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.

2:52 p.m House Finance Trims OHA, Judiciary, Gov Budget Requests

House Finance signed off an statewide operating budget that calls for $10.9 billion in spending in fiscal 2012 and another $10.9 billion in fiscal 2013.

The proposed budget is slightly smaller than the one Gov. Neil Abercrombie proposed last month, which proposed $11.4 billion for 2012 and $11.3 billion in 2013. The full House is expected to vote on the budget next week.

The committee also approved a budget for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs that’s about 4 percent smaller than what the agency was hoping for.

The amended version of House Bill 400 would give OHA about $2.3 million in both fiscal 2012 and 2013 from the general fund. OHA had requested $2.4 million for each of those years.

Marcus Oshiro said he’s asking OHA “to share in some of the cuts” being asked of other departments. He also noted that OHA gets about $15 million a year from the state in ceded lands revenue.

The committee also approved a smaller operating budget for the state judiciary, which was seeking $21.5 million in both 2012 and 2013, but agreed on giving the courts extra money to restore furlough days — at a cost of an extra $8.1 million a year.

The committee rejected the Judiciary’s request to restore judges’ 5-percent pay cuts that began in fiscal 2010 as well as fund “scheduled” pay raises for judges. Those measures would have cost an extra $2 million in fiscal 2012 and an additional $4.4 million in 2013.

In making that call, Oshiro said lawmakers have to treat the judicial branch the same as it does the executive and legislative branches. A separate measure, House Bill 575, calls for the continued 5-percent pay cuts for all three branches.

Nanea Kalani

12:22 p.m. Morita, Topping Get Senate Nod

Sunshine Topping was confirmed 3-0 by Senate Judiciary and Labor this morning. Her nomination to lead Human Resources Development now heads to the Senate floor for a final vote.

So does the nomination of Mina Morita to run the Public Utilities Commission, which was approved 6-1 by Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection. The “no” vote was from Minority Leader Sam Slom.

11:16 a.m. $2M for HNL Facelift Before APEC

From a press release from the Office of Lieutenant Governor:

The state has announced three improvement projects with an estimated total budget of $2 million at the International Arrivals Building at Honolulu International Airport. The projects are in the process of being announced for competitive sealed bids with an anticipated award date of April 2011.

All of the projects were originally planned to meet the needs of the many visitors and tour operators that use the IAB. And the state will see the additional benefit of having the projects completed in time for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Week in November 2011.

10:40 a.m. Obama Tells Donors He’s Hawaii-born

They report, you decide: Fox News says President Obama told about 150 Democratic donors at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston yesterday that he’s keiki o ka aina:

Calling for Democrats and Republicans to put fighting aside, Obama quips: “I was born in Hawaii, what can I say. I can’t change those facts.”

That settles the birther debate, right?

Apparently not, according to some posted comments that followed the article, like this one:

I think he was born in America. The hiding of his documents is likely to mask the fact he de facto renounced his citizenship or misrepresented it to get into various universities and to gain foreign-student scholarships. All are serious acts of fraud. I think less likely is that it hides that his actual father was not Barack Obama Sr. but any one of several other radicals that his proto-hippie Marxist mother had dalliances with.

But there are also indications the birther story may have run its course, as seen in this post in the comment section:

I have been a card carrying Republican since 1968. And this continuing birth certificate debate only is a distraction and a losing issue. Its time to get over it and move on to the substantive issues that will be facing all of us in 2012.

8:41 a.m. Inouye on the Floor

Dan Inouye spoke this morning on the Senate floor in favor of a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through fiscal year 2011, which ends Sept. 30. The measure is before the Senate.

Inouye said of the full “CR,” which is $51 billion less than what President Obama favors, the following:

My amendment makes real cuts to real programs. Tens of thousands of Americans will feel the direct impact of the proposed cuts. But the cuts included in this amendment are based on hearings, testimony and a thorough analysis of the current needs of every agency and department that the Committee funds.

By contrast, the Republicans in the House have thrown together a proposal based not on budgets, not on hearings, not on the demonstrated needs of agencies and departments, but rather based on the campaign promise to reduce spending by $100 billion. H.R. 1 shows clearly what happens when you write a bill based not on analysis, but on campaign speeches.

Inouye’s full statement on the CR is available here.

DOE and CIP

At 2 p.m. in Conference Room 309, House Education is scheduled to hear from the Department of Education and their current and upcoming capital improvement (CIP) and construction projects.

Morita-PUC Conformation Hearing

Mina Morita, the House Demcorat selected by Gov. Abercrombie to run the Public Utilities Commission, is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Conference Room 229 before Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection.

The Kauai representative, know for her progressive views on environmental protection and clean-energy development, has recused herself from a number of pieces of legislation since being nominated to lead the PUC, citing a potential conflict of interest.

State Budget Before House Finance

With about a week or so to send the state’s budget from the House over to the Senate, House Finance is scheduled to deliberate over House Bill 200Neil Abercrombie‘s budget.

Could be a long hearing.

Also on the agenda, which begins at 10 a.m. in Conference Room 308, also includes the budgets for the state judiciary and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Tax Department’s Transition Plans

Senate Ways and Means is scheduled to hear from the Tax Department on transition plans the Legislature asked the department to consider, including operation and implementation of the plans.

The informational briefing is at 10:45 a.m. in Conference Room 211.

Cars, Sleeping and the Homeless

House Housing and House Water, Land and Ocean Resources will hear at 10:30 a.m. in Conference Room 325 two resolutions that ask the Department of Health to consider allowing use of its parking lot for “working homeless.”

The lot, at the corner of Beretania Street and Punchbowl Street, would be made available between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

CJ Asks for Judgement on Judges

Mark Rectenwald has announced that he is seeking written comment on judicial nominees for three vacancies at the District Court of the First Circuit and one vacancy at the District Family Court of the First Circuit on Oahu.

The CJ is also seeking public comment on judicial nominees for one vacancy at the District Family Court of the Fifth Circuit on Kauai.

All comments will be confidential. Written comments must be post-marked, emailed, faxed or hand delivered no later than Friday. Call 539-4909 or inquire via email at pao@courts.state.hi.us.


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