Four Big Island Legislators to Chair House Committees

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Four Hawaiʻi Island Representatives will lead committees in the State House during the 2021 session.

Representative Mark M. Nakashima (D-1, Hāmākua, North Hilo, South Hilo), the former Vice Speaker, will chair the Committee on Judiciary, which will now be combined with the Hawaiian Affairs Committee. Nakashima will deal with critical legal and cultural issues.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of meeting expectations of the Hawaiian community in fulfilling Native Hawaiian Trust issues that have been festering for over 60 years and adjusting the bureaucracy to more effectively meet Native Hawaiian concerns,” Nakashima said. “I hope to review a number of pressing issues such as lessons learned from Hawaiʻi’s first all-mail election and issues arising from sunshine requirements during the pandemic.”


Representatives David Tarnas and Nicole Lowen have track records of working on environmental, natural resources, and climate change issues.

Representative Tarnas (D-7, North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala) will chair the Water and Land Committee, which is responsible for all issues relating to water resources, land use, coastal and marine resource management, and adaptation to climate change as well as sea-level rise.

“I plan to focus on legislation to implement the recommendations of the Hawaiʻi Ocean Resources Management Plan and the 2020 Hawaiʻi Climate Change Annual Report, especially regarding sea-level rise,” Tarnas said. “To create a resilient and sustainable economy in Hawaiʻi, we need a vibrant ocean economy. That means protecting our beaches from sea-level rise, sustaining our marine resources and ecosystems, and improving nearshore water quality.”


“The State also needs to develop a legal framework around sea-level rise issues, support Community Resilience Building planning, prioritize nature-based solutions, and require any state investments, permits and policies to consider future climate change impacts,” Tarnas continued. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to make progress on these important matters.”

Representative Lowen (D-6 Kailua-Kona, Hōlualoa, Kalaoa, Honokōhau) has been named chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, a position she continues to hold.

“As the Legislature comes together to help rebuild Hawaiʻi’s economy this session, I will work to ensure that our future is more sustainable, resilient, and protects our natural resources,” Lowen said. “My committee will continue to facilitate Hawaiʻi’s transition to renewable energy, clean transportation, and to focus on reducing Hawaiʻi’s contribution to global climate change.”


Representative Richard H.K. Onishi (D-3, Hilo, Kea‘au, Kurtistown, Volcano, Pāhala) will chair the combined Committee on Labor and Tourism. Onishi will be entrusted with finding solutions to economic challenges caused by the pandemic, including unemployment and jobs lost in tourism.

“I am extremely humbled to have been asked to continue as the House of Representatives’ Chair for the Tourism Committee and for the Labor Committee to be added to my responsibilities,” Onishi said. “I hope that I will be able to provide the appropriate guidance as we rebuild our tourism economy and address the unprecedented unemployment in Hawaiʻi.”

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