Archive for January, 2011

Asterisk

January 31st, 2011
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The Cook Political Report has U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka’s re-election chances for 2012 in the `solid’ Democratic category. But there is an asterisk next to Akaka’s name suggesting he is a potential retirement.

Akaka has not been actively raising money and has just $66,278 for his re-election, a potential warning sign but not unusual for the senator. He only had $82,565 at a similar point before his 2006 re-election campaign.

Akaka told KHON in April and the Star-Advertiser in October that he is running for re-election.

Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor at the Cook Political Report who tracks Senate and governor’s races, explained her thoughts on Akaka in an e-mail.

It seems to be Akaka’s modus operandi to avoid raising money entirely until he is up for re-election. It’s not an especially wise strategy. It’s part of why Case thought that beating him in a primary was even remotely possible. National Democrats, particularly his Senate colleagues, had to do a lot of the heavy lifting to help him raise money in 2006. They will certainly come to his aid again if he gets a serious challenge, but it could be a little more difficult this time because Democrats have 23 seats up and it is a presidential year.

If Akaka has said he’s running on the record, I hadn’t heard that. Democrats are usually quick to tell me such things. I’ll have to do some checking about how certain they are that he will run. There are lots of reasons for him to retire: age, the prospect of being in the minority next Congress, the rigors of travel, etc. I do know that (Former Gov. Linda) Lingle is giving the race serious consideration, but wanted a few months off first (she’s entitled). If she does run, I would likely to move the rating to Toss Up, but without a challenger, it just makes sense to have it in Solid.

Roll call

January 29th, 2011
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Here is the breakdown of the state Senate’s vote on a civil-unions bill Friday:

Yes (19)
Tsutsui (D)
Solomon (D)
Kahele (D)
Green (D)
Baker (D)
English (D)
Ihara, Jr. (D)
Taniguchi (D)
Fukunaga (D)
Galuteria (D)
Chun Oakland (D)
Wakai (D)
Ige (D)
Kidani (D)
Nishihara (D)
Shimabukuro (D)
Hee (D)
Tokuda (D)
Ryan (D)

No (6)
Dela Cruz (D)
Espero (D)
Gabbard (D)
Kim (D)
Kouchi (D)
Slom (R)

Withdrawn

January 27th, 2011
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Several Catholics were critical of a Star-Advertiser headline last week that described Marc Alexander, Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s homeless coordinator, as an “ex-priest.”

The story on his appointment said he had left the priesthood after 25 years for a secular job. The message — inelegant as it may have been written — was that Alexander was not going to be a priest, he was going to be a homeless coordinator.

Alexander said it was “time to answer a call in a different direction.”

Bishop Larry Silva, in an interview with the Catholic News Agency, explained how the church now sees Alexander.

As Bishop Silva explained on Jan. 26, Fr. Alexander has not lost either the spiritual gifts, or the sacred obligations, that he received at ordination. However, having abandoned his ministry, he is no longer permitted to celebrate the sacraments, or perform other priestly functions, under all but the most urgent circumstances.

“Marc Alexander is still a priest,” the bishop explained, “but his faculties have been withdrawn. He has not requested dismissal from the clerical state, nor has it been granted.”

“However, in light of his decision to abandon the active priestly ministry, his ‘license’ to minister, granted by the bishop, has been withdrawn. He may not licitly perform any specific priestly functions.  He may give absolution to someone only if that person is in danger of death. Otherwise, he is not to function as a priest,” the bishop said.

Steering

January 27th, 2011
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U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, picked up a leadership post today when he was chosen vice chair of the Senate Democrats’ steering and outreach committee.

“This role will keep me in a position to advocate for Hawaii’s needs as our party works on legislative efforts,” the senator said in a statement.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, also recognized Akaka, who is moving from chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

“I am glad to have Senator Akaka join our Democratic leadership team, and I know he will be a strong advocate for America’s indigenous people on the Indian Affairs Committee, just as Chairman (Daniel K.) Inouye was when he was chairman of the committee.” the senator said in a statement. “He is an important member of our caucus, and I am excited about his new roles.”

Remembering Challenger

January 27th, 2011
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Tomorrow (Jan. 28) marks 25 years since the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, when the NASA orbiter broke apart and exploded within minutes of launch — killing all seven crew members aboard.

As most everyone in Hawaii knows, the crew included U.S. Air Force Col. Ellison Onizuka. Born in Kealakekua on the Big Island, Onizuka was a 1964 graduate of Konawaena High School.

The University of Hawaii at Hilo over the weekend celebrated it’s 11th annual Ellison Onizuka Science Day, a series of workshops for children and youth to engage their interest in science and space exploration.

Today, President Barack Obama issued the following statement on the 25th anniversary of the disaster:

Fifty years ago, a young President facing mounting pressure at home propelled a fledgling space agency on a bold, new course that would push the frontiers of exploration to new heights. Today, on this Day of Remembrance when NASA reflects on the mighty sacrifices made to push those frontiers, America’s space agency is working to achieve even greater goals. NASA’s new 21st Century course will foster new industries that create jobs, pioneer technology innovation, and inspire a new generation of explorers through education – all while continuing its fundamental missions of exploring our home planet and the cosmos.

Throughout history, however, we have seen that achieving great things sometimes comes at great cost and we mourn the brave astronauts who made the ultimate sacrifice in support of NASA missions throughout the agency’s storied history. We pause to reflect on the tragic loss of the Apollo 1 crew, those who boarded the space shuttle Challenger in search of a brighter future, and the brave souls who perished on the space shuttle Columbia.

Through triumph and tragedy, each of us has benefited from their courage and devotion, and we honor their memory by dedicating ourselves to a better tomorrow. Despite the challenges before us today, let us commit ourselves and continue their valiant journey toward a more vibrant and secure future.

Afterbirth

January 26th, 2011
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Gov. Neil Abercrombie, after clumsily re-opening the birther debate, tried to shut it down last week when his staff told the Associated Press that the governor was giving up his probe into President Obama’s birth records.

State Rep. Rida Cabanilla, however, was undeterred by Abercrombie’s negative experience. The Waipahu Democrat has introduced a bill that would allow the state Department of Health to disclose the birth records of officials who require United States citizenship to hold public office.

“Person of civic prominence” means a person who is a candidate for, or elected to, a public office that requires the person to be a United States citizen, either natural born or naturalized, to hold the public office for which they are a candidate or to which they have been elected.

Cabanilla would charge people $100 to see such records. Neal Palafox, the former interim director of the Department of Health, had joked to lawmakers at an informational briefing earlier this month that the state could charge for Obama’s birth records to help reduce the state’s budget deficit.

Top 10

January 25th, 2011
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From their home office in Room 318 of the state Capitol — with a hat tip to minority research on the fourth floor — comes the state House Republicans’ top 10 questions after listening to Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s State of the State address on Monday:

QUESTION #1 (COLLECTIVE BARGAINING):  In your address, you mentioned that you intended to “achieve savings without disrupting service to the public” through the collective bargaining process.  Labor costs account for 70 percent of the State Budget, how much are you prepared to increase or decrease this expenditure?

QUESTION #2(CUT IN HTA FUNDS) Tourism is Hawaii’s #1 industry, and our infrastructure is a major component of that industry. Will your redirection of funds from marketing to infrastructure partner with HTA’s ongoing outreach to visitors in our still recovering economy?

QUESTION #3(NEW DAY WORK PROJECTS) A major component of your economic recovery plan included a initiative labeled New Day Work Projects. What specific projects have you identified, and how are they different from the $1.8 billion CIP project already in the works?

QUESTION #4(TAXING PENSIONS) You’ve estimated that you will gain over $100 million in revenues by taxing pensions without taxing “those who are most dependent on their pensions.”  House Bill 1092’s progressive tax structure calls for taxing the pensions for those with a federal AGI of $37,500 and above for single persons, and $75,000 for married couples.  How many seniors, and working seniors, will this impact?

QUESTION #5(ANY RIFS COMING?) In your address, you mentioned the need for modernization, upgrading information technology systems, and restructuring the executive branch departments to increase savings.  How will these improvements save money other than labor savings, or are you planning personnel cuts?

QUESTION #6(CRITICAL SERVICES TO BE CUT BACK) You mentioned “restoring critical government services,” but which critical services in particular are you intending to restore? You also mentioned cutting TANF funding where federal funds no longer exist and cutting MedicaidQuest benefits. Which benefits/programs do you intend to cut, and what will the savings be?

QUESTION #7:  (INCREASED INTERNET SPEED) The Hawaii Broadband Initiative was previously unable to make progress because the legislature turned down a request for funding and implementation of a plan. How much do you estimate this will cost, and where do you plan to get the money, or is this simply piggybacking with the University of Hawaii federal grant?

QUESTION #8(INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS) You mentioned “a backlog of work to improve our roads, airports and harbors” within the Department of Transportation.  How is your plan to improve our infrastructure different from the current multi-million dollar harbors and airports plans, or is this a continuation of the those two plans and the highway modernization project previously turned down by the Legislature?

QUESTION #9(PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION AND RENEWABLE ENERGY) What is the time frame for the restructuring of the Public Utilities Commission and/or the creation of a Hawaii Energy Authority, and will its impact be soon enough to help close the $844 million budget deficit for this biennium?

QUESTION #10  (BALANCING THE BUDGET) Looking at your overall revenue enhancement proposals as well as likely budget increases, it is difficult to ascertain how the existing $800+ budget deficit will be closed.  Could you provide the detailed numbers explaining how you will present a balanced state budget to the legislature?

Take Our Poll (Ended)

January 25th, 2011
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UPDATE: Polling has ended. Thanks to everyone who participated and who left comments. Here are the results of the poll:

Remember, the results are unscientific. The only restriction that was placed on voting was a limit of one vote per day.

>>> <<<

In what we hope will become a semi-regular feature (maybe weekly, depending on the response) we are posting a poll question for the week. Feel free to vote and send the link along for others.

This week’s poll is based on the governor’s State of the State speech.

State of the State 2011

January 24th, 2011
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Curation of social media posts covering Gov. Neil Abercrombie first State of the State address.

Lineup

January 21st, 2011
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The state House has approved its new leadership and committee chairmanship lineup, revealing the power-sharing agreement that ended the leadership stalemate on Wednesday afternoon.

The House has expanded its leadership to include four additional majority whips and has increased the number of committees from 18 to 20.

Dissidents hold two leadership posts — up from one — and seven committee chairmanships — up from four last session.

Here are the leadership posts and committees the dissidents received:

*Majority Floor Leader — Rep. Cindy Evans

*Majority Whip — Rep. Mele Carroll

*Culture and the Arts — Rep. Jessica Wooley

*Education — Rep. Roy Takumi

*Energy and Environmental Protection — Rep. Hermina Morita

*Hawaiian Affairs — Rep. Faye Hanohano

*Higher Education — Rep. Scott Nishimoto

*Judiciary — Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran

*Tourism — Rep. Tom Brower

Here is the remainder of the lineup:

*Speaker Calvin Say

*Vice Speaker Joey Manahan

*Majority Leader Blake Oshiro

*Majority Whip Pono Chong

*Majority Whip Ken Ito

*Majority Whip John Mizuno

*Majority Whip James Tokioka

*Agriculture — Rep. Clifton Tsuji

*Consumer Protection and Commerce — Rep. Robert Herkes

*Economic Revitalization and Business — Rep. Angus McKelvey

*Finance — Rep. Marcus Oshiro

*Health — Rep. Ryan Yamane

*Housing — Rep. Rida Cabanilla

*Human Services — Rep. John Mizuno

*International Affairs — Rep. Karen Awana

*Labor and Public Employment — Rep. Karl Rhoads

*Legislative Management — Rep. Kyle Yamashita

*Public Safety and Military Affairs — Rep. Henry Aquino

*Transportation — Rep. Joe Souki

*Water, Land and Ocean Resources — Rep. Jerry Chang