Mina Morita thrilled about having one-island district

State Rep. Mina Morita, a Democrat, is relieved that her district no longer includes portions of the North Shore of Kaua’i and east Maui.

For the past six years, she has represented citizens on two islands, requiring extensive travel to campaign and represent the district’s distinct constituents.

She is running for re-election, now to the state House 14th district that is all of Kaua’i’s North Shore, from Ha’ena to Wailua, including much of the Kawaihau district (except Wailua Homesteads), and all of Wailua Houselots.

The reapportionment process that eliminated her so-called “canoe district” means she can focus on Kaua’i issues and Kaua’i people. She called it “a relief” to not have to campaign on two islands.

“It’s nice to get to know the island better,” said Morita, who faces no Democratic primary election challenge, but a general election test against Republican Nelson Secretario, of Kapa’a.

Being stuck in Kapa’a traffic on a recent weekday afternoon of campaigning makes her understand local frustration over a lack of road options, she said. But that’s a big part of what campaigning is all about – learning local concerns, she said.

Morita, of Hanalei, chair of the House Energy & Environmental Protection Committee, ushered through a bill, now law, that will establish a deposit-return system for beverage cans and bottles.

She knows that’s a fight that will continue, as in every state with a container-deposit law, the beverage industry mounts annual repeal campaigns. Hawai’i’s bottle law won’t go into effect for a few years.

Morita, 47, recently won endorsement from the Kaua’i and state Hawaii Government Employees Association union, something she said was “a real surprise to me.”

She’ll take the support, though, and said the union understands how difficult this year’s legislative session was, financially.

On general labor issues like benefits, managed competition, fairness and other concerns, the HGEA knows the difficulties lawmakers have when required to balance a huge state budget and still accommodate a myriad of social-service and other community needs, she commented.

Co-chair of the Women’s Caucus and member of the Keiki Caucus and Hawaiian Caucus, Morita also serves on the House Water & Land Use, Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs and Consumer Protection & Commerce committees.

“I want to continue working on the issues I have focused on as chair of the House Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection,” she said.

It is largely because of that work that she recently was named one of eight legislators who scored perfect 100-percent scores based on their votes on the environment, from the Sierra Club Hawai’i chapter.

Chapter representatives said her “relentless advocacy for clean energy reforms and bottle-deposit legislation” were reasons for her high grade.

“Representative Morita has proven herself, in the most trying of circumstances, to be the strongest ally of Hawai’i’s natural resources,” said Jeff Mikulina, chapter director.

The Sierra Club’s 2001-02 legislative scorecard is online at www.hi.sierraclub.org/action/2002/scorecard02.pdf.

Morita also has concern for the economy. “We need to focus ourselves with building a sustainable, localized economy that will benefit the people who live and work here,” she said.

“I have the experience in the Legislature to lead on these issues, as well as a greater awareness that Hawai’i’s environment is Hawai’i’s economy.”

During the 2002 session, Morita also championed pro-consumer legislation, most notably the bill to put a cap on gasoline prices. She also sponsored the health insurance rate oversight bill that will ensure health insurance premiums are priced fairly, she said.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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