Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Outrageous: House gives 48 minute (not 48 hour) notice of hearing—one bill commits $100 million in state bonds
Q: How many legislators does it take to screw the voters?
A: Two: A committee chair and the Speaker of the House
by Larry Geller
The Hawaii state House is notorious for breaking its own rules—it’s not illegal (they make ‘em, they can break ‘em) but it ought to be.
Last Thursday House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke requested—and the Speaker granted—a waiver of the 48-hour notice requirement for an agenda that included a giveaway of $100 million in bonds to unabashedly promote a motorsport center on parkland determined eligible to be declared a National American Battlefield by the National Park Service.
Quite possibly, some members of the public might have wanted to weigh in (or even to learn about) this commitment.
Below is the hearing notice. The date-stamp is at the upper-right: 1:12 p.m. for a 2 p.m. hearing.
That’s 48 minutes notice for a hearing on some important bills.
If you might have been concerned with any of the bills on the agenda, good luck getting into your car, speeding over to the legislature, finding parking (often impossible), getting into the room, and getting heard. But somehow (and it needs to be explained), the principals on a key racetrack bill had enough notice to get their testimony in.
48 minutes notice is not the record
On April 3, Rep. Sylvia Luke, again, then also Chair of the House Finance Committee, requested and was granted a waiver that permitted only 21 minutes public notice for a hearing.
Speaker’s Conflict of interest?
One bill on the railroaded agenda is HB1329, which was introduced by Speaker Souki himself. And then he locked out the public by approving a waiver of the 48-hour notice.
More suspiciously: the public was completely blindsided while the principle beneficiary (Paradise Ohana Automotive Technologies) and their attorneys, were not. The testimony posted on the Capitol website consists entirely of submissions dated March 4 or March 5 by Paradise Ohana, their attorneys at Alston Hunt Floyd & lng, and folks named Grace (George Grace, III identifies himself as a managing member of Paradise Ohana). Another testimony from Paradise Ohana was submitted by Dhevhan Keith Marcelino. How did these people learn about the hearing when the general public was denied notice? Does this amount to special favoritism by members of the House to this organization or to its principals?
Since the public was denied appropriate notice, all the testimony posted was in favor of passage.
Obscuring the public record
Should anyone look back on the legislative record (as might happen in a court case where legislative intent is at issue, for example) it will appear that testimony before the Finance Committee was 100% in favor of issuing the $100 million in special purpose bonds, and that no one objected. It is not possible to deduce that the public was actually excluded from the process. The hearing notice on the Capitol website is minus the date stamp.
The House in particular has practiced this distortion of the public record many times in the past. The late lamented “gas cap,” for example, was killed in a maneuver that withheld an industry-authored amendment from public view until just before the hearing. Disappeared News has documented several other instances over the years.
(Thanks to John Bond for his alert and concern for preserving public parkland, and to the Hawaii Free Press, which was on this issue the same day it happened):
During floor session today (March 5th, 2015) after 1:00 PM, House Finance Chair stood up and requested a waiver of the 48-hour requirement to hear an agenda of bills with just one hour of notice.
In her verbal request to the Speaker of the House, Finance Chair Rep Sylvia Luke failed to demonstrate any “good cause” to request the waiver – a clear violation of House Rule 11.1. The slate of bills can be found at the bottom of this post.
Of particular note is HB527, which is at the top of the list of bills to be heard today. HB527 was supposed to receive two public hearings in the House. The dead bill was resurrected quietly with procedural motions and one of its two hearings were waived. To reiterate, the requirement for HB527’s first hearing was waived, and the second hearing was done with only one hour’s notice.
There effectively was no public hearing on this bill.
[Hawaii Free Press, Total Solar Eclipse, 3/5/2015]