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Legislative session under way

January 17, 2013
By ANITA HOFSCHNEIDER , The Associated Press

HONOLULU - Senators and representatives were sworn in and new leadership was chosen in both houses Wednesday as the 2013 Hawaii legislative session got under way.

Rep. Joseph Souki, D-Waihee-Wailuku, was elected state House speaker, a post he previously held in the 1990s. He replaces Rep. Calvin Say, who announced last month that he wouldn't run again for the leadership post.

In the Democratic-led state Senate, Donna Mercado Kim was elected president, succeeding former Maui state senator and current Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui. Kim told fellow senators that she wouldn't support any tax increases.

Earlier, state Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria said voters can expect sweeping legislation to help Hawaii rely less on imports and more on local foods.

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism found that Hawaii consumers spent about $3.1 billion every two years on imported food. Replacing 10 percent of imported food with local food would add more than $300 million to Hawaii's economy every two years, the report said.

Education and state information technology systems also are top priorities for the state Senate majority, Galuteria said.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie wants more funding for both of these areas. He also is asking for more money to fund retiree health care and state employee pensions.

Abercrombie, a Democrat, is requesting $11.7 billion in total funds for fiscal year 2014 and $12.1 billion for 2015.

State House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said the state House majority wants a balanced budget this session. The governor likely won't get all the funding for education he proposes, Saiki said.

Abercrombie is requesting about $32 million over the next two years for a new preschool initiative. Hawaii is one of 11 states that do not have an early- learning program.

Saiki, a Democrat, said the state House also will address the management of public lands and various social issues. "We will be taking a hard look at the (Public Land Development Corp.)," Saiki said.

The state agency was established in 2011 to develop state lands through public-private partnerships.

Saiki said he expects marijuana legalization to be one of several contentious bills about social issues introduced.

Rep. Karl Rhoads, a Democrat, said he plans to introduce gun control legislation. He said he may also put forth a bill to legalize assisted suicide, modeled after an Oregon law.

 
 

 

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