HONOLULU - State Sen. Shan Tsutsui retains his responsibilities as majority caucus leader for the 2009-10 Legislature, while the addition of four new Democratic senators has led to shuffling committee assignments by the Senate majority.
In an announcement of the Senate organization, Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said Big Island Sen. Dwight Takamine will be given chairmanship of a newly created Senate Labor Committee. Although a freshman to the Senate, Takamine spent 24 years in the House, mostly recently serving as House Finance Committee chair.
Takamine also was named vice chairman of the Judiciary and Government Operations Committee, chaired by Oahu Sen. Brian Taniguchi. Taniguchi last session was chairman of the Judiciary and Labor Committee.
Another new Big Island senator who left a House seat to move to the Senate, Dr. Josh Green, is assigned to be vice chairman of the Health Committee. During the past session, Green was an advocate for tort reform legislation supported by the Hawaii Medical Association. The bill failed in the House.
Other leadership shifts under Hanabusa moved Big Isle Sen. Russell Kokubun up to Senate vice president, while the vice president for the last session, Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, was named chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee. Kim represents the Kalihi-Moanalua-Aiea district of Oahu.
Her assignment displaces Maui Sen. Roz Baker as head of the Senate money committee.
Tsutsui however remains vice chairman of Ways and Means, with Maui's third senator, J. Kalani English, assigned as a member of the 11-member committee.
Tsutsui represents the 4th District (Wailuku-Kahului) while English holds the 6th District (East Maui-Molokai-Lanai).
Baker, who holds the 5th District (West Maui-South Maui) seat, was named chairwoman of the Consumer Protection Committee.
She also will be vice chairwoman of the Committee on Economic Development and Technology, and is a member of the Health Committee and Higher Education Committee.
English will chair the Committee on Transportation, International Affairs and Intergovernmental Affairs. He also will be vice chairman of Energy and Environment and a member of the Public Safety and Military Affairs Committee.
Tsutsui will continue as a member of the Tourism Committee, but will give up two other committee assignments he held in the prior Legislature.
Two other first-time senators, Brickwood Galuteria and Michelle Kidani, were assigned vice chairmanships - to the Tourism Committee and to the Education and Housing Committee respectively. Galuteria is a former Hawaii Democratic Party chairman; Kidani was a city government executive assistant who defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Ron Menor after Menor was convicted of drunken driving earlier this year.