Tuesday, February 05, 2013
Action Alert: Spend a few minutes to help change Hawaii’s government for the better
by Larry Geller
The legislative session has barely begun but the hijinks are already in progress. Your action on a package of bills selected for action by Common Cause Hawaii can help change our state government for the better.
Just yesterday there were two hearings that involved apparent violation of House rules. While some may consider these to be minor, it’s a slippery slope. If leadership is willing to tolerate rule violations then all manner of abuses can be perpetrated.
For example, the Committee on Housing (Rep. Rida T.R. Cabanilla, Chair) amended its hearing notice on Friday, 2/1/2013 in violation of House Rule #11 on public notice. The agenda was emailed more than two hours after the close of business on that day.The public is denied the ability to weigh in with support or objection to bills when these rules are flouted. It doesn’t mean anything nefarious is underway, but when legislators want to sneak bills through, they may also choose to shorten or eliminate public notice.
Similarly, the Committee on Agriculture (Rep. Jessica Wooley, Chair) amended its agenda Friday evening, deleting some bills and adding others.
Perhaps some of these bills are important to you—one, for example, (HB1117) would increase funding for a rental housing trust fund to benefit the homeless. It would have been nice to know about that bill and submit testimony on it (it passed).
Common Cause Hawaii (disclosure: I am a local board member) has put together a summary of bills that could improve government process, transparency and accountability. In order for these bills to succeed, the public will have to come forward and support them in the face of predictable resistance in either or both houses.
With permission, here is the list of bills and a few words of description of each. You can have the friendly computer at capitol.hawaii.gov notify you of hearings or other status changes of these or other bills. The list includes both Senate and House versions and their introducers.
If a bill has not been scheduled for a hearing (for example, SB865), what’s needed are phone calls to the committee chair to schedule a hearing.
All of these are important, but my personal favorite is the second pair, which would eliminate the evil practice of Gut and Replace. All manner of bills are snuck through mostly without public notice and without giving committees a chance to hold hearings on them. Legislators gut the words out of an otherwise perfectly good bill and substitute language that House or Senate leadership want to push through—public be damned. One way or another, that practice should be stopped for our state democracy to mean anything.
1. Independent Expenditure Disclosure
SB865: IHARA, RUDERMAN, Espero
HB1147: C. LEE, BELATTI, HANOHANO, JOHANSON, NISHIMOTO, SAIKI, Ing, Tsuji
Requires noncandidate committees to identify certain top contributors for advertisements. Requires the campaign spending commission to maintain public records in a searchable database. Amends reporting requirements for persons and organizations. Authorizes the commission to monitor and penalize all persons failing to report campaign spending. Mandates the commission to implement rules for campaign spending consistent with campaign spending laws within 360 days of the effective date of this Act. Effective 11/05/14.
2. Gut and Replace Limitation
HB1480: WARD, BELATTI, BROWER, CHEAPE, FUKUMOTO, HANOHANO, ING, KAWAKAMI, C. LEE, MCDERMOTT, MIZUNO, MORIKAWA, THIELEN, Awana, Cachola, Nakashima
Amends the constitution to ensure that no bill becomes law if the legislative process has so altered or amended the bill that it no longer reflects its original purpose.
3. Sunshine Law and Legislative Practices
SB850: IHARA, Ruderman
HB1460: WARD, BELATTI, BROWER, CHEAPE, FUKUMOTO, HANOHANO, ING, KAWAKAMI, C. LEE, MIZUNO, MORIKAWA, NAKASHIMA, THIELEN, Awana, Cachola, McDermott
Requires the legislature to follow fundamental principles of the sunshine law, including: conducting public hearings on legislative rules; requiring a majority vote to suspend legislative rules; giving a seventy-two hour public notice for public hearings; requiring proposed amendments on a bill to be germane to the text to be amended; requiring correspondence on measures to be considered testimony; and requiring the posting, on the order of the day, of votes by a house to agree to amendments made by the other house.
4. Legislative Broadcasting
HB428: SAIKI, BELATTI, C. LEE
Establishes that criteria for selecting proceedings to be broadcast by the legislative broadcast program shall be related to matters of public interest.
5. Disclosure Deadline
Requires a legislator to file a disclosure of financial interests between January 1 and January 31 annually.
6. Lobbyist Regulation
SB832: IHARA, RUDERMAN, Slom, L. Thielen
HB1245: ING, HANOHANO, MIZUNO, SOUKI, WOODSON, WOOLEY, Lowen, Morikawa, Ohno, Rhoads, Thielen
Requires lobbyists and their clients to make monthly disclosures during any month the legislature is in session, and a report for June 1 through December 31. Adds required disclosures regarding lobbying events, contractual relationships with legislators, and campaign contributions. Requires the governor, lieutenant governor, and legislators to file their financial disclosures by January 31 after the beginning of the regular legislative session. Requires certain state employees to disclose contractual relationships with lobbyists and their clients. Amends the definition of "administrative action" to include granting or denying an application for a business- or development-related permit, license, or approval and the procurement of goods and services through contracts covered by the procurement code. Requires the state ethics commission to accept electronically filed documents.