Monday, April 16, 2007


Rule 54, Where Are You?

Update:Unfortunately, I got this wrong. Rule 54 applies to bills but not to resolutions. Thanks to Richard Borreca for setting me straight. While this is a bit embarrassing (I plead sleep deprivation), I'm going to leave the post here (I like the picture!). There ought to be a rule for resos, even if there isn't now. If not, it's just another opportunity for a committee chair to ignore all previous testimony and wreak her/his will on a measure. Oh, well.

I was happy to see Richard Borreca discuss legislative shenanigans in his column in Sunday's Star Bulletin, Take a guess what's going on at Capitol. Borreca's On Politics column can expose far more readers to this issue than my humble blog will ever attract.

As a reporter, of course, Borreca can't suggest that the behavior he describes (see below) can and should be changed, which is my hope. I think that if we people get together, we can have a legislature that better reflects the needs of ordinary people living in this state. And I feel we need to do that soon.

To read about "two whales mating" and some funny votes, please click on the link above for the full article. I just want to quote a short part that jibes with some of my recent gripes.
Watching the business practices of the Legislature can make you wish for an immediate tour of the local sausage emporium.

For instance, the Senate last week passed a resolution, SCR 77, with a title that asked the education department to study the need for teacher housing. But Sen. Norman Sakamoto's education committee then used that resolution to launch into a hearing on the needs of people from Micronesia and Palau living in Hawaii.

Sakamoto put the worries about teachers' housing into another resolution, SCR 169, even though its title was asking for an investigation of whether school dress codes "ensure the full protection and guarantee of all civil rights of students."
As described, these actions would appear to run afoul of Senate Rule 54 (yes, the Senate actually has rules).

Here's what Senate rules say about this:
Rule 54. Bills: Amendments
(2) The fundamental purpose of any amendment to a bill shall be germane to the fundamental purpose of the bill.
The rule is longer, addressing floor votes as well.

It seems that the rules exist only to be broken. Where is Senate leadership on this? Allowing bills to be mangled at the whim of committee chairs (recall Sen. Hee recently gutted an ethics bill to put in his drug testing amendment) makes a mockery of the legislative process.

We need a rule about breaking rules. The leadership of both houses, by ignoring the rampant breaking of rules (and in fact, by routinely waiving public notice requirements) demonstrates their own lack of respect for the rule of law (kiddies, we are special, we can do whatever we want, but if you jaywalk you get a ticket).

They have indeed turned our beautiful state capitol building into a mere sausage factory. We deserve better, and we deserve a better example from our leadership.


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