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Friday, November 17, 2000

Senate organization
plan has new names
in leadership posts

Under pending changes,
Robert Bunda will take
over as Senate president

By Richard Borreca

Democrats in the state Senate are putting the finishing touches on a new organizational plan that ousts the existing committee leaders and installs Sen. Robert Bunda (D, Wahiawa) as president.

There was no indication this morning when the pending changes would be adopted.

The changes were triggered by former Senate President Norman Mizuguchi's decision not to run for re-election this year, which opened the way to reorganize the Senate's 22 Democrats.

According to Sen. Lorraine Inouye (D, Hilo), Brian Taniguchi (D, Manoa), who has 20 years of experience in the House and Senate, will chair the Ways and Means Committee, which decides the fate of spending, budget and tax bills.

Sen. Brian Kanno (D, Ewa Beach), who is not an attorney, would take over as head of the Judiciary Committee, the other major Senate committee.

Both Kanno and Taniguchi have had the backing of the unions in the state, and Kanno has been a strong defender of the public employee unions.

The third major player, Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae), is expected to be vice president of the Senate and vice chairwoman of Ways and Means. She is a labor lawyer and was the leader of a group that lost out in a Senate reorganization attempt two years ago.

The apparent losers in the Democratic caucus are the current co-chairs of the major Senate committees. Sens. Carol Fukunaga (D, Makiki) and Andy Levin (D, Kau) had chaired the Ways and Means Committee. Also, Sens. Avery Chumbley (D, Kihei) and Matt Matsunaga (D, Palolo) had led the Judiciary Committee.

Under the new proposed lineup, a single senator would lead each committee, instead of having two co-chairs.

Chumbley had been informally slated to be Senate president if the old group remained in charge; under the proposed reorganization plan, he would not have a major leadership post.

Also losing out would be Sen. Les Ihara (D, Kaimuki), who had been Senate majority leader. That position is expected to be filled by Sen. Jonathan Chun (D, Lihue), a former deputy prosecutor from Kauai.

The reorganization puts the Senate in line with the House's organization, which also has heavy union representation on key committees such as Finance and Judiciary.

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