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

4:32 p.m. Delegation Praises Obama on Afghanistan

Excerpts from statements made by Hawaii’s congressional delegation responding to the president’s speech in D.C. today:

Dan Akaka: “I am pleased President Obama is upholding his commitment to bring thousands of our troops home from Afghanistan this year and next as we work to bring the war to a responsible conclusion. I look forward to welcoming home the brave men and women who are serving courageously, including the many based in Hawaii whose families miss them dearly.”

Dan Inouye: “Like many of my colleagues, I am anxious to hand over the responsibility for the security and administration of Afghanistan to the Afghan people. However, this draw down needs to be done carefully and responsibly so that Afghanistan does not regress back to a safe haven for terrorists.”

Mazie Hirono: “I strongly support President Obama’s decision to bring 10,000 of our brave men and women in uniform home from Afghanistan and 33,000 by next summer. The President has successfully dealt with Osama bin Laden, and this is the right time to focus on responsibly winding down our mission in Afghanistan.”

Colleen Hanabusa: “It has been almost 10 years since Operation Enduring Freedom began, and with the death of Osama bin Laden, we must now reevaluate our military strategy while remaining a ready and vigilant force. The security and safety of our nation and citizens have always been our top priority and at this time, we cannot continue to risk more American lives and resources in Afghanistan.”

2:50 p.m. House Defeats Bill to End Election Assistance

The Hill reports that the U.S. House today rejected a bill to end the Election Assistance Commission, which Republicans said would save $33 million over five years by eliminating a commission that’s primary purpose has been achieved.

The vote was 235-187 in favor of the bill, but that was not enough to ensure passage under a suspension of House rules, according to The Hill: “Suspension votes require the support of two-thirds of all voting members.”

All Democrats who voted, including Mazie Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa, opposed the bill, and all Republicans favored it.

The Hill said:

Republicans said the vote would test the willingness of Democrats to support cuts to federal spending, while Democrats argued that the EAC still serves a useful purpose in helping states establish voting standards and test voting equipment.

2:28 p.m. U.S. Reps Want Pot Legalized

Not Hawaii’s representatives, mind you, but Barney Frank and Ron Paul.

A news report says that the two reps plan to introduce legislation that will legalize marijuana and allow states to legislate its use:

The legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, and allow people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal.

The bill, which is expected to be introduced on Thursday … would be the first ever legislation designed to end the federal ban on marijuana.

Sixteen of the 50 states (including Hawaii) as well as the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

But planting, selling or commercially distributing marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

A handful of bills dealing with marijuana, including dicriminalizing it and allowing for medical pot distribution, were introduced at the Hawaii Legislature this year but died before session’s end.

1:32 p.m. UPDATE: $600,000 Awarded to Community Groups

The lieutenant governor today that DBEDT and the DOH have awarded $600,000 in supplemental environmental project grants to 11 community organizations for environmental projects on Oahu’s Leeward Coast.  

The groups include Blue Planet Foundation, Oahu Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Nanakuli Elementary School Parent Teacher Association and Kaala Farm.

12:30 p.m. Herkes, Baker to Address Mortgage Law Flaws

Roz Baker and Bob Herkes have scheduled an informational briefing next week “to update the committees on the impact and implementation of Act 48 (SB651 CD1) and to identify and/or clarify any ambiguities in its provisions,” according to the hearing notice.

Act 48 is the state’s new law on mortgage foreclosures, which was hailed on passage as a model for other states. Since then, however, Fannie Mae announced it would work around the law.

Baker and Herkes have asked bankers, Realtors, attorneys, foreclosure experts and advocate of mortgage foreclosure reforms to participate in the briefing.

9:31 a.m. Two More Appointee Resist Gov’s Resignation Request

West Hawaii Today reports that Robert Pacheco, who is in his second term on the BLNR, said he’s not going to comply with the governor’s request to step down:

Pacheco said he was puzzled by the governor’s request because Abercrombie hadn’t spent time with the commission or learning “where we are as a board.”

Pacheco, who was appointed by former Gov. Linda Lingle, described the Land Board as a good working board, with members of varied political affinities.

Civil Beat reported this week that at least four of the 28 members of five boards and commissions are resisting the governor’s request.

Meanwhile, The Maui News reports that Hawaii Public Housing Authority member Travis Thompson said that “he was considering his options but would likely stay at his post” despite receiving a letter from the governor:

He said the letter came as a “shock,” because he thought he and the other Lingle appointees had been working well with other board members and administration staff. He said he believed public housing issues were “not political.”

“The problems of public housing are really well-known, and we’re all working to resolve them,” he said.

Schatz to Announce Leeward Grants

Brian Schatz will hold a news conference this morning to award Supplemental Environmental Project grants to eleven non-profit organizations, “who have been selected to undertake various environmental projects on Oahu’s Leeward Coast,” according to a press release.

Good, Bad, Ugly of Session Discussion

Key legislators are offering their perspective of the 2011 legislative session and ideas for the next session this morning at the state Capitol Room 325.

“After their presentations, any member of the audience can suggest issues of concern for consideration in the 2012 session,” according to a press release.

The forum is sponsored by Hawaii Alliance for Retired Americans and Kokua Council.

Senate Dems Want Stimulus

The Hill reports that Senate Democrats today “formally backed putting stimulus measures such as a payroll tax deduction” into the deficit-reduction package being negotiated by Joe Biden and six members of Congress:

No formal proposal will be tabled in the session of the talks to be held Wednesday by Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) or Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). The group is still reviewing various stimulus proposals and is not “wedded” to any one, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters.

Big Isle Gov’t News

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that the Hawaii County Council is dealing with a question of nepotism:

The only paid intern hired by the Hawaii County Council this summer has a familiar last name: Kawauchi.

But Council Chairman Dominic Yagong, leader of the majority that has authority over the Clerk’s Office, and Hilo Councilman J Yoshimoto, who asked the intern be hired for his office, say County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi has taken steps to avoid any hint of nepotism.

“It was a choice of the council member,” Yagong said. “(Jamae Kawauchi) was very uncomfortable with it.”

The intern, Kathryn Kawauchi, is a first cousin of the clerk.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that Native Hawaiian homesteaders owe more than $1.6 million in back property taxes, penalties and interest that Hawaii County needs “but is virtually powerless” to collect:

Private landowners who don’t pay taxes for three consecutive years risk losing their properties at a foreclosure auction like the one the county held June 8.

“We sold everything,” Tax Administrator Stan Sitko said of the latest sale, which he described as “spirited” because of individual bids topping $30,000.


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