Welcome to Capitol Watch. There’s a month to go at the Hawaii Legislature and the budget crunch is taking center stage. Civil Beat is all over the story.

5:27 p.m. UPDATE: Poo-Poo, Shi-Shi Bill Make

Clayton Hee today killed House Bill 254, which would have prohibited public urination and defecation in Waikiki.

“This is not a workable bill he said,” Hee said. “What if a kids wants to go to the bathroom?”

Hee said the bill was mainly about “a lot of PR appeal, frankly,” adding, “It doesn’t ring my bell.”

3:40 p.m. Neil Tweets, Ed Tweets

Ed Case — @EdCaseHawaii — has sent out a couple of tweets today pointing out how lovely the cherry blossom trees are in Washington, D.C., this time of year.

He links to his Facebook page where one picture shows the U.S. Capitol with the caption, “Back on familiar ground.”

Word is that Case will declare his candidacy this month for Dan Akaka‘s seat.

Neil Abercrombie (formerly of Washington, now of Washington Place) has a little tweet of his own today (@neilabercrombie) that states “Reprioritizing, Restructuring and Reorienting Ourselves.”

He — or someone for him — provides a link to a lengthy document (dated April 1) on his official website providing examples of how his administration is “reprioritizing, restructuring and reorienting ourselves toward a New Day in Hawaii.”

Example:

Reviewing the number of phone lines in the State to eliminate lines that are no longer in use due to retirements, layoffs or hiring freezes. Each of the 25,000 phone lines that can be eliminated will save $22/month.

Fear not — Civil Beat’s Fact Check Department is all over it.

2:23 p.m. UPDATE: Yep, Kawakami

The governor has made officially what has been previously reported (see below): Kauai Councilman Derek Kawakami will fill the House District 14 left vacant by Mina Morita.

He will be sworn in as soon as he resigns his Council seat.

Kawakami is owner and operator of Derek’s Cool Runnings Shave Ice and Vending.

2 p.m. Gov Chooses Loo for Circuit Court

Just days after his first appointee withdrew, Neil Abercrombie announced the appointment of Rhonda Iwalani Lai Loo as a 2nd Circuit Court judge.

Loo fills the vacancy left by Judge Joel E. August, who recently retired.

Loo, 49, is a currently a 2nd Circuit Court District judge. She previously worked as deputy prosecuting attorney for Maui County.

“This appointment is a natural step forward for Judge Loo who has worked hard over the years in serving within the state’s court system,” said Governor Abercrombie. “She is committed to continuing her judicial service in Maui.”

Loo is subject to Senate confirmation.

Joseph Wildman, Abercrombie’s first choice for the court vacancy, withdrew his nomination citing an “unresolved situation” with his former Honolulu law firm.

The Maui News reported that Wildman’s former firm, Sibilla & Wildman, “has two federal tax liens for unpaid payroll taxes, filed in 2006, and totaling $144,000.”

Sam Slom, a member of Senate Judiciary, told Civil Beat that the failure to disclose the information would likely have not doomed Wildman’s appointment.

“One thing we senators to not like is surprises,” he said, “but a lot of things are quesitonable calls as to whether they are serious enough to require disclosure.”

1:35 p.m. Gender Identity Bill Rankles Religious Groups

Hawaii Family Forum and the Hawaii Catholic Conference told Senate Judiciary and Labor that they oppose a bill that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression with regard to employment.

While saying the Catholic church is “not against inclinations,” Walter Kirimitsu said, “When we talk about identity, what is immutable is being born male or female.”

The forum’s Alan Cardines Jr., meanwhile, said “a number of ministries” across the state are worried about “predators” in locker rooms and restrooms who might violate the rights of children and kupuna.

The first comment prompted Kathy Xian, a Christian and activist involved with fighting human trafficking and prostitution, to retort that many people are born hermaphrodite. “They are all children of God,” she said.

The second comment was countered by Jo-Ann Adams, chair of Democratic Party of Hawaii’s GLBT Caucus, who said the bill was about jobs, not predators. “As for the potty problem, my solution is to hire more lesbians,” she said, garnering big laughs in the committee room. “We’ve been dealing with this problem for years.”

HB 546 passed Judiciary with technical amendments. An exemption for religious groups will not be among them, as Kirimitsu and Cardines had hoped, as state law already allows for religious exemptions in hiring.

UPDATE 11:05 a.m. IRV Bill Passes Judiciary

Senate Judiciary and Labor passed a bill, with technical amendments, establishing instant runoff voting for county races.

Common Cause Hawaii and American for Democratic Action, while in strong support of IRV — it allows voters the option to rank candidates by first, second and subsequent choices in order to generate a runoff if no candidate gets a majority — expressed concerns.

The bill as written, for example, would not have helped much in the recent special election that saw Tom Berg elected to the Honolulu City Council with only 18 percent of the vote.

Only two of the 14 candidates who ran received less than 2 percent of the vote, suggesting that as many as four runoff rounds would have been necessary to finally elect a councilman with a majority of votes.

The measure, however, appears headed to conference committee, where such concerns might be addressed.

9:45 a.m. Big Isle May Continue Furloughs

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that the Hawaii County Council may ask employees to continue twice-monthly furloughs or take a 5 percent wage cut.

Leery of Mayor Billy Kenoi‘s proposal to defer $29.1 million in known expenses to achieve a balanced budget, some majority lawmakers say they’re ready to tackle the county’s so-called “sacred cow” — its 2,600-member workforce, and in particular police officers and firefighters.

“These economic times call for drastic measures,” council Chairman Dominic Yagong of Hamakua said Sunday.

Yagong believes local government must cut expenses more than the $9.8 million or 2.6 percent Kenoi is seeking.

Kawakami Replaces Morita

The Garden Island reports that the governor on Friday chose Kauai County Councilman Derek Kawakami to fill the seat of former state Rep. Mina Morita, whom the governor appointed to run the Public Utilities Commission.

The paper on Saturday said:

Although Neil Abercrombie has not yet released an official statement on the matter, the decision has been confirmed by Kauai Democratic Party Chair Steven Nishimura and the other two party nominees for the vacancy, Neil Clendeninn and Foster Ducker.

The Kauai Council has 30 days to choose Kawakami’s replacement following his resignation.

The selection process to fill Morita’s seat, by the way, has raised some ethical questions, according to another article in The Garden Island.

Rally: Unions, Nonprofits

We Are One Hawaii, a new coalition of nonprofits, public and private sector unions and other groups, will gather at the Capitol Rotunda at 4:30 p.m. to raise concerns about “economic and social justice issues impacting Hawaii,” according to a press release.

Speakers will include Randy Perreira, Eric Gill, the Rev. Bob Nakata, Alex Santiago, Dayton Nakanelua and Tambry Young.

We Are One Hawaii’s membership includes many labor unions, FACE Hawaii, Hawaii People’s Fund and the Democratic Party of Hawaii Labor Caucus.

The rally coincides with the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and is timed as well to influence deliberations between the legislative and executive branches on balancing the state’s budget (read: don’t cut union benefits and support for social services).

Bills: Taxing Pensions, TAT

House Finance — once again — has a huge slate of bills to address, including a bill on taxing pension incomes on higher earners and a bill that caps county share of the transient accommodation tax and levies it on guest rooms not previously taxed.

Bill: Shi-shi, Poo-poo

Senate Judiciary and Labor is scheduled to hear a bill prohibiting urination and defecation in public places in Waikiki.

The bill reads:

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 using the beach and parks in the Waikiki district.

HPD likes the bill but the Public Defender does not.

Bill: Instant Runoff Voting

Senate Judiciary and Labor is scheduled to hear a bill that provides for instant runoff voting for all elections in which no primary election is held.

Instant Runoff Voting — IRV — allows voters the option to rank candidates by first, second and subsequent choices.

The bill states, “If no candidate receives a majority of votes, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and the votes for the eliminated candidate are automatically transferred to those voters’ second choice candidate, as if the votes were cast in a traditional election runoff.”

The bill argues:

Instant runoff voting assures that elected officials have the support of a majority of voters because it allows voters to indicate their preferences among more than one candidate. Instant runoff voting allows all voters to vote for their favorite candidate without fear of helping to elect their least favorite candidate.

Common Cause Hawaii and the Hawaii chapter of Americans for Democratic Action like the bill. The state Office of Elections takes no position.

Bills: Prostitution

Senate Judiciary and Labor is also scheduled to hear several measures strengthening laws against prostitution.

One of those measures makes it a misdemeanor to offer or agree to pay a fee to engage in sexual conduct within 750 feet of a school or public park.

The Downtown Neighborhood Board No. 13 likes the bill, but the Public Defender, ACLU of Hawaii, the Libertarian Party of Hawaii and the National Association of Reformed Criminals do not.

Resolution: The ‘N’ Word

House Human Services is scheduled to hear a resolution that urges that all people in Hawaii eliminate the “N” word from their vocabulary.

The “reso” notes that “there have been public movements against the use of the ‘N’ word such as a New York City Council Resolution, which calls for a symbolic halt on the use of the ‘N’ word in New York City.”

It further observes:

WHEREAS, every effort to remove the “N” word from our vocabulary, especially from that of our youth, must be taken seriously, as the use of this word signals deeper problems in our society, including a complete disrespect for our fellow human beings.

Briefing: ‘Silver Tsunami’

It refers to Hawaii’s graying population, not a big, shiny wave.

Health Human Services is scheduled to discuss the long-term care continuum in Hawaii.

The briefing notice says, “According to the Executive Office on Aging, by 2020 one in four Hawaii residents will be aged 60 or older.”

The briefing will review current long-term health care structure in Hawaii, which includes adult day care for seniors and community care family foster homes for the elderly and disabled.


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