LIHUE — Senate President Ron Kouchi is recovering after successful rotator cuff surgery on Oahu Monday.
Kouchi is expected to take about three weeks from the Capitol to recuperate.
“Senator Kouchi’s surgery went without incident,” wrote Richard Rapoza, director of communications for the Hawaii State Senate. “He is recuperating and looks forward to returning to work as soon he is able.”
In an interview with TGI before the surgery, Kouchi said he tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder in January and was in quite a bit of pain initially.
It didn’t affect his ability to carry out his duties as Senate president.
Through rest and exercise, he was able to get a better range of motion for the remainder of the session that ended last week.
“My doctors felt as the pain subsided I could finish through the session,” he said. “I was able to deal with it.”
Kouchi believed the session had highs and lows, but overall, was successful.
“We continued with our commitment to have funds for affordable housing,” he said.
The Legislature also kept a focus on homelessness, a pressing problem statewide.
Lawmakers passed SB471 SD2 HD1 CD1 which appropriates $10.8 million for each of the next two fiscal years to fund the Outreach Program, the Rapid Re-housing Program, the Housing First Program, the Family Assessment Centers, and homeless outreach and civil legal services. The bill also appropriates $3 million to fund Stored Property and Debris Removal Services, and $1 million for the state Rental Supplement Program.
Kouchi said they committed to kupuna, as well. Kupuna Care provides services to vulnerable older adults and helps them maintain their ability to live healthy, independent, dignified lives in their communities. HB 465 HD1 SD2 appropriates $4.1 million to fund Kupuna Care to serve more than 250 additional adults.
Lawmakers passed SB316 SD2 HD2 and SB50 SD2 HD1, which appropriates $700,000 to continue the Community College Promise Program.
The state started the session with projected revenue growth of 4.2 percent.
By the end of March, it was down to 3 percent growth, which translated into $80 million less to work with.
“There were some tough choices that had to be made,” he said.
One disappointment was the failure of the bill that would have boosted the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023. It is currently $10.10.
“It stalled on the last day when it looked like we were going to be able to do something,” he said. “That was a big disappointment.”
Kouchi became the full-time Senate president in May 2015. With that came what he called a “tremendous amount of administrative functions.”
Requests — and complaints — are funneled through his office. If someone isn’t happy, Kouchi hears about it. Proposals of all kinds come his way.
But it’s all worth it. He said he and Reps. Jimmy Tokioka, Dee Morikawa and Nadine Nakamura were able to represent Kauai’s interests well “and to more vigorously advocate for Kauai.”
As Senate president, though, he must also take a broad look at issues and listen to legislators.
Part of his job is to help them through the legislative process.
Opinions on both sides of issues that come up are “strong and diverse.”
“They expect the president will care about their concerns,” he said.
While the job can take a physical toll due to its demands, Kouchi enjoys it and wants to keep it.
“Like anything else, there are times you’re really thrilled and happy, like when we got the $100 million for Kauai and flood relief,” he said. “And there are certainly days it’s trying and stressful. It’s not always the easiest thing to do.”
“I would like to continue,” he said.
Kouchi hopes to be recovered in time for the Lihue Business Association’s May 30 meeting when Kauai’s legislators will give their annual review of the session.