Thursday, March 28, 2013
Whether sleeping at a bus stop is criminalized now depends on Senate leadership
by Larry Geller
HB31, the bill that would have criminalized falling asleep at a bus stop, was eviscerated by the Senate. But they did not “kill” the bill, they just took all the language out of it that the House wanted. In the end, it became a sad bill that really had no purpose existing. Except that this is a sneaky way to keep a bill alive.
The remaining language has to do with “alarming” the public, not sleeping. It’s vague enough that it would make lousy law.
Sure enough, the House has just disagreed with the Senate version, which means that the bill goes to conference committee. All that wording could be simply put back in place.
Conference committees operate out of sight. In other words, the democratic process with regard to this bill is over. What will happen to the bill, and whether homelessness will be criminalized (which is what it’s really about), will be decided with no further testimony, assuming a conference committee is appointed by each house (if not, the bill will die).
So what happens next is entirely up to the leadership in each house.
If the Senate president really wants to kill the bill, she has only to decline to appoint conferees. If she wants to criminalize homelessness, she will appoint conferees, because there’s no other reason to support this bill.
Now, isn’t this normal for legislative bodies? Yes, conference committees are there to iron out differences. But in Hawaii (and no doubt elsewhere) the closed conference committee room is where the action is, and the public has nothing to do with it.