Capitol Watch

Hawaii Politics & Government

The BeatCapitol Watch

Chief Justice Asks Legislature for $55M to Finish Kona Courthouse

State of the Judiciary address touts accomplishments, highlights goals.

·By Nathan Eagle

Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald wants the Legislature to give the Judiciary the remaining $55 million it needs to finish building a courthouse complex in Kona.

State lawmakers approved the first $35 million needed for the project last session and will be considering his request for additional money as they get to work this session, which started last week.

Recktenwald highlighted the budget request during his State of the Judiciary address before the House and Senate on Wednesday at the Capitol.

His speech highlighted a number of accomplishments over the

The BeatCapitol Watch

Union Strike Over Contract Closes 10 Kaiser Clinics

Nearly 1,900 workers are affected by the planned six-day strike.

·By Nathan Eagle

Nearly 1,900 Local 5 union workers are planning a six-day strike that is expected to close 10 Kaiser Permanente clinics statewide.

KITV reports that employees have been working without a new contract for more than two years.

Kaiser plans to reschedule elective procedures and non-urgent appointments due to the changes, according to the KITV story.

Learn more here.

Union workers are going on strike, shutting down 10 Kaiser Permanente clinics.


The BeatCapitol Watch

Senate Committee Defers Public Records Bill

The Office of Information Practices objected to legislation requiring government agencies to maintain public records better.

·By Nathan Eagle

State Sens. Gil Keith-Agaran, Kalani English, Maile Shimabukuro and Glenn Wakai would like government agencies to take better care in how they maintain public records.

The Office of Information Practices, the state agency tasked with administering Hawaii’s open records law, appreciates the intent of what they are trying to do but came out against their legislation to require it statutorily.

Gilbert Keith-Agaran

“OIP believes that encouraging agencies to be attentive to existing retention schedules and to take care with their ‘official’ files is a laudable goal, but the broad application of this

The BeatCapitol Watch

Ige Appoints Kim to Be Special Adviser to the Governor

The governor had picked her to head the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations but had to withdraw the nomination due to residency restrictions.

·By Nathan Eagle

Hawaii Gov. David Ige has found a new home for Elizabeth Kim.

He wanted her to head the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, but had to withdraw the nomination last week after realizing she was ineligible due to residency restrictions.

Gov. David Ige has appointed Elizabeth Kim to be special adviser to the governor.

Shawn T Moore/Office of the Governor

The Constitution requires any governor-appointed department heads to live in the state for at least a year immediately preceding the

·By Nathan Eagle

House Democrats held a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Capitol to announce the majority caucus legislative package but offered little in the way of details about any of the priorities they plan to focus on this session, which convened Wednesday.

Fixing public infrastructure, facilitating business and increasing participation in government will be the main themes, Majority Leader Scott Saiki told a foyer full of reporters.

The plan is to focus on “festering” issues that have long-plagued the state, he said, before turning it over to committee chairs to broadly discuss what they

The BeatCapitol Watch

Health Connector, Hawaiian Electric Merger Top Senate Minority Priorities

The state Senate's lone Republican, Sam Slom, unveiled his top areas of focus for the 2015 session.

·By Nathan Eagle

Sam Slom, the Senate’s lone Republican, and minority staff have unveiled their priorities for the 2015 legislative session, which convenes Jan. 21.

Transparency and accountability will be the overarching theme. Under that umbrella are five areas of focus: the state economy, education, the Hawaii Health Connector, oversight of the Public Utilities Commission in light of the pending merger between Hawaiian Electric Industries and NextEra Energy, and positively affecting the cost of living for residents, according to an announcement Wednesday.

Sen. Sam Slom, accompanied by Senate Minority staff, speaks during a press conference in his office

The BeatCapitol Watch

State Offers Guides to Help Consumers Save Money on Insurance

Hawaii Insurance Division releases annual premium comparison guide.

·By Nathan Eagle

The Hawaii Insurance Division has released its annual premium comparison guide aimed at helping consumers save money by shopping around for more affordable plans.

“You could potentially save hundreds of dollars by reviewing our premium comparison guide and figuring out which insurers are charging less,” Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito said in a release Tuesday. “Consumers often tell us that our guide helped them figure out who to call and the type of questions to ask about their policy.”

The guides are for health, homeowner/condo/renters and motor vehicle insurance plans. They can be found

The BeatCapitol WatchInside Honolulu

Star-Ad Editorial: Caldwell Needs To Take Responsibility for Rail

Honolulu's mayor should be front and center in the debate over whether to extend the general excise tax instead of leaving it up to an appointee.

·By Nick Grube

When Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell ran for office he promised to be “hands on” and “build rail better.”

But now that the controversial project is going over budget by as much as $700 million he seems to be backing away from that pledge in hopes of avoiding the political fallout.

That’s the thrust of a Honolulu Star-Advertiser editorial that published in the newspaper Wednesday.

Honolulu’s rail project is now estimated to cost nearly $6 billion, which is much higher than the $5.2 billion that was promised.

Cory Lum /

The BeatCapitol Watch

Hawaii Health Connector Unveils Sustainability Plan

The state health insurance exchange's report acknowledges missteps and corrective course of action.

·By Nathan Eagle

The new head of the Hawaii Health Connector, the state’s health insurance exchange, has released a nearly 200-page report detailing the nonprofit’s plan to become sustainable.

Jeff Kissell, who was hired as executive director in October to turn the Connector around after a series of missteps, acknowledges the uncertainty surrounding enrollment and revenue.

Jeff Kissell, executive director of the Hawaii Health Connector, speaks to lawmakers, Dec. 29, 2014.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

But he maintains in the report that Hawaii’s economy stands to gain more than $500 million in federal

The BeatCapitol Watch

Ige Picks New State Labor, Communications Directors

Hawaii governor is working to fill remaining Cabinet positions yet this month.

·By Nathan Eagle

Hawaii Gov. David Ige has chosen Elizabeth Kim to head the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations and Cindy McMillan to be his communications director.

Elizabeth Kim, Gov. David Ige’s newly appointed head of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Shawn T Moore

The two picks, which he announced in a news release Monday, are the latest to round out his Cabinet. The governor has yet to appoint an Attorney General and a handful of others, but has said he plans to by the end of January.


The BeatCapitol Watch

Group Wants $150K for Consultant to Help with Hotel Tax Revenue Recommendation

Report to Hawaii Legislature looks at history of how much TAT money the state gives the counties.

·By Nathan Eagle

A working group that’s trying to figure out how just much hotel tax revenue the state should give the counties is planning to ask the Legislature for $150,000 next session so it can hire a consultant to help.

The 13-member group, created under a law passed last year, released its interim report to state lawmakers Friday.

The final report is due prior to the convening of the 2016 session. It’s expected to recommend to the Legislature the appropriate allocation of the transient accommodations tax revenues between the state and counties based on the division of

The BeatCapitol Watch

Ige Appoints Pressler to Head Hawaii Department of Health

Pressler currently serves as chief strategic officer at Hawaii Pacific Health.

·By Nathan Eagle

Gov. David Ige has appointed Dr. Virginia “Ginny” Pressler to head the Department of Health, taking over where Linda Rosen left off.

“Ginny has more than 35 years of experience in the medical field and has held administrative positions for more than two decades,” Ige said in a statement released Friday. “A well-respected member of Hawaii’s medical and business communities, Ginny’s wealth of knowledge and experience equips her to lead the Department of Health.”

Ginny Pressler

Office of the Governor

Pressler’s appointment is subject to Senate confirmation. She is currently