Friday, March 20, 2015


Bad bill to morph into good, but isn’t “gut and replace” still bad?

by Larry Geller

Did you know that Hawaii has a tobacco industry? I didn’t, until I read the original text of HB145. The measure, as it was when it went through the House, would provide tax subsidies to cigar manufacturers. Among the testimony in support was a Kauai outfit that grows tobacco and makes cigars. Who knew.

Of course, the testimony against included those with health concerns, because cigars, like cigarettes, are addictive, and cigars cause mouth cancers (for example).

The AG submitted testimony that the bill was likely unconstitutional as it was written. And testimony observed that all of us would end up subsidizing the tobacco industry because the bill created tax credits.

The bill, introduced by Souki, Luke and McKelvey (thought you’d like to know), (and in case you want to research further, check out how much they received from tobacco companies over the past few years).

So this lousy bill passed the House. Cough, cough. Choke.

No sooner did it hit the Senate than “they” (there’s no name attached to the deed) decided it should be gutted it and replaced it with another tobacco bill, one that increases contributions to the Hawaii Cancer Research Special Fund:

Section 245-3(a)( 13), after December 31, 2015, and thereafter, all amounts shall be deposited to the credit of the Hawaii cancer research special fund, established pursuant to section 304A-2168, for research and operating expenses and for capital expenditures.

What’s not to like about that? (I haven’t figured out if the new bill contains any problems, but this appears to be the main thrust). A bad bill won’t pass, and cancer research will benefit from the new.

Actually, the bill is scheduled for surgery on Monday. Here’s the hearing notice, with link to the texts of the bill.

“Gut and replace” makes a mockery of the legislative process. But one can be torn. The original bill was so bad, from a public health standpoint, and this one appears to be so good, what’s not to like?

The new bill will not have been heard at all by the House. I wish someone would take the legislators to court on this (perhaps it has been done? Does anyone know?).

Assuming it passes, it will not have received the requisite three readings by both houses. Also, the record will show that Souki, Luke and McKelvey introduced the bill. Presumably, they did not. But no one will notice. Not even their tobacco industry contributors.

Do the means justify the end? Shouldn’t the practice of “gut and replace” be ended?


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