Last week, Civil Beat reported how many bills sponsored by your lawmaker made it to the governor’s desk.

We also reported on how well the governor fared with his agenda during his first legislative session. While some of his biggest ideas died this year, he did manage to get over half of his legislative package passed.

To get an inside-the-building look at how lawmakers themselves felt about the session, Civil Beat has completed an informal survey.

We asked lawmakers the following six questions:

  1. In your opinion, who has been the most effective lawmaker in your chamber?
  2. In your opinion, who has been the least effective lawmaker in your chamber?
  3. What do you think has been the Legislature’s biggest accomplishment this session?
  4. What one bill passed that you wished had not?
  5. What bill do you wish had passed, but did not?
  6. What grade would you give the governor in his first legislative session?

Our reporters reached out to all 76 lawmakers, calling each more than once and, in many instances, visiting their offices. The survey was anonymous and participation optional.

The calls were all made after the session ended — which meant we didn’t get everyone, especially neighbor island lawmakers who had already flown home or started vacations. But the following report reflects the responses of nearly 50 legislators who make up roughly two-thirds of the Hawaii Legislature.

Most Effective Lawmaker

The choice was too difficult to make for some (“All lawmakers are equal,” said one representative.)

Yet, in the House, topping the list of most effective lawmaker were some of the usual suspects.

Tied for the most votes were House Speaker Calvin Say and House Finance Committee Chair Marcus Oshiro.

Several respondents also singled out Blake Oshiro and Bob Herkes, who were the runners-up to the top two.

In the Senate, David Ige and Senate President Shan Tsutsui shared the spotlight amongst their colleagues as “most effective.”

Rosalyn Baker was a close third, along with Malama Solomon.

For good measure, Donovan Dela Cruz, who was a visible presence in his first legislative term, got a mention.

The responses mirror many of the same observations made in an article Civil Beat ran earlier this week that identified some of the key players at the “Ledge” this session.

But, based on this survey of legislators, perhaps we underestimated lawmakers like President Tsutsui.

Least Effective Lawmakers

On the more prickly task of naming the least effective lawmaker, respondents in the House again singled out Calvin Say.

Others were more circumspect about their choices:

“Some of the dissidents,” said two representatives.

“Everyone did their best,” said another.

Rida Cabanilla and Jessica Wooley were singled out by some.

By contrast, the senators we spoke with were largely reluctant to cast stones. Many declined to answer. Others said the question was too difficult.

“Can’t think of one,” one senator said.

Maybe it’s because there are only 25 senators as opposed to 51 representatives.

When senators did provide an answer, Kalani English’s name came up most. Tsutsui, Suzanne Chun Oakland and Sam Slom each got a mention.

Abercrombie gets a ‘C’

When asked to grade the executive, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, on his first legislative term, the grades ranged from A- to an F.

“D for dud,” said one.

“E for good effort,” said another.

His final grade: C.

That has to sting given that Abercrombie was a legislator for nearly 40 years — including in the state House and Senate. And he’s a member of the ruling party. Ouch.


Civil Beat is well aware that naming least-effective lawmakers might be seen by some as a change to settle scores, especially under the cloak of anonymity.

Conversely, naming most-effective lawmakers might been seen as sucking up.

Lastly, Democrats totally outnumber Republicans at the Ledge, so … take it all with a grain of Hawaiian sea salt.

—Lynn Nakagawa, Nanea Kalani and Robert Brown contributed to this report.

Note: Coming tomorrow will be answers to the remaining three questions about the Legislature’s biggest accomplishment, bills passed and bills missed.

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