27th legislative session begins

New leadership brings new agenda

Published  5:25 PM HST Jan 16, 2013
HONOLULU -

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim takes helm as senate president, Rep. Joe Souki installed as House Speaker

"I hope first and foremost there will be no tax burdens thrust upon our citizens,”

said Senator Donna Mercado Kim  as she took charge as senate president.

She didn’t waste any time cautioning about opening taxpayers’ wallets to fund new proposals.

She did give a nod to the majority's platform of self-reliance in food and energy, and the need to protect prime agricultural land.

But she was lukewarm to the governor’s preschool priority.

“What I am afraid of is if we implement that program and it is going to be mediocre like the rest of the education program then it does not make good sense,” said Kim.

Kim was also lukewarm to the administration’s Public Land Development Corporation as it explores using underutilized land around public schools.

"How do we use those lands dedicated for education in a way that will be productive for education and at the same time perhaps provide a revenue stream,” said Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

 "The PLDC should be repealed, not amended," said Republican Sen. Sam Slom.

Meanwhile out in the rotunda grass roots groups echoed the call to repeal the PLDC.

Other revenue-producing ideas like gaming are potentially in the mix this session.

The new Senate president has long favored electronic gaming.

But Kim does not think the convention center is an appropriate site for a casino, but instead is pushing the development of a music and art museum.

And even though the new house speaker is a long time gaming advocate.

Kim isn’t sure if the Senate is prepared to roll the dice.

 "However, if in fact it is the will of majority to do that, then I think a center for music and dance would work very well into a casino," said Kim.

 Opening day--a snapshot of lawmakers staking out early positions, watching to see what will get traded over the next four months.

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