Capitol Watch

Hawaii Politics & Government

The BeatCapitol Watch

Ige Appoints Kim to Be Special Adviser to the Governor

The governor had picked her to head the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations but had to withdraw the nomination due to residency restrictions.

·By Nathan Eagle

Hawaii Gov. David Ige has found a new home for Elizabeth Kim.

He wanted her to head the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, but had to withdraw the nomination last week after realizing she was ineligible due to residency restrictions.

Gov. David Ige has appointed Elizabeth Kim to be special adviser to the governor.

Shawn T Moore/Office of the Governor

The Constitution requires any governor-appointed department heads to live in the state for at least a year immediately preceding the

·By Nathan Eagle

House Democrats held a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Capitol to announce the majority caucus legislative package but offered little in the way of details about any of the priorities they plan to focus on this session, which convened Wednesday.

Fixing public infrastructure, facilitating business and increasing participation in government will be the main themes, Majority Leader Scott Saiki told a foyer full of reporters.

The plan is to focus on “festering” issues that have long-plagued the state, he said, before turning it over to committee chairs to broadly discuss what they

The BeatCapitol Watch

Health Connector, Hawaiian Electric Merger Top Senate Minority Priorities

The state Senate's lone Republican, Sam Slom, unveiled his top areas of focus for the 2015 session.

·By Nathan Eagle

Sam Slom, the Senate’s lone Republican, and minority staff have unveiled their priorities for the 2015 legislative session, which convenes Jan. 21.

Transparency and accountability will be the overarching theme. Under that umbrella are five areas of focus: the state economy, education, the Hawaii Health Connector, oversight of the Public Utilities Commission in light of the pending merger between Hawaiian Electric Industries and NextEra Energy, and positively affecting the cost of living for residents, according to an announcement Wednesday.

Sen. Sam Slom, accompanied by Senate Minority staff, speaks during a press conference in his office

The BeatCapitol Watch

State Offers Guides to Help Consumers Save Money on Insurance

Hawaii Insurance Division releases annual premium comparison guide.

·By Nathan Eagle

The Hawaii Insurance Division has released its annual premium comparison guide aimed at helping consumers save money by shopping around for more affordable plans.

“You could potentially save hundreds of dollars by reviewing our premium comparison guide and figuring out which insurers are charging less,” Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito said in a release Tuesday. “Consumers often tell us that our guide helped them figure out who to call and the type of questions to ask about their policy.”

The guides are for health, homeowner/condo/renters and motor vehicle insurance plans. They can be found

The BeatCapitol WatchInside Honolulu

Star-Ad Editorial: Caldwell Needs To Take Responsibility for Rail

Honolulu's mayor should be front and center in the debate over whether to extend the general excise tax instead of leaving it up to an appointee.

·By Nick Grube

When Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell ran for office he promised to be “hands on” and “build rail better.”

But now that the controversial project is going over budget by as much as $700 million he seems to be backing away from that pledge in hopes of avoiding the political fallout.

That’s the thrust of a Honolulu Star-Advertiser editorial that published in the newspaper Wednesday.

Honolulu’s rail project is now estimated to cost nearly $6 billion, which is much higher than the $5.2 billion that was promised.

Cory Lum /

The BeatCapitol Watch

Hawaii Health Connector Unveils Sustainability Plan

The state health insurance exchange's report acknowledges missteps and corrective course of action.

·By Nathan Eagle

The new head of the Hawaii Health Connector, the state’s health insurance exchange, has released a nearly 200-page report detailing the nonprofit’s plan to become sustainable.

Jeff Kissell, who was hired as executive director in October to turn the Connector around after a series of missteps, acknowledges the uncertainty surrounding enrollment and revenue.

Jeff Kissell, executive director of the Hawaii Health Connector, speaks to lawmakers, Dec. 29, 2014.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

But he maintains in the report that Hawaii’s economy stands to gain more than $500 million in federal

The BeatCapitol Watch

Ige Picks New State Labor, Communications Directors

Hawaii governor is working to fill remaining Cabinet positions yet this month.

·By Nathan Eagle

Hawaii Gov. David Ige has chosen Elizabeth Kim to head the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations and Cindy McMillan to be his communications director.

Elizabeth Kim, Gov. David Ige’s newly appointed head of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Shawn T Moore

The two picks, which he announced in a news release Monday, are the latest to round out his Cabinet. The governor has yet to appoint an Attorney General and a handful of others, but has said he plans to by the end of January.


The BeatCapitol Watch

Group Wants $150K for Consultant to Help with Hotel Tax Revenue Recommendation

Report to Hawaii Legislature looks at history of how much TAT money the state gives the counties.

·By Nathan Eagle

A working group that’s trying to figure out how just much hotel tax revenue the state should give the counties is planning to ask the Legislature for $150,000 next session so it can hire a consultant to help.

The 13-member group, created under a law passed last year, released its interim report to state lawmakers Friday.

The final report is due prior to the convening of the 2016 session. It’s expected to recommend to the Legislature the appropriate allocation of the transient accommodations tax revenues between the state and counties based on the division of

The BeatCapitol Watch

Ige Appoints Pressler to Head Hawaii Department of Health

Pressler currently serves as chief strategic officer at Hawaii Pacific Health.

·By Nathan Eagle

Gov. David Ige has appointed Dr. Virginia “Ginny” Pressler to head the Department of Health, taking over where Linda Rosen left off.

“Ginny has more than 35 years of experience in the medical field and has held administrative positions for more than two decades,” Ige said in a statement released Friday. “A well-respected member of Hawaii’s medical and business communities, Ginny’s wealth of knowledge and experience equips her to lead the Department of Health.”

Ginny Pressler

Office of the Governor

Pressler’s appointment is subject to Senate confirmation. She is currently

The BeatCapitol Watch

University Hires State Budget Director to Be Chief Financial Officer

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents has approved Kalbert Young's appointment.

·By Nathan Eagle

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents on Thursday confirmed the appointment of Kalbert Young as vice president for budget and finance and chief financial officer of the entire UH System, school officials announced.

Young served four years as finance director under Gov. Neil Abercrombie, overseeing the state’s $12 billion operating budget. He’s credited with helping turn Hawaii around financially during his tenure.

But with a new administration comes a new Cabinet, which left Young looking for a new job. Gov. David Ige announced Wednesday that Wes Machida, who headed the Employees’ Retirement System under Abercrombie,

PoliticsThe BeatCapitol Watch

Louie Out, Hawaii To Get New Attorney General

New Hawaii Gov. David Ige is still looking for a replacement, but admits it might be challenging to lure someone from the private sector.

·By Nick Grube

David Louie’s term at Hawaii’s attorney general ended when David Ige was sworn in as governor Monday at the State Capitol.

David Louie is no longer Hawaii’s attorney general.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Ige will not keep Louie in his cabinet, and instead will be relying upon Russell Suzuki on an interim basis until a successor is chosen.

Suzuki was Louie’s first deputy attorney general for the past four years.

Ige told reporters at his first press conference that it’s been a challenge to fill certain cabinet positions in part

The BeatCapitol Watch

Final Preparations Underway Before Ige’s Inauguration

Roughly 2,000 seats have been set up in the Capitol rotunda for Monday's ceremony.

·By Nathan Eagle

The normally empty open-air rotunda at the Capitol was quickly filling up with people Monday morning for David Ige’s swearing-in ceremony.

The longtime state lawmaker is set to become Hawaii’s eighth elected governor at noon. 

An estimated 2,000 chairs have been set up along with a stage where Ige and his lieutenant governor, Shan Tsutsui, will take their oaths of office.

Chairs in the Hawaii Capitol rotunda are starting to fill up as people rehearse before the crowds arrive for David Ige’s inauguration ceremony Monday.