Thursday, February 15, 2007


Senate committee breaks the rules, hijacks clean election bill

This tip came in this morning. Keep your hot tips coming. Details on how to send information are at the end of this article.

Clean Elections bill hijacked

This is very sad news for hundreds of people who have been working to bring clean elections to Hawaii for so many years: According to the Capitol website report on decisionmaking held for the Clean Elections bill SB1068, Senator Clayton Hee, Chair of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, has carried out a "gut and replace" operation on the bill, completely removing its contents and replacing it with that of an unrelated bill.

"Gut and replace" is one of the abuses that reformers are trying to drive out of the Hawaii legislature. It is a technique that can be used by a chair to discard a bill the chair doesn't like, even if the public is 100% behind the bill. The chair either inserts some other text that's been lying around somewhere, or (as here) uses it to advance a bill that had no chance to progress because it did not get a hearing. "Gut and replace" is by its nature antidemocratic. The bill that was passed was not the bill that was heard by the committee.

Chairs get away with it because the public generally doesn't know what has happened. But times have changed. Starting last session, this sort of activity is not likely to go unreported.

Perhaps Sen. Hee overlooked Senate Rule 54. Bills: Amendments:

Rule 54, line 2:
(2) The fundamental purpose of any amendment to a bill shall be germane to the
fundamental purpose of the bill.

That's right, there seems to be a rule that this can't be done. I'll email a copy of this post to Senate President Hanabusa and see if she will defend this clean government rule and intervene. I'll let you know what happens. Sen. Hee will also get a copy. If he has made a mistake, he can figure out how to correct it.

Note: the bill that Sen. Hee "replaced" into the clean elections bill was introduced by Sen. Hanabusa, but never got a hearing.

The sordid details

SB1068 is the Clean Elections bill. Here is the description as of yesterday:

Creates comprehensive public funding for elections to the state house of representatives; establishes qualifications, limitations on funding and use of funds, reporting requirements, amends chapter 11, part XII to reflect changes

SB1549 is unrelated. The description of this bill is:

Description: Revises various campaign spending reporting deadlines. Amends definitions of "contribution" and "expenditure". Increases amount that may be spent per voter for state and county elections and adds prosecuting attorney as an election subject to spending limitation per voter.

As you see, there is no relationship between the two bills. SB1549 was never heard. That's right. Not enough interest in the legislature to get it a hearing. It still hasn't been heard, because the text was snuck in at decisionmaking time, after all public testimony is complete.

There has been quite a bit of testimony on the original Clean Elections bill. It has been one of the hottest topics so far this session, with hopes high that this could be the year that Hawaii might join other states that already have passed similar bills. Candidates and incumbents in those states can choose to give up corporate funding and demonstrate to voters that they are independent of special interests. And those who choose to run "clean" are winning their contests.

Whether Hawaii joins the other "clean election" states should be decided by vote in the legislature. Hijacking the bill is not something that will be easily tolerated by the voters.

Supporters and opponents alike should get a straight up or down vote by committee members on the bill that was heard. That would be democracy. It's the norm, the usual, and what we expect from our state legislators.

"Gut and replace" must stop. If the public doesn't stop it, other bills will suffer the same fate. Please call Senate President Colleen Hanabusa at 586-7793 and ask that SB1068, the Clean Elections bill, be restored to its original text. If you prefer email, her address is . If you like, you can also ask that "gut and replace" tactics be stopped in the Senate.

Your call can help restore democratic process in our state legislature.

And thanks again for your "leaks"--please keep them coming.

Please keep your hot tips coming. If anyone is aware of any other amendments that are not made 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


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