2013 Hawaii Legislative Session Carries Promise Of Change

Sen. Michelle Kidani

Aloha, and Happy New Year!

Let me begin 2013 by first acknowledging what most of you already are familiar with – the tumultuous series of events beginning with the sudden passing of our beloved, longtime U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye just a month ago. His passing significantly changed Hawaii’s federal and state government landscapes.

To summarize subsequent events, former Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz now holds Sen. Inouye’s position by appointment of the governor. Our Senate president, Shan Tsutsui of Maui, moved into the lieutenant governor’s office through the constitutional succession process. We have welcomed the appointment of Rep.

Gilbert Keith-Agaran to the Senate to fill the Maui vacancy. The Senate did act without delay to designate Sen. Donna Kim as new Senate president to assure our preparations for the legislative session, which officially begins today, continued without interruption.

However, much we may personally mourn the loss of Sen. Inouye, and as unsettling as change can sometimes be, we can be reassured that an orderly transition has indeed taken place in just a few weeks. Now we begin the new year with a resolve to take care of unfinished business and formulate ways to assure that government is responsive to the needs of our families and friends.

We do have good reason to begin the 2013 legislative session with some optimism. Economic indicators are positive; economists say that our steady expansion out of the nationwide recession will continue. The tourism sector is performing strongly, state unemployment rates continue to decline, and other sectors such as construction are showing signs of improvement.

This year, I will again oversee the Senate’s construction budget as vice chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee. The state continues to release funds for dozens, if not hundreds, of construction projects that we authorized in the 2012 session, and we will be monitoring the effects of those actions as we consider next steps.

I am pleased to continue as vice chair of the Education Committee that will examine the feasibility and economics of a stronger early education program for our keiki. And as a member of the new Higher Education Committee, we will follow up on the pledge by the University of Hawaii to improve systems to better account for the use of its funds in the wake of the failed concert fundraiser and its aftermath.

I also have accepted an appointment to the Committee on Human Services that provides oversight of assistance programs vital to youths, families and the growing elderly population, as well as public housing programs and dealing with the challenges of homelessness.

Internally, as assistant majority leader, I will be on the committee that decides which Senate committees will consider bills as they are introduced and move through the legislative process.

Our task in the coming session is not only to target state funding to best uses, but also to devise policies that diversify our economy to help protect Hawaii from negative pressures because of unforeseen events beyond our control.

I always look forward to hearing your ideas about how to do this, and I welcome calls, emails, letters and personal visits at my State Capitol office.

Special note for Waipahu residents: This Saturday, (Jan. 19) the Kidney Foundation is offering free kidney health screenings at Golden Coin Bake Shop in Mill Town Business Center on Puko Street in Waipahu from 8 a.m. to noon. Call 589-5903 for more information and to pre-register.

State Sen. Kidani represents Mililani Town, Waipio Gentry (north and west of Waipio Uka Boulevard), Waikele, Village Park, Royal Kunia. Call her at 586-7100 or email senkidani@capitol.hawaii. gov.