As House Speaker Joe Souki welcomed the media to his fourth floor office at the Hawaii State Capitol Thursday, he asked if anyone cared for a cup of coffee.

A wise-ass reporter (me) asked him if the coffee was paid for by Alexander & Baldwin.

Souki, the longtime Maui representative, didn’t miss a beat.

“No, they didn’t buy the coffee,” he said. “But there’s some sugar that might be from A&B.”

Cue laughter, from the speaker and reporters.

Speaker Joe Souki closeup2. 5 may 2016.

Speaker Joe Souki defended House Bill 2501.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

It was a light moment over a difficult issue.

Earlier in the week the Legislature approved House Bill 2501, water-rights legislation widely seen as being crafted for A&B in particular.

At the press availability Thursday, Souki was asked whether HB 2501 was special legislation.

“Of course not,” he said chuckling. “Why do you ask that question?”

The speaker explained that the bill went “way beyond” A&B in that it involved other companies, communities in Upcountry Maui and agricultural land in Central Maui. He called the measure “a fair allocation of water for all parties … That’s all it is.”

Souki said he would run for re-election but would not “presume” that his House colleagues would select him for another term as speaker.

About the Author