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.

4:29 p.m. Lawmakers Scramble to Meet First Decking

The state House and Senate face an internal deadline tonight for all single referral bills so they can pass second reading tomorrow and be placed on the Legislature’s calendar for third reading on Tuesday.

The measures, if passed, will then cross over to the opposite chamber for consideration.

And tomorrow is the deadline to file committee reports on bills that had more than one referral.

Put another way, it’s basically the halfway point in the 2011 session.

12:55 p.m. Appointed BOE Bill Heads to Governor

The state Senate voted 23-0 to send Senate Bill 8, which allows the governor to appoint members to the Board of Education rather than having elected members.

The bill came out of a constitutional amendement approved by Hawaii voters last fall.

Gov. Abercrombie is expected to sign the bill in a ceremony at Washington Place.

12:35 p.m. Senate Confirms Aila

By a vote of 23-0, William Aila was confirmed by the state Senate to serve as director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

“The nominee has widespread support from the community,” said Donovan Dela Cruz. “He has the respect and trust of groups of which he has worked.”

Dela Cruz acknowledged that some groups opposed Aila’s appointment, including some who pointed to Aila’s past activism on controversial Native Hawaiian issues such as military training on sacred Hawaiian land. But Dela Cruz said Aila was already working to mitigate those concerns and work with those groups, and he expressed confidence in Aila’s abilities.

Clayton Hee, who had deferred Aila’s nomination last week, voted in favor of Aila but with “strong reservations.”

Hee, like Aila a Native Hawaiian, spoke emotionally about the drastic decline of the kanaka maoli population beginning in the 19th century. Hee linked Aila’s tenure to the responsibility of takin care of Hawaiians.

He noted that Aila had recently said Native Hawaiians are held to “a higher standard,” and so Hee criticized Aila for failure to disclose important information about his background that would have helped the Senate make an informed decision about the nomination.

Disclosure reveals character, Hee argued, and leadership. He added that he had wanted more time to investigate some of his concerns, “but that is not my decision.”

Those concerns included Aila, as the interim land board chair, signing off on an environmental decision on the Honolulu rail system regarding treatment of burials uncovered during construction; approving as well as the building of a large telescope on Mauna Kea; and designating conservation waters while holding a commercial fishing license.

Malama Solomon, another Hawaiian, said she agreed with many of Hee’s concerns but said she was offended by Hee’s disparagingly comparing of Aila to a race horse.

“(DLNR staff) believe this is the man and this is the person who will able to lead us in the direction of the new Hawaii,” Solomon said, adding that the Senate can revisit the issues of Mauna Kea, for example. “These are they areas we must focus on, and it invovles many departments including DLNR. … The nominee is on notice and he has got the message.”

And Mail Shimabukuro observed that Aila did allow one contested case on the Mauna Kea issue to go forward, that Aila “has put himself on the line” and “understands” burial issues very well and that he supported the protection of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, aka the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

Aila Vote in Senate

State senators will decide in floor session at midday the fate of William Aila to lead DLNR.

As Civil Beat has reported Aila’s appointment by Gov. Abercrombie has come under greater scrutiny but is also a matter of political gamesmanship.

Last week, at the request of Clayton Hee, a vote on Aila was deferred as Hee expressed concerns about the nominee. There was talk of delaying the vote further, perhaps imperiling the appointment.

But, barring a last-minute change, it is exected that the 24 Democrats and one Republican will make a final up-or-down vote on Aila’s appointment.

Hearing for Hooser

Former state senator and unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor and Congress Gary Hooser will go before his old colleagues in Senate Energy and Environment to consider his nomination to be director for the Office of Environmental Quality Control.

The hearing is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. in Conference Room 225.

Briefing on Homeless, Affordable Housing

In an unusual broad and inclusive informational briefing, eight state Senate committees will convene at 1:15 p.m. in the Capitol Auditorium to tackle the crisis of homelessness.

The committees want to hear the latest on homelessness and affordable housing projects, and brainstorm on plans of action.

Speakers and participants include Marc Alexander, the Governor’s Coordinator of Homelessness; Sandy Miyoshi of the State Homeless Programs Office; Sam Moku of the Department of Community Services; Denise Wise of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority; Bobby Hall of Hawaiian Home Lands; and Pat McManaman of Human Services.

Bills: Elected AG

Senate Bill 1187, which asks voters to amend the Constitution so voters can vote for an attorney general rather than have the governor make the appointment, has a hearing at 4:15 p.m. before Senate Judiciary and Labor in Conference Room 016.

Bills: GET Deductions

Senate Ways and Means will hear Senate Bill 570, which reduces or eliminates the state income tax deduction for the GET paid by a taxpayer through December 2012 depending upon a taxpayer’s federal adjusted gross income and filing status.

Lawmakers believe that the measure “provides initiatives that are needed to address the current economic downturn.” The hearing is at 10:30 a.m. in Conference Room 211.

Bills: Hawaiian Diacriticals

Senate Ways and Means will decide at a hearing set for 10:25 a.m. in Conference Room 211 the fate of Senate Bill 1130, which requires that all letterheads, documents, symbols and emblems of the state “and other political subdivision” include both state languages.

The measure would establish references for “accurate, appropriate, and authentic Hawaiian names and words, including proper Hawaiian spelling and punctuation.”

Bills: Poo-Poo and Shi-Shi

House Judiciary will hear at 2:30 p.m. in Conference Room 329 bills prohibiting urinating and defecating in public places.

That’s what House Bill 254 would do.

The bill reads in part:

“Urinating and defecating in public frightens and offends many people. These behaviors also create a public health risk because of the spread of disease and other health hazards stemming from improper disposal of human waste. These concerns, and the smell associated with public urination and defecation, discourage people from patronizing establishments located in the Waikiki district as well as utilizing the beach and parks in the Waikiki district.

A similar measure, House Bill 42, would make permanent the prohibition against urinating or defecating in public within the boundaries of downtown Honolulu. It will be heard right after HB 254.

Bills: Instant Runoff Voting

House Finance will hear House Bill 638, which provides for instant runoff voting for all elections in which no primary election is held and authorizes the IRV method in special elections that would normally require a separate runoff election if no candidate received a majority of votes.

The hearing is set for 10 a.m. in Conference Room 308.

‘Focus on the Budget’ Roundup

Kanu Hawaii invites the public to the Capitol Rotunda at 5:30 p.m. to learn how the state’s budget works.

“Hawaii’s state budget is much in the news right now, and yet it’s difficult for the average person to know what the budgeting process actually entails and how we, as citizens, can be involved those decisions,” Kanu Hawaii says in a press release.

Kanu Hawaii bills itself as “a movement of people working for sustainable, compassionate, self-reliant communities.”

Catch up on our previous week’s coverage:

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