Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Another Senate rule violation on Clean Elections bill?

So many people have worked for so long on advancing clean elections in Hawaii that it is truly sad to see how one person can halt a popular effort in its tracks. Or was that the plan?

SB1068 was originally the Clean Elections (Voter Owned Elections) bill. It was gutted and replaced with language taken from SB1549, an unrelated bill.

I mentioned that doing this appears to be in violation of Senate rule Rule 54, line 2:
(2) The fundamental purpose of any amendment to a bill shall be germane to the fundamental purpose of the bill.
Well, here's another Senate rule that appears to be violated:Rule 23. Public Hearings on Bills
(4) If a bill:
(A) Has been referred to more than one standing committee and more than one committee hearing is required for passage of the bill out of the Senate;
(B) Contains any significant or substantial amendment made by a committee other than the last standing committee to which the bill has been referred; and
(C) The public has not been provided with an opportunity to submit testimony on the significant or substantial amendment;

then, prior to reporting the bill out of the last standing committee, the last standing committee to which the bill was been referred shall hold a public hearing to provide the public with the opportunity to testify on the bill.
In other words, if this interpretation is correct, the bill must now get a hearing in the next committee. But that's not the plan it seems.

The gutted bill is advancing to Ways and Means on Thursday, but their notice is not a notice of a hearing--it is a Notice of Decision Making--that is, no public testimony will be accepted. Committee members will not hear testimony and will not have testifiers to question. The hearing notice is very careful to say that written comments only will be accepted--it doesn't say written testimony. It also says that the "bills were previously heard in their respective subject matter committees." In other words, WAM is not going to hear the bills, including this one.

If you'd like to weigh in on this--that is, support Clean Elections and fight rulebreaking in the Legislature, may I ask that you email Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, and Ways and Means Chair Senator Rosalyn Baker, and ask that Senate Rules 54 and 23 (4) be respected. The original language should be re-inserted, and/or the gutted bill should be given a proper hearing. Of course, you could also submit written comments to the Ways and Means Committee for Thursday, but I'm not trying to make too much work for you.

Sure, they can argue that WAM is holding a hearing. Sure, they can argue that Rule 54 doesn't apply because this bill has something to do with elections. The truth may be that Senate leadership just doesn't want to allow a clean elections bill to go forward, even if it has to break its own rules.

Either the people stand up for Democratic process in our state legislature or we'll get more of this treatment in the future. I think it's pretty shabby, and I'm confident that if enough people got together, we can have a better legislature and better laws for everyone.

I also want to thank those who have sent emails to legislators and sent me copies. It's very encouraging, thanks very much.


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