Watching and reporting about Hawaii from Washington Place to Washington, D.C.

5:24 p.m. A Proclamation for Yamashiro

Neil Abercrombie has issued an official proclamation to honor the late Stephen Yamashiro.

The memoriam proclamation says, among other things, the following:

Former Mayor Stephen K. Yamashiro was one of the most influential political leaders and elected officials on the Big Island; played an essential role in transforming the Hawaii County economy from its sole dependency on the sugar industry to other diversified industries such as agriculture, astronomy and tourism.

The governor has ordered that flags be flown at half-staff on June 18 in Yamashiro’s honor.

4:20 p.m. Akaka Hopes Panetta Will Help Vets

At a hearing today on confirmation of Leon Panetta to succeed Robert Gates as the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Dan Akaka said the following to the Panetta, currently the CIA director:

As we discussed, you will face significant challenges if confirmed. The men and women of the armed forces have served with honor and resolve in two major conflicts that have taken a tremendous toll on our armed forces. We must do all we can to care for them. Fulfilling this sacred obligation is dependent on DOD and V.A. cooperation.

I’m glad that you stated in your response in your advance policy questions that you would ensure that DOD continues to work closely with V.A. to support servicemembers and their families, and we talked about working on a seamless transition between DOD and V.A. And so with this as you carry on into these — into the position of secretary, you certainly have my support.

3:06 p.m. Inouye, Akaka Split Votes on Debit Card Measure

Dan Akaka voted “yea” and Dan Inouye voted “nay” yesterday on a measure that would delay new rules that would cut the fees that banks can charge retailers to process debit card transactions.

The vote was 54-45, with 60 votes needed to pass under Senate rules.

The vote, according to a New York Times article, “which followed a vigorous floor debate, was a victory for retailers, who have complained that banks and the companies that control the largest debit card networks, Visa and MasterCard, have consistently raised the fees on debit card transactions even as the market has grown rapidly and technology costs have declined.”

1:58 p.m. Gov’s Pro Bowl Tirade Goes Viral

Punch the words Hawaii governor and NFL Pro Bowl into a search engine — as I did into Google a few minutes ago — and you will see a story that went viral very quickly.

Google turned up about 574,000 results, but, not having time to read them all, I’ll share just the top ones, most of them running Mark Niesse‘s brief Associated Press report:

ESPN, The San Francisco Examiner, CBS Sports, Newsday, The Oklahoman, Virginia’s WDBJ7, ProSportsBuzz.com and YouTube — in the last case, billed as Hawaii’s Governor Goes Off On NFL.

UPDATE: In other news, the governor today named Terry Lock as his early childhood coordinator.

Gov to Announce Early Childhood Coordinator

Neil Abercrombie this morning will explain the administration’s priorities for early childhood, announce a coordinator and provide an update on the Healthy Start Program.  

The 10:30 a.m. news conference at executive chambers will be streamed live.

Akaka Panel on Indigenous Rights

Dan Akaka‘s Senate Indian Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold an oversight hearing today in D.C. titled “Setting the Standard: Domestic Policy Implications of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

According to a press release from the senator’s office:

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the United States joined in December of last year, encourages nations to support self-determination, eliminate discrimination, and work to secure the rights of their indigenous peoples. The declaration sets out the individual and collective rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people – including American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians — including the right to perpetuate their culture, identity, and language, and their rights relating to employment, health, education, and other issues. 

A webcast is available here.

More Deficit Talks with Biden, Inouye

The Washington Post reports on the latest meeting on deficit reduction with Joe Biden scheduled for today:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who along with Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) is one of two Senate Democrats tapped to attend the talks, will likely make the case for new revenue. Then the focus is likely to turn to discretionary spending, spending caps and other enforcement mechanisms.

Republicans are seeking something along the lines of the CAP Act, a proposal by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that eventually caps all government spending — including defense and entitlements — at 20.6 percent of gross domestic product. (The current federal spending level is at more than 24 percent of GDP.)

Meetings: Apportionment, Reapportionment

• The 2011 Reapportionment Commission is scheduled to meet this afternoon at the state Capitol. The agenda includes discussing whether to count non-resident military personnel, students and felons in district populations; and canoe districts and single-member versus multi-member districts.

• That’s the same agenda for the Apportionment Advisory Council for Hawaii (that is, the Big Island), which is scheduled to meet this afternoon at Waimea Community Center in Kamuela. County advisory councils report to the Reapportionment Commission.
  

Neighbor Isle Gov’t News

West Hawaii Today reports that the former developer of a South Kohala project is suing the state Land Use Commission for $35.7 million:

The suit is a response to the Land Use Commission’s decision earlier this year to revert the project’s urban land classification to agricultural.

In addition to the multimillion-dollar figure named in the court filing, Bridge Aina Lea officials also want four additional orders: a temporary restraining order preventing the commission from taking additional action regarding the land, a permanent injunction from reclassifying the land, an order declaring the commission’s decision to reclassify the land was “egregious, illegal, invalid, unconstitutional, arbitrary, capricious” and an order stopping the commission from interfering with “Bridge’s rights to develop the property.”

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that the island’s fastest-growing district has Hawaii County spending “nearly as much money on trash disposal as it did building recreational and public safety facilities”:

Taxpayers have been charged $3.9 million for the upgrade of the Pahoa transfer station, which will be dedicated during a June 16 ceremony. Another $578,000 is being spent making the Keaau rubbish site safer and more efficient.

When combined, that total approaches the $4.7 million the county paid for new bathrooms, picnic areas, landscaping, a pavilion and parking lot at Isaac Hale Beach Park. The Pohoiki facility was reopened in January 2008. Nonetheless, “it’s worth every penny that we put in there,” Puna Councilman Fred Blas said of the enhanced Pahoa transfer station.

The Garden Island reports that a DLNR representative said the state attorney general’s office plans to intervene in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proceedings involving hydroelectric development in Hawaii:

“The state supports renewable energy and looks forward to hydro projects in appropriate places,” William Tam, deputy director for water at DLNR, said to Pacific Business News. “However, the state does not want Hawaii’s in-stream flow standards to be decided by a federal agency in Washington D.C. that does not have any experience with or understand Hawaii’s streams. Hawaii stream-flow standards should not be decided 5,000 miles away where it’s very hard for the people of Hawaii to effectively participate.”

Since last fall, Boston-based Free Flow Power has filed six preliminary permit applications with FERC to explore hydroelectricity development on Kauai rivers and irrigation ditches. Once approved, the permits revert back to Kauai Island Utility Cooperative.

Maui Weekly reports on a recent South Maui legislative meeting held by Roz Baker and George Fontaine at Kihei Charter School, a “sparsely attended meeting” that was “mostly quiet and orderly, with nary a bark or a growl directed” at the two South Maui legislators:

Baker stressed that legislation was passed that will not allow any enhanced benefits until the unfunded pension liability is addressed and noted that, “We are not able to go back and take away benefits. Contract law in the [state] Constitution puts parameters around that.”

“We did not get into the 800-pound gorilla in the room, which is public employee costs,” Fontaine noted. “We need to take a look at benefits and entitlements for new hires. Do not go back. We have to look at the future. There are $900 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.”

Both Baker and Rep. Fontaine supported the passage of mortgage foreclosure reform legislation


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