Tuesday, February 27, 2007


House CPC committee guts a bill and hides it from the public

This just in (and thank you for the tip): An amended hearing notice was emailed just before 10 a.m. this morning for a hearing tomorrow. The subject is HB761, a bill that would make ethanol-free gasoline available to owners of small or marine engines.

I wonder if the CPC chair will courier a copy of the proposed amendment to any of his constituents on the Big Island who call and ask for one? This text has not been available 48 hours before the hearing, either.

Bill is also a "Gut and Replace"

HB761 was once a simple one-page bill having to do with making non-ethanol-containing fuel available for marine engines and small gasoline-driven tools. If you might have been following this one, be warned--it has been exploded into a 6-page tome that looks like it has been written by the aircraft industry.

And if you've gone to the Capitol website to check on the progress of the original bill, you won't even know that it has been gutted and replaced. The web pages for this bill say nothing about it.

This bill was passed out of the prior committee unamended. It passed Second Reading on the House floor unamended. If you go to the Capitol website to check on the bill and prepare testimony, there is no indication that there is an amendment. Nothing in the original bill or the committee report even mentions a concern about aircraft engines.

But obviously, someone got to the chair of CPC behind the scenes.

Once again, industry has written an amendment with the cooperation of the chair of the CPC committee. Last year it was the health insurers writing language for a bill to regulate their own premiums. Today it seems that aircraft people have been allowed to do the same thing.

As before, we ordinary people are left out of the process. If industry wrote the lengthy amendment, they have had access to the legislative process for some time. But anyone living far from the Capitol is left out. Anyone checking the Capitol website on this bill is left out.

I don't know much about ethanol in fuel, whether it is good or bad or what. I do know that what you see here demonstrates that a key legislator lends his ears to industry even if that means bypassing the democratic process in the legislature.

How could this have been handled to respect and honor the process? Simple. When the bill will be heard tomorrow, the aircraft industry could testify any way they like, including proposing new language. If the new language is relevant to the original bill, it can be the subject of discussion among committee members and the public attending the hearing. As a result of testimony, a bill can certainly be amended.

No secret amendments, no huddling with industry. No favoritism. A good example is set instead of a bad one. Tomorrow, CPC Chair Bob Herkes will no doubt recommend to his committee that they pass the bill with amendments. They'll probably do as they are ordered. Nevermind what they are doing to the legislative process by voting for a secret amendment most likely written by the industry concerned.

If you support open government, you can call Speaker Calvin Say's office and just leave a message that you think the House should post any proposed legislation on the web, the way the Senate does. His office can be reached at 586-6100 or at email repsay@Capitol.hawaii.gov. You might also say you object to industry writing "secret" amendments and to "gut and replace" as standard practice in the House.

Please keep your hot tips coming. If anyone is aware of any other amendments that are not available to the public before a hearing, or if you attend a hearing at which the chair pulls a secret amendment "out of a hat" and asks the committee to pass it, please send the info to leak@bringsunshinetohawaii.com.


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