Sunday, February 19, 2012
Scary tweet nails state legislators trying to exempt county councils from Sunshine Laws
by Larry Geller
A scary tweet flashed into my phone yesterday:
Really? Should our Honolulu City Council be allowed to hold secret meetings and withhold documents from the public?
I can’t even imagine. But that’s what HB2742 says!
There are so many bills introduced each session that’s hard to know when something like this will be snuck in. Thank goodness Common Cause spotted this one.
We’ve been trying to tie these bills to the particular legislators who introduce them or who vote for them. Bills don’t become law by themselves. Whether a good bill or a bad bill, someone wants it to become law and goes to the trouble of writing, introducing, or passing it.
So who’s responsible for this one? It’s right there on the status page snipped above. This remarkable bill was introduced by Speaker of the House Calvin Say.
Let me re-emphasize this point: It is not an amorphous bill that would exempt county councils from the Sunshine Law, it is a bill introduced by Calvin Say that would exempt county councils from the Sunshine Law.
Now, introducing a bill is only the beginning. Next, the bill has to be heard. In our quasi-democratic system, powerful committee chairs determine which bills will be heard and which will die. Lots of worthy bills never get heard (for example, ethics bills). But this one will be heard. The status page indicates that the bill is on the agenda for Tuesday, February 21, at 2 p.m., before the House Judiciary Committee. The hearing notice is here. And which powerful chair has agreed to hear it? Rep. Gilbert Keith-Agaran.
So now we’ve personalized this. Bills do not become law by themselves, they are creations of people with an agenda. They are pushed through by sympathetic legislators.
When a bill like this is introduced, if nobody notices, next thing you know, it is law.
Can you imagine the corruption at Honolulu Hale if city councilpeople can get into bed with developers in secret? Next thing you know, they’ll have cots delivered.
To stop this bill, send in your testimony. Just go to the status page and push the button near the top that says Submit Testimony.
Speaking of ethics bills, there is one on the same agenda, HB2175—but it is an anti-ethics bill, for want of a better description—it would exempt members of task forces from conflicts of interest. Your testimony on this one also would be helpful. It’s the same easy process. Click the link, read the bill information, push the Submit Testimony button and have your say.
And there’s another interesting bill: HB2157
Deems elected state or county officers to have resigned from office upon registering with the campaign spending commission as a candidate for another elective state, county, or federal office with a term that begins during the term of the office currently held.
This bill seems to be in reaction to my report and complaint that Bobby Bunda appeared not to have resigned his office before filing nomination papers in 2010.
Well Iʻm submitting a lot of testimony on these bills but HB2742, after marking it for hearing notification, comes back with ʻthis measure does not existʻ.
It accepted my testimony though. I just canʻt get notified when it moves.