Wednesday, April 21, 1999

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa opposed Gregory G.Y. Pai's
nomination to the Public Utilities Commission.

Pai’s third try at
PUC a charm?

By Pat Omandam


Gov. Ben Cayetano's third attempt to appoint Gregory G.Y. Pai to the Public Utilities Commission is now pending approval by the state Senate.

The Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee by a 6-2 vote yesterday approved Pai's nomination, despite objections from Sens. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae) and Brian Kanno (D, Kapolei).

Hanabusa told reporters after yesterday's hearing there were complaints from her constituents about the way Pai managed public hearings. She believes it is necessary to have someone at the PUC who makes the public "feel very welcome" in such situations.

Hanabusa also disagreed with answers Pai gave during questioning before the committee on the economic implications and costs of PUC-approved projects, such as placing power lines underground.

The commission regulates public utilities in Hawaii, including telephone and electric service.

"I believe that it is necessary for the PUC to be more aggressive in that approach, because they are setting policy by their decision-making," she said.

Pai's nomination moves to the Senate floor for a vote. If approved, his term would expire on June 30, 2000.

Meanwhile, the committee deferred action on Cayetano nominee Clifford T. Uwaine to the Hawaii Public Employees Health Fund board. Senate Commerce Co-Chairman Brian Taniguchi (D, Manoa) said the panel is waiting for a legal check on whether Uwaine can be appointed.

Uwaine - who served in the state House from 1977 to 1980 and in the Senate from 1981-1984 - was convicted of criminal conspiracy and sentenced to 90 days in jail stemming from voter-fraud charges involving the 1982 state House campaign of his aide, Ross Segawa.

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