Wednesday, April 25, 2012

 

Us vs. Them at the Hawaii State Legislature


by Larry Geller

It’s hard to imagine why legislators would push to undermine Hawaii’s environmental protections, put near-monopoly health insurers on a board to determine what insurance we can purchase under Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and undermine citizens’ access to government documents, among other bad ideas that have progressed to conference committee.

If they escape unscathed, Governor Abercrombie is likely to sign those bills that were in the administration package.

So this is down-to-the-wire time, since conference committees are now in charge of these bills. And this session, it appears that we have an “us vs. them” situation—”them” being moneyed developers and those including our state administration!) who want to keep public records away from the public. And, of course, legislators supported by campaign contributions from “them.”

Unless enough people contact their legislators and legislative leadership, the public will be stuck with some bad situations.

Today’s Star-Advertiser editorial covered some of the ground very well. For those of you who subscribe, please check it out. For example, on the issue of the Hawaii Health Connector, the editors wrote:

The public also is given short shrift in the current set-up of the Hawaii Health Connector, our state's version of health insurance exchanges of individuals and employees of small businesses, a central part of the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act.

Several members of Hawaii's 11-person "Connector" board, newly formed, consists of representatives of medical and dental organizations, which raises the troubling issue of conflicts of interest.

We agree with consumer advocates in supporting Senate Bill 2434, House Draft 3, which would make the insurers non-voting advisory members. To protect the public interest, these insurers would be more fairly utilized as technical consultants but not actual members of the board.

If legislators wanted to help health care consumers, they would create a board of members who don't have direct financial interest in the plans.

[Star-Advertiser, Resist limiting public input, 4/25/2012]

The editors also highlighted these bills:

… Senate Bill 2927 would allow developers to make decisions that may depart from the needs and wishes of a neighborhoods residents and tenants.

And then there is Senate Bill 755, which would authorize broad exemptions from some environmental review processes to rush certain construction projects.

SB2858, another bad bill has been described by consumer groups opposing it as

The most serious erosion of Hawaii's Freedom of Information law in its 24-year history

This last bill is sure to be signed if it gets to the Governor. It is an administration bill written and supported by his controversial appointment, the director of the Office of Information Practices.

Remember, passing SB2434 is a good thing—it would  remove insurers from the Hawaii Health Connector board. The others are bad things.

Please take action if you are concerned about these bills. Although the House appointed conferees for SB2424 on April 17, Senate President Shan Tsutsui has not yet appointed Senate conferees. If he fails to do so, the bill dies—and the monopoly health insurers will help decide what insurance we have to buy—a clear conflict of interest. Sen. Tsutsui’s email is sentsutsui@capitol.hawaii.gov. His phone number is 586-7344.

As TV pitchmen say, “Call today—time is running out.” It is.

You can also email all senators at sens@capitol.hawaii.gov and all representatives at reps@capitol.hawaii.gov.

Here’s a short PSA on the subject of SB2434:



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