Archive for November, 2010

Stamped out

November 30th, 2010
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The U.S. Senate voted today against a proposed ban on earmarks, one day after U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, took to the Senate floor to offer an extended defense of a practice that has financially benefited Hawaii for decades.

From Inouye:

None of us should be surprised that President Obama has expressed his opposition to earmarks. A ban on earmarks would serve to strengthen the executive branch of government by empowering the president to make decisions that the Constitution wisely places in the hands of Congress. This is the exact same reason presidents Clinton and Bush sought the line-item veto during their presidencies.

As I have said many times before, the people of Hawaii did not elect me to serve as a rubber stamp for any administration. Handing over the power of the purse to the executive branch would turn the Constitution on its head.

So I must admit I find it puzzling that some Republicans would want to grant all authority over spending to any president, but especially to a Democratic president. And, make no mistake, that is exactly what this amendment would do.

112910 DKI Floor Statement Against Coburn Amdt on Earmarks FINAL FTR (2)

Hee haw

November 29th, 2010
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Gov.-elect Neil Abercrombie made his first Cabinet appointments today and faced questions from reporters about whether he would tap any sitting state senators for jobs in his new administration.

He said that while speculation is inevitable, he is not influenced one way or the other by a potential nominee’s political status.

During the campaign, there was buzz that state Sen. Clayton Hee (D-Kaneohe, Kahuku), a longtime ally, would be chosen as the director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Abercrombie even took the unusual step of telling the Star-Advertiser’s editorial board that Hee would not get the nomination. (William Aila, Jr., the Waianae harbormaster, was picked to lead DLNR today.)

From the governor-elect:

Sen. Hee’s name was mentioned over and over again to me all through the campaign for various positions, which probably destroyed any chance he has of ever getting anywhere.

I was just kidding with somebody the other day. They said, `Well, Clayton Hee is going to be the head of DLNR.’ And I said, `Well, he can’t. He’s going to be the head of agriculture.’

(laughter)

And I said, `Of course I could make him head of both departments.’ And they said, `Well, how can you do that?’

I said, `I’ll have to ask Attorney General Cayetano.’

(laughter)

Two Senators May Join Abercrombie Cabinet

November 27th, 2010
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Gov.-elect Neil Abercrombie is meeting with advisors this weekend and considering putting two and perhaps three state senators in his cabinet.
According to two sources, Abercrombie is considering Big Island Democratic Sens. Dwight Takamine and Russell Kokubun for positions with his new administration.
Takamine is under consideration as head of the state labor department and Kokubun would lead the department of agriculture.
There had been early speculation that Sen. Josh Green, also a Big Island Democrat and an emergency room physician was under consideration for a position as the state director of health.
Green would not comment, saying only that he was proud that his senate colleagues had selected him as chair of the senate health committee.
Also mentioned for a possible administrative position is long-time Manoa Democrat Sen. Brian Taniguchi, who according to one Democratic source is under consideration to the state Labor Relations Board.
If the senators do accept positions with the Abercrombie administration, they would have to resign from the Senate and Abercrombie would be able to name replacements. Abercrombie already is expected to name a replacement for Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who will leave the state position when she is sworn in to congress in January.
Kokubun, Takamine and Taniguchi  did not respond to requests for comment.A spokesman for Abercrombie said the Governor-elect was still interviewing candidates and “any announcement now would be speculation.”

Takamine is a labor attorney practicing in Hilo. He was first elected to the state House in 1984 and then elected to the Senate in 2008. He was an active campaigner for Abercrombie during the primary and general election.Kokubun was appointed to fill a vacancy in the state Senate in 2000 and has served ever since then.

He is a former Big Island County councilman.

Freshman year

November 26th, 2010
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One in five state lawmakers nationally next year will be freshmen, according to The Council of State Governments.

The council said the post-election turnover rate for state legislators was 30 percent, up from the typical 20 percent.

From David Adkins, the council’s executive director:

Part of the reason for this high turnover can be attributed to term limits, but perhaps most telling is the fact that this year Republicans contested 800 more legislative seats than they did in 2008. Republican legislative numbers will grow in every region of the country as a result of the 2010 election. It was not a good year to be an incumbent and the strong Democratic gains of 2006 and 2008 were largely reversed by this year’s results. You would have to go back to 1928 to find a year in which more state legislative seats were occupied by Republicans.

The GOP’s good fortunes nationally did not extend to Hawaii. Republicans picked up two seats in the state House — now split 43 to 8 — and lost one in the state Senate — now divided 24 to 1. Hawaii, as the Associated Press has noted, now has the most one-sided Legislature in the country.

There are seven freshmen in the House:

*Rep. George Fontaine (R)
*Rep. Daynette “Dee” Morikawa (D)
*Rep. Mark Hashem (D)
*Rep. Linda Ichiyama (D)
*Rep. Aaron Johanson (R)
*Rep. Ty Cullen (D)
*Rep. Gil Riviere (R)

Due to the House leadership struggle, the new lawmakers have yet to be assigned offices and their staffs are working out of the back of the House clerk’s office on the chamber level.

There are four freshmen in the Senate:

*Sen. Ron Kouchi (D)
*Sen. Glenn Wakai (D)
*Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D)
*Sen. Pohai Ryan (D)

Clog power

November 23rd, 2010
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State senators and staff held a farewell lunch this afternoon for state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who is going to Congress.

The lunch in a chamber-level conference room at the state Capitol was part roast, part testimonial for the girl from Waianae.

State Sen. Sam Slom, (R-Kahala, Hawaii Kai), said he was surprised by Hanabusa’s colorful wardrobe during the campaign given her penchant for wearing black. “The only time she wore color on the Senate floor was to get Gordon Trimble’s attention,” he said of the former Waikiki senator, who is nearsighted.

State Sen. Will Espero, (D-Ewa Beach, Waipahu), who writes poetry, offered “An Ode to Colleen Hanabusa,” that referenced her May special election survival and her general election victory over U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, R-Hawaii.

State Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, (D-Waikiki, Ala Moana, Downtown), sang a few lines of “You Are So Beautiful” and imagined it was what Hanabusa was thinking when she first saw her office in Congress. (Hanabusa said she thought that when she saw U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye’s Senate Appropriations Committee office.)

State Senate President Shan Tsutsui, (D-Kahului), said he has been told by several people that he has big shoes to fill in replacing Hanabusa. But he said he has been unable to find a pair of Hanabusa’s famous little black clogs.

(Hanabusa said the clogs are likely staying. She said she was told by several women in Washington, D.C., that they want her to start a clog fashion trend because they are tired of wearing high heels on the marble floors in Congress.)

The highlight of the lunch was an original song, led by state Sen. Mike Gabbard (D-Kapolei, Makakilo, Waikele), and Galuteria on guitars, with a dozen male senators singing backup.

(Chorus)
Hanabusa, she’s leaving town.
Hanabusa is D.C. bound.
Hanabusa, we’re really sad to see you go.
(End chorus)

Now when you get to Congress,
When the new year starts,
Don’t get pushed around,
By old Republican farts.
And when you’re speaking on C-SPAN,
Debating and giving your spiel,
Please make sure you’re wearing, some classy high heels.

(Chorus)

The girl from Waianae,
Is going to D.C.
She’s a brainy tita, we can all agree.
But John and Little, will miss her most.
She’ll rendezvous with them on the West Coast.

(Chorus)

She’s a wine connoisseur.
And she loves her dogs.
But when she leaves for Washington,
Better throw away them clogs.
In D.C. sharks will eat you,
If you show no class.
But I know one tita, goin’ kick some serious ass.

(Chorus)

Hang loosa, Hanabusa!

Monday lunch

November 22nd, 2010
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Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona gave the invocation tonight at a Washington Place ceremony unveiling Gov. Linda Lingle’s official portrait. But first he had a story for the audience filled with Cabinet members, Lingle’s friends, and dignitaries.

Aiona recalled how he and Lingle did not really know each other very well until they won their primaries and were paired as the GOP ticket in 2002. After the election, they started regular Monday lunches to talk story.

One early lunch, just before Lingle was preparing to leave the state on a trip, was memorable:

I’ll never forget. We kind of ate and we were talking. And then she says, `Can I get a little serious here?’

And I said, `Oh, absolutely.’

She said, `Well, you know I’m going to be leaving.’ I think it was Monday or whatever it was.

She says, `I’m going to be leaving and I just want to know. I want to get your assurance on this: Please, if anything should happen to me, don’t fire the Cabinet.’

(audience laughter)

I chuckled about that also …because that’s exactly what I was going to do.

(audience laughter)

I chuckled about that, but then it really dawned on me that here was a governor where her Cabinet meant that much to her.

3

November 21st, 2010
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State Rep. Jessica Wooley and state Rep. Cindy Evans, two of the holdouts in the House leadership struggle, met privately with state House Speaker Calvin Say on Friday and informed him that they support state Rep. Roy Takumi for speaker.

Say has 24 of the 26 votes he needs to remain as speaker, while state Rep. Sylvia Luke has 16 votes in her dissident faction. Wooley, Evans and Takumi had yet to commit until Friday.

“It’s time for change and an end to the divisiveness in the House. I have remained uncommitted for over two weeks because, like Rep. Takumi, I believe that we need to maximize the leadership and talents of every member, and we can do that only with a compromise,” Wooley (D-Kaneohe, Kahaluu, Laie), said today. “Our main responsibility is to improve the quality of life for the state, and we can do that best if we all work together.

“I am talking to House members on both sides of the divide to form working and policy groups now because we are ready to work. We have so many challenges in front of us and we have a responsibility to our constituents to end this stalemate. I urge my colleagues to realize that no matter which side they are on, it’s time for a compromise. It’s time to unify the House and for us to work together.”

Say and his allies did not consider the situation an impasse as of Friday, since the three votes were still on the table and speaker believed he had options in the form of leadership posts and committee chairmanships to offer.

If Wooley and Evans are now behind Takumi, and Luke’s 16 votes are solid, it may be difficult to describe the situation as anything other than an impasse.

Takumi has been actively courting votes. His pitch, according to several sources who have been approached, is not to try to peel votes away from Say or Luke. The Pearl City Democrat is asking for commitments in the event of a stalemate.

Say loyalists are reluctant to break ranks since they signed their names in support for the speaker. Reneging would be unlikely unless the speaker himself acknowledges there is an impasse or the situation drags on for so long that it is obvious there is stalemate.

Takumi said on Friday that if he becomes speaker he would choose from both the Say and Luke factions to form his leadership team and committee chairmanships.

Wishing well

November 19th, 2010
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Gentry Collins, who quit this week as political director of the Republican National Committee, sent out a memo critical of the RNC’s fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts under chairman Michael Steele.

Collins complains that Republicans could have been competitive in 21 more U.S. House districts if not for the lack of funds, including HI-01, where state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa beat U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, R-Hawaii.

Djou and Hanabusa matched each other in fundraising, but Hanabusa received more financial help from national Democats and labor unions.

PPM170_gentry_collins_letter

Meet

November 18th, 2010
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State House Speaker Calvin Say and state Rep. Sylvia Luke met privately today in speaker’s fourth-floor offices as House leadership remains unsettled more than two weeks after the general election.

Say, (D-St. Louis Heights, Palolo Valley, Wilhelmina Rise), has been speaker since 1999. Luke, (D-Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Punchbowl) , has been the leader of a dissident faction for the past several years.

Sources say the meeting produced no breakthroughs.

Say has locked down 24 votes to remain speaker, two votes short of the majority of 51 House members necessary. Luke has 16 votes. Three lawmakers — Rep. Roy Takumi, Rep. Jessica Wooley and Rep. Cindy Evans — have yet to commit.

Several lawmakers have described the situation as a stalemate, but Say and his allies have told supporters to be patient even if leadership is not resolved for several weeks. Say and his allies believe speaker still has the upper hand, so the situation may more accurately be described as a holding pattern than a stalemate.

The House Democrats’ uncertain leadership has yet to have much of a practical impact, other than keeping newly elected lawmakers from getting assigned offices. Gov.-elect Neil Abercrombie has met with Senate Democrats, who reorganized earlier this month, but will not likely speak with House Democrats as a group until leadership is settled.

Write-in

November 17th, 2010
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U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s improbable victory as a write-in candidate in Alaska brought some relief to supporters of a Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill.

Murkowski’s vote would likely be necessary if U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, is able to win time on the Senate floor for the bill during the lame-duck session. Akaka needs 60 votes to break Republican procedural roadblocks.

As a Washington, D.C., aide put it tonight:

Yes, we are very happy about Murkowski. That helps because, one, she can be in DC from now on when we are voting as she is not litigating in Alaska. And, two, she’ll hopefully be a Senate supporter of Native Hawaiians for the next six years regardless of what happens between now and end of year.