The Hawaii State House leadership announced today that Rep. Angus McKelvey would be removed as chair from the Committee on Consumer (CPC) Protection and reinstated as chair of the House Committee on Higher Education (HED). Former Committee on Education (EDN) chair Roy Takumi will take over as chair of the CPC instead. Justin Woodson will take over as chair of the Committee on Education (EDN). While Speaker of the House Joe Souki is sticking to the line that this rare, mid-session shuffle was “mutually agreeable,” the reorganization could mean a lot more than leadership is letting on.
Amid the growing criticism over McKelvey’s handling of the CPC committee (passing bills without consultation, as well as adding last minute amendments to sabotage bills, as was the case with HB790, the pesticide disclosure bill) the resolution to reassign him was introduced. But during the lead up to the day’s session, Speaker Souki spoke strongly against any motion to remove McKelvey, effectively attempting to strong arm House members who were upset with the CPC committee chairship into falling in line. This inflamed fracture lines within the majority caucus that could threaten the fragile coalition that resulted in Souki’s election as leader of the House over former Speaker Calvin Say in the first place.
Some form of meeting seems to have occurred with certain members of the majority caucus regarding Speaker Souki as well. And while the Speaker was unavailable for comment to confirm at the time of publication, rumors fly around the rotunda, and it seems that there was the possibility of an immediate attempt to remove him from his position as well.
The resolution to reassign McKelvey ultimately went forward to the floor for a vote, for which Speaker Souki was absent. The vote passed and the reassignments went forward. No resolution regarding Souki was introduced.
Interestingly, the Maui Mayoral election is up in 2018, and scuttlebutt has it that current Lieutenant Governor (LG) Shan Tsutsui might make a run for the office. That would mean that the President of the Senate, Ronald Kouchi, would be up to inherit the position, but it’s not clear he would take the job. Which would then leave the road open for Souki to step into the LG role. And that’s when the real fight for House leadership could begin.