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Former legislator Morita confirmed as PUC chief

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State Rep. Hermina Morita bade a tearful goodbye to her House colleagues yesterday as she took on her new role as chairwoman of the Public Utilities Commission.

"This is a day of loss for the House of Representatives, but a day of great benefit to the citizens of the state of Hawaii," House Speaker Calvin Say said.

Morita was among three gubernatorial appointees approved by the Senate yesterday.

Senators also confirmed Patricia McManaman as director of human services, and former state senator and lieutenant governor candidate Gary Hooser as director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.

McManaman and Hooser were confirmed 25-0, while Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) cast the sole vote against Morita. Slom also voted against Morita in her committee hearing.

Slom objected to many of her policy stances related to the management of the agency that sets utility, shipping and a host of other rates for the state.

Morita has served as chairwoman of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection and was known as a staunch advocate for sustainable energy projects. She shepherded the state’s "bottle bill" recycling law and also was among the key lawmakers in the establishment and suspension of the state’s failed attempt to regulate consumer gasoline prices.

Morita thanked colleagues and House leadership for placing their support and faith in her.

"This leadership assignment undoubtedly helped to define my legislative career and open the opportunity for me to further serve the state of Hawaii as the chair of the Public Utilities Commission," she said.

A replacement for Morita, a Democrat who represented the Hanalei-Kapaa House district, will be appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie. By law, he must select from a list of three candidates provided by the party of the departing House member.


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