill believe the DOH exemption is necessary to protect Hawaiian cultural practices.

The Office of Hawaii Affairs, in written testimony in support of SB 101, wrote, “Our traditions hold that kalo is the elder sibling of the Native Hawaiian people. Poi, which is made from kalo, is the staple of our traditional diet. … We believe that SB 101 … represents a reasonable compromise that allows for hand-pounded pai ai to be sold; preserves DOH’s ability to protect public health; and informs consumers about the product.

The DOH has testified in opposition to the exemption.

10:38 a.m. Budget Developments for Big Isle, Maui

The Maui News reports that a Maui County Council committee unanimously supports a proposed $1.9 million federal grant application for fiscal year 2012.

The grant would help support ARC of Maui, the Maui Police Department, Maui Family Support Services, the Department of Water Supply, Mental Health Kokua and other groups and programs.

And West Hawaii Today reports that Big Isle Mayor Billy Kenoi promised not to raise property taxes “as he unveiled a budget that unfunds 100 vacant positions, eliminates worker furloughs, restores the 2 percent land fund, adds a $1 bus fare and postpones $29.1 million to the next budget year”:

“The $366.1 million budget is 2.6 percent less than the current budget. It was submitted to the County Council on Tuesday and, once approved, goes into effect July 1.”

9:55 a.m. Inouye, Akaka Vote For Stopgap Spending Bill

In contrast to their House counterparts Colleen Hanabusa and Mazie Hirono, Dan Inouye and Dan Akaka joined Senate colleagues in voting 91-9 to approve the two-week stopgap spending bill to keep the government running.

The measure now goes to the president for his expected signature.

Democrats still don’t like the House GOP-crafted bill because it cuts $4 billion in spending.

Inouye, as chairman of Senate Appropriations and a leading proponent of earmarks, is still pushing for a longer-term stopgap measure. As he told POLITICO yesterday, before the Senate vote, “I am not going to roll over and play dead,” saying that he wants a full markup of spending cuts.

UPDATE: Sen. Inouye’s office released this statement today on the spending bill (also known as a Continuing Resolution):

“Mr. President, this is the fifth time this fiscal year that I have urged the Senate to support a Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government running. CRs are inefficient and hamstring our agencies and departments, especially the Department of Defense in a time of war. A CR funds programs that should be terminated and does not fund programs that need to be initiated. There is only one advantage to a CR — it is better than the alternative, a government shutdown.”

“The House has proposed a two week Continuing Resolution, which would keep the government operating through March 18. The proposal includes four billion dollars in cuts, many of which were recommended by the President in his FY 2012 budget request. Clearly, the two week extension in this CR does not provide sufficient time to hammer out a final agreement. At this point, however, it would appear that the only alternative is a government shutdown. This is an unacceptable outcome — the consequences for our economy and the American people would be severe. As a result, I have come to the reluctant conclusion that we should pass this extension quickly and send it to the President for his signature.”

“As things stand today, I believe that we will find ourselves in the same place two weeks from now. I am not optimistic that there will be sufficient time to work out a final deal that will pass the House and Senate prior to March 18. I hope I am wrong, but the reality is that the two Houses remain far apart and the negotiations will be long and intense. By accepting this extension, Senate Democrats have demonstrated a good faith effort to work with our House and Senate Republican counterparts on a reasonable compromise that will end the current Budget stalemate. Let us hope that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are willing to meet us half way as we move forward with these critical negotiations in the weeks to come.”

UPDATE: Sen. Akaka released this statement on the vote:

“I am pleased we were able to reach a temporary compromise to avoid the devastating economic effects of a government shutdown. However, we cannot expect federal agencies to provide the American people with efficient and effective service if we tell them what their budgets are two weeks at a time. Now we must focus on reaching a longer-term agreement to provide the certainty needed to continue our ongoing economic recovery.”

9:15 a.m. More Birther Stuff

Georgia is the latest state to propose legislation requiring President Obama to show proof he was born in the U.S. should he seek another term next year. That brings the total number of states to 11.

Here’s what the Associated Press had to say:

“Georgia Rep. Mark Hatfield, a Republican, said he still doesn’t know if Obama is eligible to serve as president, and 92 of his GOP colleagues and one Democrat support the bill introduced Monday.”

“‘Most people feel it’s an issue to a significant enough portion of our population that it needs to be addressed by the state,'” Hatfield said. “‘It is, in a sense, a response to … the sitting president and his inability or unwillingness to release his original birth certificate.'”

“Hatfield’s bill would require a certified copy of Obama’s original birth certificate be provided.”

HTA Previews Marketing Plans

The Hawaii Tourism Authority presents its annual Spring Marketing Update at the Hawaii Convention Center from 7:45 a.m. to noon.

What’s new this year is a rebounding visitor industry; expect some rah-rahs and back-slapping from tourism executives.

What’s not new is a state Legislature and Abercrombie administration; expect those same execs to say (or to at least think quite loudly), “Don’t touch the TAT! Don’t take our marketing money!”

AARP: Folks Will Work Longer If Economy Tanks

The local AARP says a survey of Hawaii adults age 50 and older finds that two in three employed residents would work longer if the economy does not improve.

Among the findings:

“More than half say maintaining health coverage and paying insurance premiums and co-pays would be major factors in their decision to work beyond the customary retirement age.”

“When asked which revenue options they would support to avoid cuts to state services, over two in three older adults favored higher taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, and households earning more than $250,000 annually.”

Read the full survey here.

Bills: Whistleblowers

House Bill 467, which provides additional protection to public employees who report violations of the law or government contracts, has a hearing in House Finance at 2 p.m. in Conference Room 308.

The bill, introduced by Jessica Wooley, has the support of HGEA, but the Department of Human Resources Development says the bill is overly broad and that current whistleblower law is sufficient. The AG’s office and the City & County of Honolulu have also raised serious objections abut the bill concerning the liability of punitive damages.

Bills: Undercover Cops

At 2:05 p.m. in Conference Room 325 House Judiciary will hear House Bill 1200, which authorizes the release of names and salaries of undercover officers after five years from when the undercover officer ceases to work in an undercover capacity.

SHOPO, the police union, prefers secrecy, however, as Civil Beat has reported. Read our coverage on this issue.

Bills: Medicare Part B and Pensions

House Finance will decide the fate of House Bill 1041, which eliminates Medicare Part B reimbursements for employee-beneficiaries and spouses of employee-beneficiaries hired after June 30, 2011.

The bill — introduced by the governor but significantly amended by lawmakers — also provides that an employee-beneficiary would be entitled to receive **up to 90 percent of Medicare Part B reimbursements, based on the employee-beneficiary’s year or years of credited service on June 30, 2011.

That’s scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in Conference Room 308.

A half-hour earlier, House Finance will hear another of the governor’s bill that has also gone through the amendment process: House Bill 1092, which addresses pensions and income tax, eliminating deductions and state income taxes and modifying the tax rate in time shares.

And, in that same hearing is House Bill 853, which creates a Bank of the State of Hawaii and makes the governor the chief officer.

Bills: Sick Leave

House Finance at 3:40 p.m. in Conference Room 308 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.

Labor unions like the bill but Hawaiian Electric and the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii don’t.

Resolutions: APEC and Honorary Consuls

House International Affairs will hear four resolutions that recognize relations between Hawaii and Turkey, establish relations between Hawaii and the islands of Polynesia, urge Congress to have more international conferences in Hawaii and to encourage APEC member nations to establish honorary consuls here before the APEC meeting in November.

The hearing on the resolutions, which are non-binding and often ignored, is at 10:30 a.m. in Conference Room 312.


Catch up on our previous week’s coverage:

About the Author