As published in the Honolulu Star Advertiser on November 28, 2016:
House Speaker Scott Saiki (D, Downtown-Kakaako-McCully), who took over House leadership earlier this month after members effectively ousted Rep. Joe Souki, has announced his leadership team, emphasizing its inclusion of women and a younger generation of leaders.
Three out of the top four leadership spots will be held by female legislators, while seven of the 11 leadership positions will be filled by lawmakers in their early 40s or younger.
“As we look to build and reform the Hawaii State House of Representatives, it is important to ensure that women and the next generation of leaders are given the opportunity to lead under my tenure as Speaker,” Saiki said in a press release. “We have a real diversity of perspective and life experience in this leadership team that will position us well to lead the state on the many critical issues facing us today.”
Rep. Della Au Belatti (D, Moiliili-Makiki-Tantalus) will take over as vice speaker, a position held by Rep. John Mizuno (D, Kamehameha Heights-Kalihi Valley). Mizuno will likely be given a committee chairmanship, Saiki said.
Rep. Cindy Evans (D, Kaupulehu-Waimea-Halaula) will become majority leader, a position held by Saiki before he rose to become House speaker.
Rep. Dee Morikawa (D, Niihau-Koloa-Kokee) will take Evans’ place as majority floor leader.
Saiki also has appointed two majority policy leaders: Reps. Jarrett Keohokalole (D, Kahaluu-Ahuimanu-Kaneohe) and Kaniela Ing (D, South Maui).
Saiki said the position of policy leader is something the House has had off and on over the years, but this is the first year two people have been appointed to that position. He said their job will be to help develop the House majority agenda for the 2018 session.
Saiki also has appointed five majority whips who will replace Rep. Ken Ito (D, Kaneohe-Maunawili-Kailua).
They include Reps. Henry Aquino, Aaron Ling Johanson, Chris Lee, Mark Nakashima and Justin Woodson.
Aquino, Johanson and Lee represent Oahu districts, while Nakashima is from Hawaii island and Woodson from Maui.
The majority whips will help count votes and monitor committees and membership, Saiki said. He noted the five whips represent different geographical areas and different generations.
The next legislative session doesn’t convene until January, but legislators could reconvene in the coming weeks for a special session to debate a bill to fund the cash-strapped Honolulu rail project.
Saiki said nothing has been scheduled yet, and there’s no signs of an agreement between the Senate and House on how to move forward on funding the project. For now, he said, legislators are in a much-needed cooling-off period.
Souki resigned as House speaker on the last day of this year’s legislative session after House members affirmed they had enough votes to remove him.