Friday, March 19, 2010
Disappeared News asks senators why an industry-favorable bill was heard effectively without a public hearing
by Larry Geller
When a coqui frog is discovered in Manoa, one acts quickly before there are more. With that in mind, I thought that just reporting yesterday that Senate sets new record for avoiding public notice isn’t enough. Would the coqui frogs go away if we just reported they were there? No.
Will the Senate schedule bills without public hearings if no one questions them on this? Most assuredly.
So I just faxed the following to Senators Hee and Hanabusa. I faxed because I know that they get a lot of emails. I’ll email it also.
Will they answer? I don’t know. It’s not like I have anything to do with any real newspaper. But if they do, I’ll run it here.
Meanwhile, if you think bills should be heard by the public and not just by industry, you might call Senator Hee at 586-7330 and Senator Hanabusa at 586-7793 and just leave a message (don’t worry, you probably won’t get them in person). Or email them at senhee@Capitol.hawaii.gov and senhanabusa@Capitol.hawaii.gov. The hearing date was March 17 at 2:45 but notice was only posted that day at 11:11 a.m. You could just complain a bit or ask for a re-hearing.
Fm: Larry Geller / Disappeared News
On Wednesday, March 17, 2010, the Committee on Water, Land, Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs heard HB2409, Related to Aquaculture. Setting what may be a new record, the hearing notice for this bill was posted with just over three hours notice-that is, at 11:11 a.m. on the same day as a 2:45 p.m. hearing of the bill. Here is the date-stamped hearing notice from the Senate Clerk's office:
To say that three hours notice is insufficient for this to qualify as a public hearing is an understatement. It appears that the public was constructively denied the opportunity to read, evaluate, and potentially submit testimony on this bill. At the same time, there was abundant industry testimony, implying that the Committee leadership worked with industry to grease the skids under this bill through a hearing process that would not be impeded by potential opposition.
The Committee subsequently passed the industry-favorable bill.
Nor is this bill inconsequential or trivial. DLNR objected to the provision in the bill:
"The Department of Land and Natural Resources opposes the provision in this bill that provides aquaculture operations in good standing with a right of first refusal and allow such entities to seek a renewal of a lease that has been issued. The inclusion of a right of first refusal to a lessee in good standing for lease renewals is especially objectionable because it would constitute a de facto extension of the lease for unspecified consecutive terms that could continue into perpetuity."
The issue of taking of a public resource or the use of a public resource for a private purpose in perpetuity may be of concern to individuals wishing to have been given the opportunity to testify on this bill.
Finally, the committee notes do not give any indication that the Committee assisted the industry in rushing this bill through, and contains this surprising assertion:
"However, your Committee believes that because the lease would be subject to a public bidding process prior to the granting of the right of first refusal, the public would not be shut out of the process."
This is a remarkable "public be damned" assertion. Translated into English, "we'll let others bid on these leases before we give them to the current lease holder anyway."
For many reasons, this bill should be re-scheduled and re-heard. Please advise if this will happen. The bill is not without merit, and the industry has made valid arguments for its passage. I have no doubt that the Committee will make a wise (and this time, informed) decision.
To President Hanabusa: Could you please explain if and why an exception was granted to allow this hearing to proceed effectively without any public notice.
Thatʻs a great letter. It also letʻs them know they arenʻt as sneaky and clever as they probably believe...or better yet, that the public isnʻt as stupid as they think.
Larry, You are amazing!! Thank you for trying to 'keep them honest'! Any reaction, or answer from either recipient? What about other political writers? Do they care that the public is deliberately kept from notice of the hearings?