Friday, April 27, 2012
Murder in the rotunda: A good ag bill was purposefully killed by the House
by Larry Geller
When I wrote Another House atrocity? Ag bill reported hijacked in conference committee (4/26/2012) I hadn’t had a chance to research this incident and basically referred to a Sierra Club article I’m Mad as Hell (Sierra Club, 4/25/2012). Today I learned the details, and the Sierra Club and other advocates for sustainable agriculture in Hawaii have every justification for being Mad as Hell.
HB2703 did not just “die in conference committee.” It was a hit job, and one that was aimed not only at the poor little bill but at its supporters.
First, let’s take a look at the bill as it went into conference. The bill had changed since its introduction. What remains is really non-controversial. It’s safe to say that most Oahu residents would support increasing the amount of locally-produced produce, keeping the money in circulation in the state, and fostering new jobs in farming. Here’s the bill:
Then comes Rep. Tsuji with this proposed text, seemingly out of nowhere (we’ll get to that in a moment).
Note how ugly this draft is. It even includes support for housing! It’s a big ag, big-landowners wet dream.
The proposed draft didn’t stand a chance. For one thing, it had not been heard by either house and would therefore be unconstitutional. For another, it is clearly a concoction designed to give the finger to supporters.
Now, Rep.Tsuji probably did not sit down and write this amendment by himself. Perhaps he cobbled it together out of spare parts. He was likely merely the messenger. And when he put it on the table, the conference committee members could just have told him what he could do with his amendment and resumed work on the SD2 draft they already held in their hands.
Instead, the bill was killed. It should be clear that the proposed draft was only a cover for the crime—there needed to be a plausible excuse to kill the bill other than any defect in its wording—and it’s also clear that the perpetrators have not been brought to justice.
Yes, the Sierra Club is justified in their anger. Community groups have objected loudly to the gutting of environmental protections that the House is planning to enact into law, and the House assassination of this bill looks very much like payback to the advocates, at the expense of all of us. This is banana republic thinking. Small-town revenge politics.
It’s always possible for the public to have the last word, because we choose our own representatives in the voting booth. If only we stay mad all the way to November, of course.