HONOLULU, Hawai`i – With opening day of the 2011 Hawai`i State Legislature looming on the horizon (January 19) like the proverbial iceberg, the hitherto unheard-of House leadership struggle continues with long-time Speaker Calvin Say still locked in an epic power struggle – with Rep. Roy Takumi publicly emerging as a possible “compromise” replacement. Seems like Speaker Say has promised anything and everything to several “hold out” Reps. to gain just one more vote but alas, to no avail. Even with the tiny minority Republicans coming out to support Say in order to “get on with it,” they don’t get to vote on the matter unless the deadlock continues to opening day.
Meanwhile, all of the newly electeds are operating out of temporary offices and much important business such as staffing and committee assignments cannot proceed. More simply put, the lobbyists don’t know exactly who to lobby. All who observe and opine on such goings on in the Big Square Building understand that the size and proximity of a Rep’s. office to the Speaker’s hallowed abode directly relates to their power relationship with the Speaker. Those who carry the most water for the Speaker get the best 4th floor digs – while the Republicans and the dissident Democrats are all relegated to “no-person’s land” on the third floor. This is particularly good to know when deciding who to spend your time with. Start on the 4th floor next to room 431. Anyway, there might be a lot of office shuffling after opening day.
Meanwhile, the January 10 Star-Advertiser ran an unusually effluent puff piece, “Lopez is ready to lead,” extolling the virtues of one Kealii Lopez, Governor Abercrombie’s recently-appointed director of the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA). Lopez holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication from UH Manoa and an Associate of Arts degree in liberal arts from Windward Community College. Beginning her media career as an employee of Oceanic Cable who, if confirmed by the Senate, Lopez would now regulate (as well as Oceanic’s competitor Hawaiian Telcom), since 2004, Lopez has been the President and CEO of ‘Olelo Community Media, “…the nonprofit that runs six public-access channels on Oceanic Cable…” which enjoys guaranteed, stable funding of US$6 million annually from Oahu’s Cable Franchise Fees (4.67% of your Hawaii cable TV bill).
No one would argue that Ms. Lopez is not a very nice lady, but this appointment is the perfect example of what’s politically wrong in Hawai`i. Aside from “…her ability to lead, organize, and motivate people…”, and her being “…moved and excited by the momentum of the Abercrombie administration…”, the good lady is simply not qualified – nor does she have the work experience to oversee:
1) Business Registration which “administers, registers, and enforces Hawaii laws relating to corporations, partnerships, securities, franchises, and the registration of trade names and trademarks and service marks;”
2) Captive Insurance which “provides for dedicated resources to facilitate the monitoring, regulation, and prudent development of the captive insurance industry in the State of Hawaii;”
3) Consumer Advocacy which “protects and advances the interests of consumers of regulated utility and transportation services in regulatory proceedings;”
4) Financial Institutions which “ensures the safety and soundness of state-chartered financial institutions, and ensures regulatory compliance by state-licensed financial institutions, escrow depositories, and money transmitters, ensures the safety and soundness of state-chartered financial institutions, and ensures regulatory compliance by state-licensed financial institutions, escrow depositories, and money transmitters;”
5) The Office of Administrative Hearings which “is responsible for conducting administrative hearings and issuing recommended or final decisions for all divisions within the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs that are required to provide contested case hearings pursuant to the provisions of Hawai`i Revised Statutes Chapters 91 and 92;”
6) Insurance which “oversees the Hawaii insurance industry; issues licenses, examines the fiscal condition of Hawaii-based companies, reviews rate and policy filings, investigates insurance related complaints;”
7) Professional and Vocational Licensing which “oversees regulatory activities of the twenty five boards and commissions placed within the department for administrative purposes. The division also administers twenty other regulatory licensing programs;”
8) Real Estate which “is responsible for Real Estate and Condominium education, real estate licensing, and condominium project registration;”
9) Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO) which “provides complaint receipt, investigation, and resolution functions for the licensing boards, commissions, and programs within the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs;”
10) Consumer Protection which “investigates consumer complaints alleging unfair or deceptive trade practices, in a broad range of areas, including advertising, refunds, motor vehicle rentals, door-to-door sales, credit practices;” and finally
11) Cable Television which “issues franchises to Hawaii cable companies, monitors the quality of service, regulates basic service rates and its related equipment and installation costs, and handles consumer complaints about cable television matters.”
If history be any guide, Ms. Lopez will no doubt be quickly confirmed by the Senate. Surely we would want to do better.