Thursday is Sine Die for the 2011 Hawaii Legislature. It’s a big week.

4:28 p.m. Sewer Line Back Up Closes Capitol Toilets

An email alert this afternoon to all offices at the state Capitol warns:

“The Men’s Locker room as well as all Women’s and Men’s restroom facilities on the basement level is experiencing a back up of the sewer line. DAGS is aware of the problem and have plumbers here working to address the situation, please bear with us. Temporarily, use alternative restroom facilities on upper floors.”

The House Clerk’s office confirms that DAGS is indeed on it.

Civil Beat is now accepting humorous puns — e.g., “government waste” — about this crisis. Please email cblair@civilbeat.com with your suggestions.

4:07 p.m. Gov Signs Gender Equity Bill

Neil Abercrombie signed into law House Bill 546, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression as a public policy matter, specifically with regard to employment.

He also signed House Bill 1640, which allows counties to issue state IDs. It goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

To date, 35 measures out of the 2011 Legislature have been enacted.

2:40 p.m. Homeless Bills Miss Deadline

Three major bills intended to alleviate homelessness did not make Friday’s deadline for fiscal bills at the Legislature, despite having been scheduled for multiple meetings among House and Senate conferees last week.

The bills, which technically remain alive for the 2012 legislative session, are:

House Bill 70, which would pay for a return-to-home program to fly eligible homeless individuals to their home state.

Senate Bill 900, which would convert surplus or available open or vacant state land to establish a Safe Haven for the homeless.

Senate Bill 912, which would pay for housing placement programs, spend money to increase the availability of affordable rental housing units and require the state to implement a Housing First program.

1 p.m. UH Med School to Lose Tobacco Funds

Posted today on the UHMedNow blog today is an item chronicling the apparent loss of Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement funds.

A bill authorizing the UH Med School’s continued use of the $3 million to $4 million in funds to grow class size, establish a Big Island residency program and promote tobacco cessation efforts died before Friday’s deadline at the Legislature.

Among those waiting for conference committee action that night at the Capitol included Rockne Freitas and Tina Shelton.

The med school blog notes:

Earlier in the day on Friday, House-Senate negotiators had agreed to lessen JABSOM’s tobacco money by 1% a year in 2014 and 2015. But then the final negotiating sessions collapsed before 10 p.m., even though the deadline wasn’t until 12 midnight. …

There is a possibility stalled bills could be recalled and approved in floor votes, but it’s a difficult process requiring action by both House and Senate leadership.

11:30 a.m. $30M for Kona Projects

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that West Hawaii is due to get about $30 million for “top priority” projects in the upcoming state budget, according to the area’s state senator, Josh Green:

Topping the list is $12 million for a West Hawaii Judiciary Complex. The project is often called “long-awaited,” as judiciary employees, judges, prosecutors, public defenders and members of the public have been on record seeking a new home for the court system for three decades.

The state’s new chief justice, Mark Recktenwald, said last fall the courthouse was a priority for him and the Judiciary. Recktenwald reiterated those comments at a February meeting in Hilo.

Prosecuting Attorney First Deputy Dale Ross, who until recently was the lead West Hawaii prosecutor, said she was grateful for the appropriation.

10 a.m. Hawaii Vet Awarded Medal of Honor

In his remarks this morning, Barack Obama said this about the late Anthony Kahoohanohano:

Tony’s loyalty to family was matched by his love of country — even though Hawaii wasn’t even a state yet. By September 1951, the Korean War had been raging for more than a year, and Tony was part of the 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, which had been fighting for strategic hills that could shape the course of the war.

When Tony was wounded in the shoulder, he fought on. He threw grenade after grenade. When his weapon ran out of ammunition, he grabbed another. And when he ran out of ammo, he reached for the only thing left — a shovel. That’s when the enemy overran his position. And in those final moments, the combat was hand to hand.

It was that bravery — that courage — of a single soldier that inspired his men to regroup, to rally and to drive the enemy back. And when they finally reached Tony’s position, the measure of his valor became clear. After firing so many bullets, the barrel of his machine gun was literally bent. But Tony had stood his ground. He had saved the lives of his men.

On a more informal note, the president added, “Now, Hawaii is a small state, but the Kahoohanohanos are a very big family. In fact, I went to high school with one of their cousins, Whitey. Tell Whitey I said, ‘How’s it?'” 

9:28 p.m. Delegation Reacts to bin Laden’s Death

Members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation released the following statements in response to yesterday’s killing of Osama bin Laden:

Dan Akaka: “As a senior member of the Senate Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees who has closely examined the terrorist threat in the decade since 9/11, I commend the tenacity of the intelligence and military personnel that led to this victory. I applaud President Obama for his unwavering commitment to bring bin Laden to justice.”

Colleen Hanabusa: “I commend President Obama, his security team, our men and women in uniform and everyone who played a role in this historic accomplishment. As we approach the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I hope this moment brings some comfort and justice to the victims and their families — and may it also send a clear message to those who wish harm upon the United States.”

Mazie Hirono: “The people of Hawaii, the American people, and people across the globe who desire peace and security are rejoicing and relieved at the demise of Osama bin Laden. I am enormously proud of President Obama, our U.S. intelligence agencies, and our U.S. military personnel for their persistence and precision, their discipline and decisiveness, in bringing the world-wide manhunt for Osama bin Laden to its successful conclusion.” 

Mortgage Foreclosure Bill Makes Cut

Among the measures squeaking by at the Legislature Friday night was Senate Bill 651, which implements task force recommendations to establish a temporary mortgage foreclosure dispute resolution program.

The bill also authorizes conversion from nonjudicial to judicial foreclosure and amends existing state law relating to mortgage servicers.

HB 641 was supported by the Roman Catholic Church, Faith Action for Community Equity and many individuals. Opponents included the Hawaii Credit Union League, Hawaii Bankers Association and Hawaii Financial Services Association.

Alan Mark, senior pastor of the Kilohana United Methodist Church in Niu Valley and the FACE state president, testified, “We believe that this mandatory mediation be made available to as many families as possible, even those who have already received default notice or notice of foreclosure. As long as the family is still in their home, they deserve to participate in this mediation program.”

As with hundreds of other bills, the mortgage foreclosure resolution bill awaits final votes in House and Senate floor sessions tomorrow.

Maui ‘OK’ With TAT Cap

The Maui News reports that county officials accept the state Legislature’s plan to cap the counties’ share of hotel-room tax revenues to help close the budget deficit:

“We look OK,” said Maui County Council Budget Chairman Joe Pontanilla.

He noted that the county had tentatively budgeted for about $17.5 million in TAT revenues — comfortably within the $21.2 million cap for Maui County.

“We budgeted conservatively for about $17 million, and we should be getting about that amount,” said county Communications Director Rod Antone. “We don’t expect the cap to affect us negatively. Bottom line is, we played it safe.”

Medal of Honor for Hawaii Vet

In Washington this morning, Barack Obama will award Private First Class Anthony T. Kahoohanohano, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry.”

The Hawaii native will be recognized posthumously for “his heroic actions in combat” on Sept. 1, 1951, “while in charge of a machine-gun squad with Company H, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division in the Republic of Korea.”

Dan Akaka, who inserted a provision into a defense authorization bill in 2009 that led to the upgrade for Kahoohanohano, is scheduled to attend the ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

Dan Inouye, J.D.

Dan Inouye was conferred an honorary doctorate of law yesterday at the University of Alaska Anchorage, which graduated 2,270 students in the Class of 2011.

Inouye tweeted that he was “humbled … appreciative” of the honor.


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