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Legislature Opens With New Leadership, Entertainment

Posted January 16, 2013, 02:00 PM HST Updated January 16, 2013, 05:18 PM HST
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Opening ceremonies for the 2013 Hawaii State Legislature. Photo courtesy of Hawaii News Now.

The Hawaii State Legislature reopened for business today.

The Legislature has two new leaders, including Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, who represents the 14th District in south-central Oahu, and House Speaker Joseph Souki of Maui.

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, left, and Rep. Joe Souki. Courtesy photos.

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, left, and Rep. Joe Souki. Courtesy photos.

Kim replaces former Senate president Shan Tsutsui, who was named lieutenant governor to replace Brian Schatz. Gov. Neil Abercrombie had appointed Schatz to fill the vacancy left by the death of US Sen. Daniel Inouye.

This is Souki’s second go-around as speaker; he returned to the post 14 years after being ousted by Rep. Calvin Say. Souki is leader of a dissident faction that has been trying to gain control of the House for the past eight years.

The back-and-forth wrangling included alliances forged with Republican House members two years ago by Say and this year by Souki. The latter includes several vice-chairmanships for the GOP.

The opening ceremony also was marked by the return of festivities cancelled by legislative leaders at last year’s opening day because of the state’s ongoing economic doldrums.

Because “the economy shows positive signs of recovery,” as the Senate said in a statement issued Tuesday, this year’s events included entertainment from Brother Nolan, Manoa DNA, Danny Kaleikini and others.

Sen. Gil Kahele. Courtesy photo.

Sen. Gil Kahele. Courtesy photo.

The only Big Island legislator in a leadership role in either body is Sen. Gil Kahele, who serves as one of two Senate majority whips. Persons filling those positions typically ensure that lawmakers in the ruling coalition attend important votes and cast them in keeping with the majority’s wishes.

Sen. Malama Solomon. Courtesy photo.

Sen. Malama Solomon. Courtesy photo.

Big Island senators in committee leadership roles for the 2013 session include Sen. Malama Solomon as chairwoman of the Committee on Water and Land and Sen. Josh  Green as chair of Health.

Sen. Josh Green. Courtesy photo.

Sen. Josh Green. Courtesy photo.

Newly elected Sen. Russell Ruderman is vice chairman of the Committee on Energy and the Environment , Green serves as vice-chairman  of Human Services and Kahele is vice-chair of the Committee on Higher Education.

Sen. Russell Ruderman. Courtesy photo.

Sen. Russell Ruderman. Courtesy photo.

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On the House side, there has been a shakeup of committees and their leaders, especially when it comes to Big Island legislators. (The makeup of committee leaders is so new it was not reflected on the Legislature’s website on opening day.)

Rep. Clift Tsuji. Courtesy photo.

Rep. Clift Tsuji. Courtesy photo.

According to information released by Souki on Tuesday, Rep. Clift Tsuji is no longer chair of the Committee on Agriculture but heads a newly formed Committee on Economic Development and Business Affairs.

Reps. Cindy Evans, left, and Nicole Lowen. Courtesy photos.

Reps. Cindy Evans, left, and Nicole Lowen. Courtesy photos.

Rep. Cindy Evans is chairwoman of another new committee, Water and Land, which will have newly elected Rep. Nicole Lowen of Kona as vice chairwoman. Rep. Faye Hanohano will head the newly formed Committee on Ocean Management and Hawaiian Affairs, and Rep. Mark Nakashima will be chairman of a redefined Committee on Labor.

Rep. Faye Hanohano. Courtesy photo.

Rep. Faye Hanohano. Courtesy photo.

Rep. Mark Nakashima. Courtesy photo.

Rep. Mark Nakashima. Courtesy photo.

Newly elected Rep. Richard Onishi has been named vice-chairman of the Committee on Agriculture formerly headed by Tsuji and now chaired by Rep. Jessica Wooley of Oahu.

 

Rep. Denny Coffman, who in 2012 headed the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, has apparently been left out of leadership positions this year.

Rep. Richard Onishi. Courtesy photo.

Rep. Richard Onishi. Courtesy photo.

Rep. Denny Coffman. Courtesy photo.

Rep. Denny Coffman. Courtesy photo.

 

Adjournment for the 2013 Legislature is scheduled for May 2.

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