POSTED: 10:48 a.m. HST, Dec 28, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 01:08 p.m. HST, Dec 28, 2012
The state Senate has reorganized behind Sen. Donna Mercado Kim as the new Senate president.
Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Moanalua-Halawa) succeeds Shan Tsutsui, who accepted the post as lieutenant governor on Thursday.
Sen. Ron Kouchi (D, Kauai-Niihau) was tapped as vice president and Sen. David Ige (D, Pearl Harbor-Pearl City-Aiea) maintains chairmanship of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the Senate announced today in a news release.
"We are solidified in dealing with the pressing issues facing our state,” Kim said in a statement. “The Senate continues to be organized in a cooperative and focused manner. I’m humbled to receive the confidence and support of my colleagues."
Tsutsui, who as Senate president was next in line to the lieutenant governorship, succeeded new U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. Schatz was appointed Wednesday by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to fill the vacancy left by the death of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.
By law, Abercrombie must appoint a replacement for Tsutsui ‘s seat representing Waihee-Wailuku-Kahului from a list of three names provided by Maui Democrats from the vacant district.
Kim is a former state representative and Honolulu City Council member who has served in the Senate since 2000.
In an interview, Kim said she never aspired to this post and was very happy with the Senate lineup that existed before Tsutsui’s departure.
She said she initially asked him not to take the job as lieutenant governor — “selfishly,” she admits — but when it became obvious that a real opportunity had presented itself for Tsutsui, “we had to adjust.”
The Democratic-led Senate said its organization remains mostly intact to allow members continuity in their committee work. One big change: the areas of emphasis for the Senate Committee on Tourism and Government Operations, which Kim had chaired, will be absorbed by two other committees.
Kim said the committee had been constructed for her and her strengths. She said having it absorbed by the other committees seemed to be the least disruptive option because “you couldn’t necessarily give it to the new person,” who would still be learning the ways of the Senate, and other senators were already slotted into their committees.
When a senator is appointed from Maui, the new member will take Kim's place as a member of the Ways and Means Committee.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.