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 p.m. Akaka Falls

Been following the media buzz and spin on the decision of Dan Akaka to call things pau? Allow us to assist:

Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, says that it has moved the 2012 Hawaii Senate race rating “from Likely Democratic to the more competitive category of Leans Democratic. The dynamics of the race will depend largely on whether Republicans get their top-tier recruit, Linda Lingle. … Lingle’s prospects increase greatly with Akaka out of the race, but without her, Republicans will have a difficult time in the state President Barack Obama grew up in.”

FiveThirtyEight, a New York Times blog, says “Democrats are clear favorites to hold (Akaka’s) seat but note that Lingle’s poor popularity rating upon leaving office might mean Charles Djou would be the better GOP candidate.”

The Fix, a blog with The Washington Post, agrees that Lingle may have too many negatives, “but she would bring a significant fundraising presence and political know-how to the race.”

The National Journal cites the Cook Report, which notes that Akaka was vulnerable to a strong challenge: “A challenge from Lingle or former Rep. Charles Djou would have been the most competitive general election contest that Akaka had faced in his long career,” wrote the National Journal. “It’s possible that Republicans would have been better off running against the incumbent, but could have a shot at the general election, particularly if Lingle runs.”

The National Review says Djou told them he is currently not a candidate for public office: “It is still my desire one day to get back into public service,” he says. “But I’m not sure if getting back into public service means elected office. I’m not sure if it means 2012. I’m not sure if it means the Senate. Senator Akaka’s retirement announcement is still relatively fresh.”

Djou also told the National Review, “I think (Lingle) would make an outstanding United States senator.”

POLITICO reports that Maui County Democratic Party chairman Lance Holter likes Mazie Hirono‘s chances to replace Akaka: He said the party should have a candidate knowledgeable about Congress, and “Mazie stands to have the most experience. … She’d be a great fit. She’s the kind of leader that Hawaii likes. She certainly would be considered a veteran.”

Another POLITICO article notes that Akaka is the fifth Democratic senator to call it quits rather than face a tough re-election: “Akaka’s pace has slowed quite a bit in recent years, and there’s a logjam of young Democrats champing at the bit to become just the sixth U.S. senator in Aloha state history.”

Real Clear Politics says Akaka’s seat is a longshot for the GOP, and cruches a lot of data to back it up. The short take: “The fact that Lingle enjoyed only modest popularity when she left office and the fact that the Democrats will probably nominate a very formidable opponent, her run seems like it would largely be uphill.”

Open Secrets observes that Akaka has raised less money than other senators over the years:

Since 1989, he raised about $6.5 million. More than $2.5 million of that came during the 2006 election cycle, when he was last re-elected. Over his career, about 15 percent of Akaka’s money came from labor unions — his largest sector of support. Political action committees of unions gave Akaka about $1.08 million since 1989. He also notably collected more than $334,000 from lawyers and law firms and more than $214,000 from retirees. Donors from Honolulu gave Akaka more than $1.65 million over his career, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics, his top metro area.

Finally, a KHON report says “big money” will be spent in the 2012 race; a Hawaii News Now report says discussion about Akaka stepping down started weeks ago; and the Hawaii Republican Party is asking local party members to contribute to its 2012 U.S. Senate Fund:

With Senator Akaka’s retirement announcement today, the Hawaii GOP is willing to fight for the open US Senate seat in 2012. I hope you will join us by making a sustaining financial committment TODAY! Your committment today will make all the difference for the coming months.

12:21 p.m. Three Cabinet Directors Confirmed

The state Senate today voted to confirm Jodie Maesaka-Hirata to lead Public Safety, Bruce Coppa to run DAGS and Darryll Wong as Adjutant General of the local DOD.

Neil Abercrombie is now 11 for 11 in his Cabinet picks.

Confirmation hearings still await the directors of Health and Human Resources as well as the attorney general, while a full Senate vote awaits the DBEDT director and Human Services director.

10:22 a.m. Big Isle Delays Plastic Bag Ban

Members of the Hawaii County Council who are opposed to banning plastic bags are now requiring public hearings on the matter that will delay the ban for at least eight months. The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports:

“We’ve certainly heard plenty of testimony,” said Vice Chairman Pete Hoffmann, who wants his bag ban bill on (Mayor Billy) Kenoi’s desk right away. “I’m embarrassed by our actions today, and I think the people of this county will perceive our actions in the same light.”

Hoffmann said the delay made for a “bad day,” noting the debate over plastic shopping bags has been going on for three years.

9:14 a.m. Inouye’s Budget Proposals

Dan Inouye‘s Senate Appropriations Committee has released highlights of legislation to fund the federal government through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

In a statement, Inouye said the Senate’s “continuing resolution” “imposes responsible cuts and terminations across a wide variety of programs. In contrast to the House bill, the Senate proposal will allow the government to continue operating at reduced levels without major disruptions that would set back our economic recovery and eliminate countless American jobs.”

The House CR, which was approved by both chambers, is only a two-week fix for the budget. Inouye and Dan Akaka reluctantly voted for the measure this week, but Colleen Hanabusa and Mazie Hirono objected to the $4 billion in spending cuts.

Inouye says his Senate bill, which includes no earmarks, “is a good faith effort to meet in the middle. It is now time to end political gamesmanship and stop gambling with people’s lives and livelihoods.”

A vote on the package is set for Tuesday.

Resolutions at the Capitol

Now that bills are heading for a critical deadline tonight and next week, lawmakers are giving more time to less-pressing matters: resolutions. Resolutions are not laws, but the express the concerns lawmakers have on a range of issues and can lead to action on those issues.

At 10:15 a.m. in Conference Room 325, House Water, Land and Ocean Resources will hear five resolutions.

They include HCR 38 and HR 33, which asks DLNR to study the effects of sports fields and court lights on the migratory patterns of Hawaii seabirds.

They include as well HCR 22 and HR 25, which asks the U.S. Navy to remove invasive species, excessive foliage and debris from the lower Waipahu coastline.

Homeless Caucus in Makiki

Urban Honolulu members of the Legislature and City Council members Central Honolulu will hold a community briefing tomorrow at 9 a.m. at Makiki Christian Church to talk about homelessness.

Topics include “current legislative initiatives and potential funding for homeless solutions, transitional housing alternatives and ways that local businesses and community groups can become more involved in addressing the growing homeless population,” according to a press release.

Those expected to attend are Suzanne Chun Oakland, Carol Fukunaga, Brickwood Galuteria, Karl Rhoads and Ann Kobayashi.

Catch up on our previous week’s coverage:

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