Capitol Watch

Hawaii Politics & Government

The BeatCapitol Watch

House Speaker Unveils Leadership Positions, Committee Chairs

Luke retains control of Finance; Rhoads keeps Judiciary; Tsuji takes control of Agriculture.

·By Nathan Eagle

House Speaker Joe Souki and the Democratic majority met in caucus briefly Wednesday afternoon before unveiling the 2015 leadership team and committee chair assignments for next legislative session, which convenes Jan. 21.

“The team that we have formed represents the kind of talents and abilities that will best serve our residents and will address the issues facing our state,” Souki said in a statement. “We look forward to engaging in meaningful discussions with Governor-elect David Ige and his administration to continue to identify ideas and solutions to help Hawaii move forward.”


The BeatCapitol Watch

James Pflueger Donates $4,000 to Libertarian Jeff Davis’ Campaign

The Honolulu car dealer was sentenced to jail soon after giving the Hawaii candidate for governor his biggest contribution yet.

·By Nathan Eagle

Two weeks before retired Honolulu car dealership owner James Pflueger was sentenced to jail for his role in the fatal Ka Loko dam breach, he made one of the biggest political donations of his life.

State campaign finance records filed this week show Pflueger gave $4,000 to Jeff Davis, the Libertarian candidate for Hawaii governor, on Sept. 30.

Pflueger, 88, was sentenced Oct. 15 to seven months in jail after pleading no contest in July 2013 to reckless endangering in the first degree. State prosecutors had alleged that Pflueger had illegally filled

The BeatCapitol Watch

Hawaii Rep. Awana: Don’t Dump Illegal Fireworks on Waianae Coast

Lawmaker is "exasperated" by plan to store and blow up the cache of fireworks involved in the 2011 fatal explosion.

·By Nathan Eagle

Hawaii Rep. Karen Awana sharply criticized a plan Monday that calls for using a rural property on the Waianae Coast as a place to store and dispose of a large cache of illegal fireworks.

The commercial-grade fireworks are the remnants of a stash that was involved in the 2011 explosion at a Waikele storage bunker that killed five people.

“This plan to bring hazardous fireworks into our backyard is downright exasperating,” Awana said in a statement. “Both the state and city have used the Waianae Coast as a dumping ground for far too

The BeatCapitol Watch

Pflueger Headed to Prison Over Fatal Ka Loko Dam Breach

Judge sentences retired auto dealership owner to seven months behind bars.

·By Nathan Eagle

Retired Honolulu car dealership owner Jimmy Pflueger was sentenced Wednesday morning to seven months in prison over the Ka Loko dam breach on Kauai that killed seven people more than eight years ago according to a KHON report.

Pflueger, 88, pleaded no contest in July 2013 to reckless endangering in the first degree. The state dropped seven manslaughter charges as part of the plea agreement, which included his company, Pacific 808 Properties, paying $350,000 — $50,000 for each victim.

The state had alleged that Pflueger had illegally filled in the dam’s

The BeatCapitol Watch

Fightland Features Kauai Mayoral Candidate’s Fight Against GMOs

New video explains former pro surfer, MMA fighter Dustin Barca's battle against Monsanto, Syngenta.

·By Nathan Eagle

Former pro surfer and MMA fighter Dustin Barca got some help in his uphill battle to unseat Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. this fall.

Fightland, a VICE show, released a nine-minute video this week about Barca’s fight against genetically modified seed companies, like Monsanto and Syngenta, that spurred him to seek office.

For a first-time candidate, he put up a strong showing in the Aug. 9 primary, securing 31 percent of the vote to Carvalho’s 58 percent. The general election results next month probably won’t differ too much, but it does say a lot about the

The BeatCapitol Watch

State Health Insurance Exchange Hires New Director

The Hawaii Health Connector board has tapped a longtime energy exec to lead the organization.

·By Nathan Eagle

Jeffrey Kissell will take over as head of the state’s beleaguered health insurance marketplace, known as the Hawaii Health Connector, according to an announcement from the board Friday.

Kissell, who spent his career working for energy companies, most recently as CEO of Hawaii GAS, replaces interim Executive Director Tom Matsuda. Matsuda took the reins after the initial executive director, Coral Andrews, resigned in December amid criticism of her management.

“I believe that everyone deserves to have health insurance coverage, and the Hawai‘i Health Connector is a highly viable resource

The BeatCapitol WatchDC808 Blog

Do You ‘Care Like Crazy’ About Women’s Rights, War, Student Loans?

Rock the Vote has launched a $250,000 ad campaign to get Millennials to vote this election.

·By Nathan Eagle

“Asians. You can work them long hours, they do what you tell them and they don’t complain.”

That’s how one of several new Rock the Vote ads begins, part of the nonprofit’s $250,000 national media campaign that launched Thursday to get young people to the polls on Nov. 4.

The actor delivering those words is portraying a type of voter. This ad, as well as several others like it, is meant to be offensive and spur Millennials in particular to stand up for their beliefs by casting ballots for candidates who support their views.

The ads are part of Rock the

HawaiiPoliticsThe BeatCapitol WatchInside Honolulu

Honolulu Mayor Lends Support to Democratic Candidates

Kirk Caldwell is hosting a fundraiser for David Ige and a press conference for Mark Takai.

·By Nathan Eagle

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has been lending his support to fellow Democrats he’d like to see win this November, namely state Sen. David Ige in his bid for governor and state Rep. Mark Takai in his run for Congress.

Caldwell endorsed Gov. Neil Abercrombie for re-election back in July. But he’s apparently put the governor’s stunning two-to-one loss to Ige in the August primary behind him. 

The mayor is hosting a fundraiser for Ige’s campaign, which could definitely use the cash, next week at the Honolulu Country Club. The

The BeatCapitol WatchDC808 BlogInside Honolulu

Hawaii Voting Registration Deadline Is Oct. 6

Election officials will once again hold drive-thru voter registration events at various locations.

·By Chad Blair

The deadline to register to vote in the general election is Monday, Oct. 6. So, “no vote, no grumble,” OK?

Drive-thru voter registration will once again be held on that day at various locations (see below). Individuals may drive to designated locations and register on the spot.

“We hope people will take this opportunity to register to vote. It’s quick and easy. Just stay in your car and an election official will have you registered in minutes,” said Chief Election Officer Scott Nago in a press release today.

A total of 1,200 individuals registered during the primary

The BeatCapitol Watch

Solicitation With Birds, or Merely Extending the ‘Aloha Spirit’?

The Hawaii Supreme Court rules that a man photographing people with his birds should not have been convicted.

·By Chad Blair

Check out this story from Courthouse News Service about a man who said he was “merely extending ‘his aloha spirit’” in photographing people with his birds and should not have been convicted of solicitation.

Prosecutors had charged James Abel in 2012 with soliciting with live animals in public in Waikiki. He was convicted and charged $330.

The Intermediate Court of Appeals affirmed Abel’s conviction, says CNS, “crediting the state’s contention that it need not prove that an actual request for money occurred.”

But, on Sept. 24, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled

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Hawaii’s Sakai Named ‘Outstanding Director of Corrections’

The honor comes from a national organization called the Association of State Correctional Administrators.

·By Chad Blair

Hawaii’s prison system may be plagued with lots of problems — e.g., escapees, suicides, overcrowding, visitation cancellation — but the Association of State Correctional Administrators says Public Safety Director Ted Sakai is the recipient of the 2014 Outstanding Director of Corrections Award.

The group’s current president and commissioner said in a press release, “It was evident that this year’s recipient has made many contributions over the years and even more importantly has touched a number of lives throughout his service as Director. He has an uncanny ability to not only lead effectively, but

The BeatCapitol Watch

Cavasso Calls for Series of Debates With Schatz

None have been scheduled for the U.S. Senate race. Meanwhile, two TV forums are set for the Takai-Djou contest.

·By Chad Blair

U.S. Senate candidate Cam Cavasso is trying to get Sen Brian Schatz to debate him, but it’s an uphill battle.

Cavasso, the Republican, wrote to Schatz a couple days ago suggesting the Democrat join him for one forum each on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai and the Big Island next month.

“I believe it would be respectful to the people of Hawaii for us to debate the issues important to the voters of Hawaii,” Cavasso said in a press release. “The people of Hawaii deserve to be informed as to our respective