Political File

News, notes and anecdotes
on government and politics

Monday, April 16, 2001

Spotlight follows
lawmakers who are
moving and shaking

When Rep. Willie Espero's half-hour cable access show "State of Affairs" made its debut April 10, it generated at least one complaint.

Where are the Republicans? asked GOP colleague Joe Gomes, after eyeing a list of future guests. To rectify the situation, Gomes, a freshman Waimanalo lawmaker, volunteered to make an appearance.

Espero (D, Ewa Beach) replies that his show is not a political forum, but one for movers and shakers on key issues affecting the state.

He offers an analogy: "If tomorrow's the big football game, does the sportscaster interview the starting quarterback or the third-string punter?" So where does that leave Gomes? Espero quips, "I'll take it under advisement."

Dark horse: Could U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie be the Democrats' next minority leader?

Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call says Abercrombie emerging as a "possible dark horse" for the post, based on an online poll by the National Republican Congressional Committee. The poll pegs Abercrombie last of four contenders, with 12 percent of the vote. Abercrombie, who says he has never been shy about speaking his views, credits the recognition to his "doing a lot of outreach on the Republican side."

"It's interesting, when Republicans speculate on the person who might be able to provide leadership in the Democratic Party, that they would mention my name," he says, adding that he takes the poll seriously "regardless of how else other people are interpreting it."

Topping the poll was Rep. David Bonior of Michigan, with 59 percent, followed by Reps. Nancy Pelosi of California and Martin Frost of Texas, each with 14 percent.

Utility player: Gov. Ben Cayetano has nominated former state Rep. David Morihara (D, Upcountry Maui) to the three-member Public Utilities Commission. The nomination is subject to Senate confirmation but will first be heard on Thursday by the Senate Consumer Protection Committee.

During 10 years in the House, Morihara served a time as House Higher Education Committee chairman and was instrumental in approving legislation granting autonomy to the University of Hawaii and in the Legislature's 1999 support of high-tech development in Hawaii.

Morihara did not seek re-election last year so he could help his father run the family grocery store in Kula. Morihara, however, holds a position on a lower education advisory commission and remains a regular at the Capitol.

[Winners & Losers]


>>Sen. Cal Kawamoto: He goes 2-for-3 this week: He wins Senate approval for bills to make possession of any aerial fireworks a felony and also to forbid those under 18 to ride in the back of a pickup truck, but he loses another bill that would have helped local contractors.

Sen. Brian Taniguchi: He may be criticized by Gov. Ben Cayetano for the state budget he compiled, but striking teachers at a rally last week call him a hero because it contained enough money for their hoped-for pay raises.

Teachers: Even though they are on strike, they win a round in the House as a bill to give teachers a separate salary increase based on longevity moves forward.


Wholesale hotel operators: They lose a big round as the Senate votes to impose a $7.25 daily surcharge on hotel rooms purchased through wholesale packages.

>> House Republicans: Their attempts to recommit a campaign reform bill fail when they can only garner 17 votes.

Grandparents: They lose a bid to get legislative approval for a bill that would allow them to enroll their grandchildren in a local school district when their sons or daughters are unable to care for the children.

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