So Will Maui Rep. Joe Souki Become House Speaker Again Or Won’t He?

Maui Democratic Representative/American Chemistry Council lobbyist/Speaker Emeritus Joe Souki says he has the votes to regain control over the state House. The legislator who held the Speaker’s title from 1993-1998 apparently cut deals with a bunch of Republicans to do it, but he’s not been shying about telling the press that he’s in.

Of course, state Democratic Rep. Marcus Oshiro (a loyalist of current Democratic Speaker Calvin Say whose job as House Finance Committee Chairman would be in serious jeopardy if Souki wins) said in this Nov. 24 Associated Press story that nothing’s certain until January, when the House leadership votes take place.

The folks over at Sierra Club Hawaii aren’t waiting until then. Way back on Nov. 21, the organization sent out a press release that “welcomes” new leadership in the state House.

“Many Sierra Club allies are involved in the newly-formed coalition, so we’re excited about the fresh ideas and new leadership that will hopefully emerge within the State House of Representatives,” said the statement. “We believe the early commitment to bipartisanship is a positive step that will result in greater transparency and more balanced decision making.”

The reason Sierra Club didn’t waste any time jumping on the Souki Train?

“Plainly the Sierra Club has been disappointed over the past few years with the assault on Hawaii’s environment, including passage of the Public Lands Development Corporation and aggressive efforts to suspend Hawaii’s environmental review law,” the press release continued. “New leadership offers the opportunity to start with a clean slate. We challenge the new House leadership move forward with important initatives [sic] like ensuring the Department of Land and Natural Resources receives the necessary funding to protect our watersheds, resolving the controversy about Hawaii’s renewable energy tax credit that is slowing down our solar industry, and repealing the Public Lands Development Corporation.

Given that Say–a master legislator who’s been Speaker since 1999–still has weeks to give presents and twist arms in the House, it’s far from certain that Souki will take charge next year. But given that he told Civil Beat on Nov. 21 that he’d “probably” give up his American Chemistry Council lobbying job if returned to the Speaker’s chair, the stakes couldn’t be higher.