Welcome to Capitol Watch. We’re 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.

4:22 p.m. UPDATE: Poker Bill Passes Second Reading

After an intense round of debate during floor session, the state House approved the poker bill on second reading, sending it to House Finance.

But there are indications that SB 755 has an uphill climb.

For one, 14 representatives voted against the measure, including seven Democrats. Many of those same people sit on Finance.

For another, it has to go to the Senate, which hasn’t heard the measure in its current form.

But one Democrat who supports the measure says, in spite of the Legislature’s history of opposing gambling measures, holding a poker tournament in the islands is considered differently than, say, building a casino.

That has a lot to do with poker’s huge popularity online and on TV in recent years.

3:23 p.m. Ige, Oshiro to Talk Budget on PBS

The key lawmakers involved with the state’s budget and $1.3 billion deficitDavid Ige and Marcus Oshiro — will be guests on Dan Boylan‘s “Island Insights” tonight on PBS Hawaii.

Gene Ward is also scheduled.

Kalbert Young was scheduled as well, but Civil Beat has learned that Andrew Aoki will be taking his place.

2:30 p.m. UPDATE: Subsidized Air Services for Kalaupapa

Members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation say Ray LaHood will have the U.S. Transportation Department subsidize air service to and from Kalaupapa, and will select a carrier following a bid process.

The announcement followed a meeting this morning held near Honolulu’s airport. The Essential Air Service subsidy could reduce the current airfares ($500-plus) by more than 60 percent.

In a statement, Dan Akaka said:

“The Kalaupapa community needs and deserves affordable air service to connect with their families and health care providers and for other necessities. This morning we heard their stories of hardship caused by the high fares and lack of a wheelchair ramp at the airport. Thankfully Secretary LaHood’s plan to find a new provider using an Essential Air Service subsidy will make flights more affordable for Kalaupapa residents. I saw the relief in their eyes when they learned this unfair burden will soon come to an end.”

1:50 p.m. Senate Confirms Topping, Fuddy

By a unanimous vote, the state Senate has confirmed Sunshine Topping to run Human Resources Development and Loretta Fuddy to run the Health Department.

Neil Abercrombie now has 15 Cabinet members confirmed.

One remains: Attorney General David Louie, who still awaits a hearing in Clayton Hee‘s Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee.

11 a.m. Legislative Briefing on Mauna Kea

Senate Water, Land and Housing and Senate Hawaiian Affairs is scheduled to hold a briefing this afternoon to discuss “the ecological, cultural and financial viability of the Mauna Kea Lands, which includes the Mauna Kea State Park and the Mauna Kea Science Reserve.”

With the recent approval of a 30-meter telescope on top of the Big Island mountain — a sacred site for Native Hawaiians — there is renewed attention on Mauna Kea.

The Senate committees say their goals are to get updates on plans for “integration of Hawaiian culture into the management and daily operations of Mauna Kea.”

9 a.m. Bill: No Restraints for Pregnant Inmates

Two House committees are scheduled to hear a bill, which would prohibit physically restraining inmates who are pregnant or in postpartum recovery “unless extraordinary circumstances exist.”

The concern is that restraints could endanger the health and safety of the mother and child.

The Hawaii Women’s Coalition supports the bill, but the Department of Public Safety (which runs state prisons) does not.

Hearing: Hawaii Professional Football League

The acronym is HPFL, and a House committee is scheduled to learn more about the idea, according to the agenda:

Discussion will revolve around what the HPFL’s plans, business models, and how they intend to develop and expand in Hawaii and what effects it will have upon the economy of the State. Discussions will also include HPFL’s community outreach plans the effect of player development into other nationally recognized leagues as well as possible marketing opportunities in sports tourism and economic development.

8:02 a.m. GOP Upset Over Poker Bill

House Republicans vented their anger in a press release regarding yesterday’s passage of a bill that was intended to help parents buy school supplies but now contains language legalizing gambling.

Senate Bill 755 “was completely rewritten behind closed doors,” according to the minority party. “Further, the bill was allowed to pass without the standard 48 hour notice to give the public time to comment on this measure.”

The House now would license peer-to-peer gambling of poker tournaments and set up a gaming commission.

“This bill sends a mixed message to the public,” Barbara Marumoto said in the press release. “The State says no gambling, but this type of gambling is okay. I can’t support this, especially when the State wants 20 percent of the cut.”

SB 755 now awaits a hearing in House Finance.

Schatz Meets, Greets D.C. Lobbyists

The lieutenant governor has been in Washington this week pursuing “federal opportunities for Hawaii,” according to a press release from his office.

One item he left of his official agenda: a “meet and greet breakfast” with Prime Policy Group, which is scheduled today.

OpenSecrets.com reports Prime Policy Group earned a lobbying income of $12.6 million last year. The group’s clients include American Petroleum Institute, Boeing Co., Anheuser-Busch InBev, General Dynamics, GlaxoSmithKline and the National Rifle Association.

While Brian Schatz‘s office did not respond to a Civil Beat inquiry about the visit, a spokeswoman for Prime Policy Group said, “Thanks for your email. Due to our mutual interest in federal issues and policy we will be hosting a meet and greet for the Lt. Governor while he is in Washington, D.C.”

An advertisement for the breakfast cautions, “This is not a fundraiser.”

Inouye, LaHood Talk About Kalaupapa Airfare

Pacific Wings charges about $500 to travel round-trip between Honolulu and Kalaupapa, Molokai, a steep price for the Hansen’s disease patients living on the remote peninsula.

But it is the only scheduled commercial carrier to fly the route.

Sen. Dan Inouye plans to talk with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at 9:15 a.m. this morning near Honolulu airport to see how the feds can help offset the flight costs.

Abercrombie Heads to North Shore

The governor will meet with student gardeners at Sunset Beach Elementary from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., and attend a Kahuku Windfarm ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. to noon.

Catch up on previous coverage:

About the Author