HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. Neil Abercrombie Thursday appointed Rep. Hermina Morita as the new chairwoman of the Public Utilities Commission.
Abercrombie said Morita's appointment was a move to direct the state toward energy independence. "She is clearly committed to advancing clean energy, and she will bring credibility, knowledge and leadership to improve the Public Utilities Commission," the governor said.
Morita was first elected to the state House in 1996, representing the 14th District on Kauai, which includes Hanalei, Anahola, Kealia, Kapaa and Waipouli. According to state law, the governor will appoint a replacement from a list of candidates from the district. The replacement will also be a Democrat, like Morita.
"This is a really bittersweet moment for me. I loved being a legislator," Morita said.
She said her first efforts as chairwoman will be to make sure the newly created positions on the PUC are filled. Since 2006, the Legislature has been working on a plan to reinstate positions.
Rep. Morita replaces Carlito Caliboso, who had served as PUC chairman since 2003. Morita's appointment fills the remainder of a six year term that ends in June 2014 and requires senate confirmation.
She will also serve as the chief labor and health negotiator for the PUC, according to the governor.
The three-member PUC is responsible for setting and approving rates charged by public service companies, such as electric utilities. It also acts on utility property issues, including mergers and consolidations.