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Legislators install new House leaders and shuffle posts

By Kevin Dayton; Star-Advertiser; August 29, 2017

Honolulu Star Advertiser

Lawmakers are using the five-day special session this week to shuffle some positions in the state House, and on Monday officially named state Rep. Cindy Evans (D, Kaupulehu-Waimea- Halaula) as the new House Democratic majority leader.

House members also elected Rep. Della Au Belatti as vice speaker Monday, and named Rep. Dee Morikawa (D, Niihau-Koloa-Kokee) as the new majority floor leader.

Lawmakers earlier announced plans to combine the House Health Committee and Human Services into one committee with Rep. John Mizuno as the chairman, but House Speaker Scott Saiki said that plan and other changes were deferred for a day to allow the Democrats time to discuss them further.

On Sunday Belatti (D, Moiliili-Makiki-Tantalus) told Reps. Isaac Choy and James Tokioka they were being removed from the powerful House Finance Committee and being replaced by Reps. Sam Satoru Kong and Beth Fukumoto. However, Kong said Monday he refused the Finance Committee appointment.

Choy and Tokioka have both been critics of the House plan for funding rail using a combination of excise and hotel room taxes and contended they were removed from the Finance Committee to limit debate and controversy during the special session.

Saiki said Monday that moving Choy and Tokioka off the Finance Committee was part of a larger package of 49 new assignments prompted by changes in House leadership when Saiki became speaker in May.

As part of those changes, Saiki said he is trying “to give newer and younger members of the House an opportunity to serve on the Finance Committee.”

The Senate also introduced two bills Monday that would provide $43 million to fund collectively bargained raises and fringe benefits for unionized state workers represented by the United Public Workers union for this year and next year, and another $31 million more for pay increases and raises for unionized faculty at the University of Hawaii and the community colleges.

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