Thursday, April 05, 2007


Bad, bad day for sunshine at the Legislature

Where to begin? I'm sure I don't know half of what went on yesterday.

One tip emailed some details on this almost-secret hearing held by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Affordable Housing.

Defeated bill resurrected, public blindsided

There has been a pitched battle for several years between groups representing psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health advocates, and other advocacy groups over whether psychologists should be given limited prescriptive authority in Hawaii (only two other states allow it, meaning 48 states do not). The bills have been defeated in prior years. The psychologists hired former legislator Alex Santiago as their lobbyist.

HB 1456 SD1 failed this year too, but don't go away yet. It was heard by Senate CPH on 3/29/07 and failed to pass on a vote.

My tipster reported that on Tuesday Santiago begged senators to reschedule the bill for another vote--and they did! Not only did the hearing not have the required 48-hour notice, it appears that it may not have had 24-hours notice (the bill status message seems to have been updated at around 11:45 the previous day, and the hearing was at 10:00 a.m.). The status message is here, you can see how this played out yourself. Quite a mystery, right?

The public was blindsided, of course. We all thought the bill had died. Suddenly it was resurrected and passed. Why? I called Senate President Hanabusa's office yesterday to find out what was behind the rescheduling and the panic to hold another vote, but her office has not yet returned my call.

This is a dark day for transparency in government in Hawaii.

Drug testing snuck into ethics bill (unethically?)

Well, whether sneaking an unrelated text into a bill is unethical is something we'll have to leave to the ethicists. Here's what Senate rules have say:
Rule 54. Bills: Amendments
(2) The fundamental purpose of any amendment to a bill shall be germane to the fundamental purpose of the bill.
Chair Hee inserted a new section into HB1909. The text is at the very end of this message in case you'd like to see what our elected officials will have to go through if this passes.

Whether or not you support drug testing of elected officials, consider that this was the only referral for this bill. To the best of my knowledge there was no testimony to insert this language into a bill that regulates conduct of elected officials on the job. This language regulates what they do in their private lives. Putting it in was just something that the chair wanted to do.

Or is it that simple? Many legislators will correctly object to the provision that they be drug tested. So putting this language in could be a poison pill intended to kill the ethics bill.

Who might have spoken with Sen. Hee and asked him to put it in? There are rumors. There's no way I can verify them. But the legislator involved knows who he is.

Legislators should object to this sneak attack. Elected officials are needlessly intruded upon by testing. Should there be a false positive, they run the risk of being kicked out of office if they can't prove the test was faulty. Not to mention the hassle of having the test re-evaluated to challenge the result.

Hawaii also has a strong right of privacy in Article VI of its Constitution. Drug testing can be considered an intrusion into people's private lives or even an "unreasonable search." Article VI also requires the legislature to take affirmative steps to implement this right. Privacy means that what someone does over the weekend at home is their business and theirs only.

Surely, this has nothing to do with the rest of the bill, which concerns forming ethics committees and restrictions on lobbying.

And there will be no testimony taken on what Hee has done. In other words, the public has been blindsided yet again.

HB1909 will have a floor vote on Tuesday. If you object to drug testing of public officials, or if you object to sneaking amendments in at the very last moment without public input or review, you can ask senators to amend that part out of the bill. An email address that reaches all of them is I suspect you would be doing them a favor by asking them to get rid of this amendment to HB1909 (the rest looks good to me).

It's been a dark day for accountability in the legislature.

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


Text of the new amendment:
ยง78- Elected officials; drug testing;disqualification and forfeiture of office.
   (a) All elected officials shall submit to testing for illegal drugs after certification of their election and prior to taking the oath of office. Thereafter, elected officials shall submit to testing for illegal drugs if there is a reasonable suspicion that the official is using drugs. Testing shall be conducted in compliance with chapter 329B. Testing shall be funded from the budget of the branch of government to which the official has been elected. Test results shall be provided to the personnel officer of the branch of government to which the official has been elected or in which the official holds office and the personnel officer shall take action, as appropriate, to effectuate the purposes of this section.
   (b) Any elected official who tests positive for illegal drugs shall immediately be disqualified from taking office and forfeit any office held.
   (c) For purposes of this section: "Elected official" means the governor, lieutenant governor, members of the senate and the house of representatives, county mayors, elected county prosecutors, members of the county councils, members of the board of education and of the board of trustees of the office of Hawaiian affairs, and any person certified pursuant to section 11-155 to have won election to one of these offices but who has not yet taken the oath of office. "Illegal drug" means any controlled substance, as
defined in chapter 329, for which the person does not possess a valid prescription.


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