• Hawai'i House Democrats

Hawai'i Island Representatives Appointed to Key Leadership Positions for 2021 Legislative Session

Updated: Nov 9



Veteran lawmakers to lead important committees tackling critical issues facing our state Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – During the coronavirus pandemic and its corresponding economic downturn, four Hawaiʻi Island Representatives have stepped up to take on leadership roles to tackle some of the most critical issues facing our state.

House Speaker Scott K. Saiki announced this week that he is entrusting these veteran Hawaiʻi Island lawmakers to chair critical committees and focus their efforts on resolving issues related to the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, and climate change.

Most notable is tapping the extensive experience of Representative Mark M. Nakashima (D-1, Hāmākua, North Hilo, South Hilo) who will chair the important Committee on Judiciary which will now be combined with the Hawaiian Affairs Committee.

The move from Vice Speaker to committee chair puts Nakashima directly into the center of critical legal and cultural issues that have divided our people in recent years and require a strong, stable leader to find the best path forward.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge of meeting expectations of the Hawaiian community in fulfilling Native Hawaiian Trust issues that have been festering for over 60 years and adjusting the bureaucracy to more effectively meet Native Hawaiian concerns," said Representative Nakashima. "I hope to review a number of pressing issues such as lessons learned from Hawaiʻi's first all-mail election and issues arising from sunshine requirements during the pandemic."

Representatives David Tarnas and Nicole E. Lowen have proven themselves to be strong, thoughtful leaders in the House particularly on pressing environmental, natural resources, and climate change issues and being able to effectively communicate the urgency of these matters with the public.

Representative Tarnas (D-7, North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala) will chair the Water and Land Committee which is responsible for all issues relating to water resources, land use, coastal and marine resource management, and adaptation to climate change and sea level rise.

  "I plan to focus on legislation to implement the recommendations of the Hawaiʻi Ocean Resources Management Plan and the 2020 Hawaiʻi Climate Change Annual Report, especially regarding sea level rise," Representative Tarnas said. "To create a resilient and sustainable economy in Hawaiʻi, we need a vibrant ocean economy. That means protecting our beaches from sea level rise, sustaining our marine resources and ecosystems, and improving nearshore water quality. The State also needs to develop a legal framework around sea level rise issues, support Community Resilience Building planning, prioritize nature-based solutions, and require any state investments, permits and policies to consider future climate change impacts. I look forward to working with my colleagues to make progress on these important matters."

A long-time leader in supporting environmental issues, Representative Lowen (D-6 Kailua-Kona, Hōlualoa, Kalaoa, Honokōhau) has been named chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection continuing her vital work.

"As the Legislature comes together to help rebuild Hawaiʻi's economy this session, I will work to ensure that our future is more sustainable, resilient, and protects our natural resources," Representative Lowen said. "My committee will continue to facilitate Hawaiʻi's transition to renewable energy, clean transportation, and to focus on reducing Hawaiʻi's contribution to global climate change."

Representative Richard H.K. Onishi (D-3, Hilo, Kea‘au, Kurtistown, Volcano, Pāhala) will chair the combined Committee on Labor and Tourism. A strong and thoughtful leader, Onishi is entrusted with finding solutions to our economic challenges caused by the pandemic including unemployment and jobs lost in tourism, while remembering to take this moment as an opportunity to not only get travelers to return and bolster the economy, but to develop a more culturally and environmentally sensitive type of tourism for our islands home.

"I am extremely humbled to have been asked to continue as the House of Representatives' Chair for the Tourism Committee and for the Labor Committee to be added to my responsibilities," Representative Onishi said. "I hope that I will be able to provide the appropriate guidance as we rebuild our tourism economy and address the unprecedented unemployment in Hawaiʻi."

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