Welcome to Capitol Watch. There’s just a few weeks remaining at the Hawaii Legislature, and balancing the budget is issue No. 1. Civil Beat is there.

4:40 p.m. Doubts About Deficit Reduction Panel

POLITICO reports that Joe Biden‘s deficit reduction panel, which includes Dan Inouye, is off to a “slow start”:

Some members participating in a bipartisan Senate group known as the Gang of Six — as well as those senators with an interest in the group’s results — worry that the Biden panel will undermine their work.

So far, only Reid has announced his appointments, and some on the Hill found his choices curious: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who voted against the White House fiscal commission report in December and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the self-proclaimed “king of pork.”

And this from a New York Times blog:

The bipartisan Congressional team that President Obama proposed this week to negotiate a long-term debt-reduction plan with the White House is shaping up to be smaller and less ambitious than he spelled out — that is, if it gets off the ground at all. …

But on Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat of Nevada, is expected to name just two Democrats, both committee chairmen averse to major parts of the debt-reduction effort — Max Baucus of Montana, the head of the Senate Finance Committee, who, like Mr. Reid, has said he will not support any changes in Social Security, and Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, who as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee is protective of annual spending for domestic and military programs.

4:11 p.m. Akaka’s Bill to End Workplace Discrimination

Dan Akaka has co-sponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I am proud to join my colleagues in re-introducing this important piece of civil rights labor legislation,” Akaka said in a press statement today. “For too long, we have left many hard-working Americans vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace based on such things as race, age or gender.  This bill would finally codify these fundamental protections, which are long overdue.”

The act would prohibit employers, employment agencies, labor organizations and joint labor-management committees from “firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against those employed or seeking employment, on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to Akaka’s office. “Such protections are already in place prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability.”

The act has been endorsed by national civil rights and labor groups and major businesses.

3:37 p.m. Death of a Poker Bill

Compatible Poker — “Poker Information You Won’t Find Anywhere” — has a post today reading, “Hawaii Loses Out on Online Poker Legalization.”

The post states:

A law that had the potential to allow some degree of gambling in Hawaii has been killed already. The idea was to legalize both online and live poker in Hawaii but the bill didn’t get a public hearing before a deadline on Friday.

The idea was for the bill to be exempted from state laws that ban gambling, essentially redefining poker as a game of skill instead of a game of chance. The bill made provision for the legalization of poker, but specifically kept out games such as video poker, which is played against a computer or casino.

The bill made reasonable progress when it passed the Economic Revitalization and Business Committee and the Judiciary Committee in March, however, it did not manage to obtain a House Finance Committee hearing. The chairman for the committee, Marcus Oshiro said that there wasn’t enough public interest to warrant a hearing, therefore killing the bill for at least a year.

3:23 p.m. UPDATE: Senate Panel Delays BOR Decision

Senate Education has deferred until April 25 decision making on the governor’s six nominees to serve in the UH Board of Regents.

2:42 p.m. Slaughterhouse Opponents Flooded Lawmakers’ Inboxes

On or around April 7, a huge flood of emails was sent to Hawaii state lawmakers.

The emails had one thing in common: They urged lawmakers to oppose Senate Bill 249, which would allow the state to buy a slaughterhouse within Campbell Industrial Park on Oahu.

A staffer for the Legislature’s Senate Data System said the email blast, while numbering “in the hundreds or thousands,” was not enough to shut down the Capitol’s server.

Nor did it stop passage of the controversial bill, which passed out of House Finance on April 8 and the full House on April 12.

The Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation and the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council support SB 249, which has been amended and now heads to conference committee.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, Healthy Hawaii Coalition, Leilani Farm Sanctuary, Animal Rights Hawaii, Organic Rawsome, Down to Earth and “numerous concerned individuals,” according to testimony, oppose the measure.

So does People for the Ethical Treatment of AnimalsPETA — which, on April 7, urged opponents to contact legislators and object strenuously to the bill’s passage. Sample talking points included:

The slaughterhouse, which has been in financial trouble for years, has already received millions in loans and grants from the government, and the slaughterhouse subsidy would be added to Hawaii’s $1 billion deficit.

In slaughterhouses, workers sometimes resort to beating, scalding, skinning, and dismembering fully conscious pigs and cows in order to keep production lines moving.

12:09 p.m. CNN Debunks Birther Claims

In the wake of Donald Trump‘s resurrection of the birther hysteria concerning Barack Obama‘s origins, CNN has investigated the claims.

Among CNN’s key points:

Where’s the original birth certificate?

Dr. Chiyome Fukino, the former director of Hawaii’s Department of Health, says she has personally viewed the president’s original vital records and verified that he was born in Hawaii.

Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, has been quoted as saying, “I had my health director, who is a physician by background, go personally view the birth certificate in the birth records at the Department of Health. We issued a news release at the time saying the president was, in fact, born at Kapiolani Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. And that is just a fact.”

Newspaper birth announcement

The announcement of Obama’s birth appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser on August 13, 1961, and a day later in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin: “Mr. And Mrs. Barack H. Obama, 6085 Kalanianaole Hwy., son, Aug. 4.”

Current governor weighs in

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, was a close friend of the Obamas and has repeatedly said he was around during the future president’s birth and childhood.

10:19 a.m. Hirono, Hanabusa Vote ‘No’ on Ryan Budget

Mazie Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa were among the 193 U.S. House members who voted against the fiscal year 2012 budget proposed by Paul Ryan — the one that calls for $5.8 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade.

The vote was heavily along party lines, with 235 members voting in favor of the measure.

The Hill reports:

Every Democrat voted “no.”

Democrats in a press conference after the vote made much of their unified opposition to the bill, saying that in defense of Medicare the party speaks with one voice. “The battle lines are drawn,” Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) said.

It will now be take up by the Senate, where it is considered dead on arrival.

8:49 a.m. Briefing: Grants-In-Aide Applications

Senate Ways and Means and House Finance are scheduled to hold an informational briefing this morning on all grants-in-aid applications to the 2011 Legislature.

The briefing will include applicants from Neighbor Islands and Oahu.

Among the many applicants are Arc of Hilo, YWCA of Kauai, Maui Economic Opportunity, Catholic Charities Hawaii, Friends of Iolani Palace, Hawaii Meth Project, Molokai Ohana Health Care, Goodwill Industries of Hawaii, Inc and West Hawaii Veterans’ Cemetery Development and Expansion Association.

Confirmation: UH Board of Regents

Senate Education is scheduled for decision making on six nominees to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents.

The nominees, appointed by the governor, are Jan Sullivan, James Karins, Patrick Naughton, Sandra Scarr, Saedene Ota and Coralie Matayoshi.

Rally: Tea Party and Taxes

The third-annual Honolulu Tax Day Tea Party rally will be held at the Capitol from 4 p.m. to 7 pm.

On Maui, the second-annual Maui TEA “Taxed Enough Already” Party event will be held at Hoaloha Park in Kahului from 2 p.m. to 6 pm.

On the Big Island, the Kona Tax Day Rally will be held on Queen’s Highway by the Kona Hawaii Temple from 4 p.m. to 6 pm.

And the Hilo Tax Day Tea Party will be held at the Hilo Bayfront King Kamehameha Statue from 4 p.m. to 6 pm.

Click here or here for more info.

Note: Federal and state tax returns this year are not due until Monday at midnight because April 15 falls on a Friday.

Catch up on previous coverage:

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