Friday, April 19, 2013
Petition challenges rampant use of undemocratic procedures in the Hawaii state legislature
“We are calling on the current Legislature to REJECT all bills which were substantively amended in a manner which evades the Constitutional public right to testify on proposed legislation.…we the public are unsettled and provoked by this practice….We are affronted that some legislators think that ambiguous bill titles and last-minute amendments are an appropriate way to evade basic, procedural safeguards established by our State Constitution.”
by Larry Geller
A petition endorsed by 11 advocacy organizations and individuals was submitted to both the House and the Senate clerks on April 19, 2013, in accordance with Senate Rule 67 and House Rule 44. The petition seeks to end two anti-democratic practices that have proliferated during this legislative session. A copy of the petition is attached below.
The signers condemn the practice of "gut and replace" and the bait-and-switch or "Frankenbills." The alsoidentify several bills, and ask that they be defeated.
“Gut and replace” has been a common practice in the Hawaii state legislature for many years. It has several variations, but basically, a committee chair, with the support of legislative leadership, removes the language in a bill that has advanced through the session, and substitutes new language that is unrelated to what the public has already heard and had the opportunity to submit testimony on. Often the public is completely blindsided by the tactic.
This session saw several “Frankenbills,” which are unnatural concoctions made up of a bill that has advanced properly and new and unrelated language simply tacked on to it. It’s the kind of thing the US Congress does all the time, but there is no reason to accept it in our state legislature.
Both practices are subject to corruption in that language that could not survive public exposure and debate can be pushed through and could benefit special interests. The Hawaii legislature does not prohibit its members from throwing expensive fundraisers out of their districts during session, so that the influence of corporate and lobbyist money is always a possibility.
The petition pulls no punches, as you can see from the pull-quote above. It represents a direct challenge to the two identified undemocratic processes that the Hawaii state legislature has become so fond of.
[disclosure: I am president of Kokua Council, one of the signers of the petition]