Monday, March 20, 2006


Dems out partying, pocketing as bill to prohibit same is killed

A huge Hawaii Democratic Party Political Action Committee (PAC) fundraiser is underway as I type this post on Monday evening. House Caucus or something like that. No doubt significant amounts will be raised in this, an election year.

At the same time, Rep. Sylvia Luke, powerful chair of the Judiciary Committee and the largest recipient of lobbyist largess in the House for the last (2004) election cycle (check under the "lawyer & lobbyist" category), is protecting her lobbyist pals' ability to contribute to her campaign by gutting the language in Senate Bill 1061, which now says:
Prohibits a lobbyist who lobbies the legislature, principal of a lobbyist, client or agent of lobbyist, and a political action committee on which the lobbyist sits from making a contribution to a member of the legislature, the governor, and lieutenant governor while the legislature is in session.
A sensible bill, don't you think? The Senate thought so. They passed it unanimously before it crossed over to the House.

Such a law would not be unique to Hawaii. A story today revealed that Kansas, for example, has a similar law in effect.

But the Legislature's chances of passing this law now are maybe zip. A hearing notice was delivered to the House Sergeant-at-Arms on Friday at 4:45 pm which included this for SB1061:

There are plenty of problems with this. Notice "Copies available in Room 302" (Rep. Luke's office). The Capitol website still contains the text of the original bill. And making the text available only from her office means you gotta wait until her office opens after the weekend, which is Monday morning, the day before the hearing.

The House has a 48-hour public notice rule. Technically, the hearing notice was sent more than 48 hours in advance, but without the text of the bill, is it really complying with the rule? In other words, the public has one day, not two, to put together its testimony. Plus a trip to the Capitol to get a copy of the text. Of course, anyone living on a Neighbor Island is left out of the picture.

Very undemocratic.

And the proposed bill not only has nothing to do with prohibiting lobbyist contributions, it attacks Hawaii's Sunshine Law by creating a task force composed mainly of opponents of the law.

This will be the last committee that SB1061 must go through before approval on the floor of the House. The new text will not have passed through the legislative process, that is, be heard and voted on by committee after committee and passed or killed. It gets just this one hearing, and judging by the stealth with which it was introduced, you can bet it will be bulldozed through.

The chance that the new bill would have made it this far had it been introduced at the beginning of the session, along with other bills, is pretty low, given the public's support of the Sunshine Law.

So the music is playing at the fundraiser. How do these things work? Do lobbyists turn in their envelopes as they enter? Are there cute waitresses? I wonder if they are clinking glasses in celebration of the imminent death of SB1061 tomorrow which will assure them another party like this next year.

Yes, we need Voter Owned Elections to end this pandering for good.

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention: I phoned to ask for a meeting with Rep. Luke last Monday and faxed confirmation of the request Tuesday morning. I live in her district, she's my representative. No reply.

I can't help but wonder if she meets with the lobbyists who are contributing money this evening whenever they call.


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