Big Changes Impact State’s 2013 Legislative Session
Sen. Michelle Kidani
Aloha, and Happy New Year!
Let me begin 2013 by first acknowledging what most of you are already familiar with.
A tumultuous series of events, beginning with the sudden passing of our beloved, longtime U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye just a month ago, has 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 governor’s appointment.
Our Senate president, Shan Tsutsui of Maui, moved into the lieutenant governor’s office through the constitutional succession process.
We have welcomed the governor’s appointment of Rep. Gilbert Keith-Agaran to the Senate to fill the Maui vacancy. The Senate acted without delay by designating Sen. Donna Kim the new senate president to assure our preparations for the legislative session that 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 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 strong, 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 chair 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 have also accepted an appointment to the Committee on Human Services that provides oversight of assistance programs vital to our youth, our families and Hawaii’s growing elderly population, our 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 due to unforeseen events beyond our control.
I always look forward to hearing your ideas about how to do this, and welcome calls, emails and letters and personal visits at my state capitol office.
State Sen. Kidani represents Mililani Town, Waipio Gentry (north and west of Waipio Uka Boulevard), Waikele, Village Park, Royal Kunia. Call 586-7100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.