Tuesday, April 03, 2007


"Why does it matter?" you may ask?

My last post was the result of an email I received complaining about the third bill on the agenda of a House Finance Committee meeting today. Remember that what is on that agenda is not available to the public unless you ask for copies--that is, if you live close to the Capitol, can get off work, and are willing to wait ages to find a parking place, or have it sent to you if you have a fax machine handy.

What good is the 48-hour notice if what's to be discussed is unavailable to the public without a hassle?

The writer did go to the trouble to have the third bill (SB679 HD2) faxed to her, and found something to object to.

I read through the text also. It looks like a number of disaster preparedness issues have been dumped into this one bill. That is to say, it is now a potentially very important bill to very many people and organizations. I'm wondering if any of them have seen it. The committee will hold a hearing anyway and likely pass the bill. At this stage of the legislative session, it could become law without further hearing. And it will never have been exposed to the public in its final form.

I applaud the legislature taking control of the disaster planning process--somebody needs to do that, and hooray for our legislators.

But a bill this comprehensive should be fully exposed to the public. There might be concerns. For example (take a deep breath before reading):

  • The proposed draft creates a commission with extensive oversight over almost everything in the state except public toilets (they forgot that). Members are unpaid but responsible for developing land use policies, recommendations for building codes, ensuring reliability of the state's power generators, providing backup power for selected radio stations (!), recommending tax credits, placing/replacing sirens, expanding radio and video into areas of the state that don't have any, working with the Department of Health to ensure the structural integrity of hospitals, ensuring access to ports for ships carrying munitions and weapons, working with DOT to develop alternate transportation routes to be used when major roads become inaccessible (hey--hurry up on that one, we could use those new roads!), etc. etc.
  • It establishes a Director of Disaster Preparedness to be appointed by the governor, but puts the position under DAGS. Yikes! If you want something (anything) done, why put it under DAGS?? I would think it might be a cabinet position.
  • Assisted living facilities must hire sufficient staff 24/7 to conduct evacuations (there's much more). Probably they are already holding disaster drills, but in any case, they might want to have input on all the details this bill proposes to require of them.

Yes, I'm concerned that care home operators might be taken by surprise if this bill becomes law, that the proposed commission is overextended and under(un-)paid even before it is created, that the bill could be a back door into sneaking martial law into Hawaii, and yes, that there won't be enough public toilets in an emergency as they move people over those wonderful alternate routes to somewhere still undisclosed.

You may laugh, but better add diapers to your emergency kits. The H-1 is already jammed without an emergency and there are no amenities.

There is much good in this bill and still some concerns. By not posting the text on the web, by omitting the news of the proposed HD2 from the bill status page, by changing the title of the bill and otherwise obfuscating its content, the House risks turning what might be a good law into sausage.

That's why it matters.

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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