January 17, 2013 – At the Opening Day ceremonies of the 27th Hawaii State Legislature this morning, the Hawaii House of Representatives voted to include 3 of our Republican members in the State House leadership structure.
For the first time since statehood, Republicans will hold vice-chairmanships in three key committees: Finance, Economic Development & Business, and Energy & Environmental Protection.
Minority Leader Representative Aaron Ling Johanson, a former Deputy Chief of Staff at the United States Mint, will serve as Vice Chair of Finance.
Representative Gene Ward, a small businessman, will serve as the Vice Chair of Economic Development & Business.
Representative Cynthia Thielen, an environmental attorney, will serve as the Vice Chair of Energy & Environmental Protection. We offer our congratulations to the House Republican caucus on this historic achievement!
State Representative Cynthia Thielen announced today her appointment as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection (EEP). With the recent shift in House leadership, Thielen and other legislators from both parties have received Committee leadership positions.
Highlights of Representative Cynthia Thielen’s career and relevant experience include:
- Twenty years as an environmental and land use attorney in Hawai‘i representing numerous public advocacy groups
- Co-counsel with attorney Boyce Brown on major environmental cases including H-3 and successfully representing the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana
- Twenty-two years as Representative for District 50 (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) in the Hawai‘i State Legislature
- Ranking member on three House Committees: Judiciary, Energy & Environmental Protection, and Water, Land & Ocean Resource.
- Member of the House Committees on Consumer Protection & Commerce and Housing
- Co-sponsored legislation which enables the State to aggressively pursue the goals set forth in the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative.
- Advocates the implementation of wave energy in Hawai‘i as a firm, renewable energy source
- Fought legislation exempting state and county projects from environmental review and county zoning
Rep. Thielen noted the historic nature of the appointment of three Republicans as Committee Vice Chairs. “This is the first time a Republican has been awarded a Committee leadership role in the House. My colleagues and I are honoured to be selected for these positions and look forward to working with the Committee Chairs, Members, and the general public as we consider bills of merit.”
The Hawai‘i House of Representatives has never had a bipartisan coalition determining nor had Republicans appointed to Committee leadership until now. The Senate preceded the House in this action in 1981 as part of a backing for Senate President Dickie Wong, the first time a bipartisan coalition was formed. Democratic members of that historic Senate coalition included now veteran politicians Governor Neil Abercrombie, Governor Ben Cayetano, and Democratic Party of Hawai‘i Chairman Dante Carpenter.
January 15, 2013
Representative Cynthia Thielen, (R-Kailua), announced she will introduce legislation this Wednesday, January 16, 2013, to establish a permanent Task Force to determine and periodically revise a “reasonable rate of return” for electric utilities. The bill also establishes a bipartisan joint legislative oversight committee to determine if the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is enforcing the “reasonable rate of return” established by the Task Force.
Representative Thielen said, “The electricity costs for ratepayers in Hawaii have increased at a constant and precipitous rate, and these increases have created serious financial hardships for Hawaii residents. One of the most important functions of the PUC is to approve or deny rate increases proposed by HECO, but in reality, the PUC rarely denies rate increases.”
“HECO, by statute, is guaranteed a reasonable rate of return on its rate base. But what constitutes a reasonable rate of return? The statutory language that created the PUC and gives it its powers do not elaborate. This, in turn, gives the PUC vast powers to deny HECO rate increases, but more importantly gives the PUC the ability to allow HECO rate increases, without any concrete standards to review the proposals for ‘reasonableness’” explained Representative Thielen.
The bill’s purpose clause explained that “for over 100 years, Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) has had a monopoly on energy production in Hawaii with the objective of efficiently and adequately fulfilling the energy needs of the state and its residents. In exchange for the privilege of providing non-competitive electrical services within the state, HECO is subject to supervision by the PUC and is required to abide by its regulations.”
Representative Thielen said that requiring a reasonable rate of return for electric utilities, “will keep HECO honest and provide more checks and balances, which translates into consumer rate savings for all of us.”