Thursday, April 05, 2007
What to do about all this?
For many readers, all these stories of dark deeds at the Legislature may be boring stuff. For those of us who invest hundreds of hours giving testimony each year, it can be awfully discouraging when a worthwhile bill dies due to behind-the-scenes hanky-panky. It can also cost you real money--either in new taxes or in the loss of protection.
Last session health care rate regulation died. In the aftermath, the Legislature was forced to give up its "embedded lobbyists," but still, the damage was done and employers pay higher rates than they might if regulation were still in force.
A nasty maneuver introduced a 61-page amendment without public review, killing the gas cap law. We're all paying for that now, at the pump. Anyone owning a SUV or truck is paying big time. All thanks to an undemocratic attitude that says "anything goes" if legislators can get away with it.
I'm not exaggerating. There are rules, but they are broken. There's a 48-hour notice requirement, but it is routinely waived. And so on.
Let's not even talk about our lawmakers who take big bucks from the tobacco industry, for example, and then try to undo laws prohibiting smoking! There is oil money, tobacco money, and much more influencing legislation in Hawaii, same as elsewhere.
So what can we do?
It's doubtful that any legislative body will clean up its own act. Since we don't have initiative (the ability of voters to put their own measures on the ballot), bringing democracy to Hawaii will be tough to do.
After the legislative session closes will be the time to get together and organize for change.
If you would like to be notified of future meetings, please send an email to the "leak" address below. Oh... and thanks for all the tips!
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 email@example.com.
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