March 1994 Home   Newsletters

April 1994

May 1994

President's Message (Arlene Ellis)
Vote Count Alert
Testimony before the State Legislature
Kakaako Makai Plan
Importance of Legislative Access (Jean Aoki)
Action Alert - Firearms Control Legislation
Action Alert - Public Access Legislation
Annual Meeting

Importance of Legislative Access

When you incubate a chicken egg, you expect a nice chick to hatch – not an ugly ducklinq

One of the Leagues' main missions is the promotion of public participation in government. We believe this to be a necessary ingredient for the proper functioning of a democratic form of government.

Pubic access to information during the legislative process is vital for full, intelligent participation by the public. The Public Access Room and the telecasting of hearings and the House and Senate sessions make it possible for the citizens to track the course of bills that interest them and to input their ideas and positions via testimony, letters, phone calls, etc.

There are those who believe that once having voted for the few to represent us in the legislative branch of government, those few should be left to represent us without further input from the public. This was quite apparent in the recent maneuvering to get a piece of legislation through the House that would affect mandatory leasehold conversion.

The House Judiciary committee completely gutted a bill on Eminent Domain, H.B. 1258, which, according to the public notice, provides that land condemned for a public purpose shall be used for that purpose within 8 years or else that land shall be offered to the original owner." The chair gutted this bill, and in its place substituted the contents of H.B 3567 which was not on the agenda. This bill provides that when the mandatory conversion price is settled in Court, under certain circumstances, the lessee would have to pay the lessor's attorneys' fees or a portion of it depending on the settlement. The only part of the original bill left was the title and the bill number. This happened on the last day that bills could be considered by committees in the originating body to make it for the crossover of bills to the other house.

The House Judiciary Chair had H.B. 3567 in his possession. If he felt that it had any merit, why didn't he place it on the agenda? We cannot believe that it was an oversight, not with Representative Peters, its author supporting it. Was it a way of sneaking a bill through without evoking the firestorm of public protest that placing it on the agenda would have created?

Representative Thielen's protests on the House floor at second reading of the bill alerted the public and the Judiciary chair office was bombarded with protesting calls. This prompted the chair to announce that he was pulling the bill.

At the next House session, the last day for House action on any bills before the crossover, Representative Tom moved to recommit the bill, which would mean its natural death due to the lack of time to schedule a hearing for it.

What was most disturbing about the debate that followed was the ignoring of the circumvention of the process of considering bills by so many of the legislators who opposed recommitting the bill and insisting that they should be discussing the merits of the bill. The merits or lack of merits was not the issue at that point. The motion was to recommit the bill, the only action acceptable under the circumstances.

But, one by one, legislators rose to oppose the recommittal. Representative Peters gave a dramatic speech. He was reminded twice by the Speaker to speak to the motion, and clearly should have been ruled out of order. When a legislator rose to question the need to give the public notice since they were elected to represent the public, and implied that public input was unnecessary, and yet another legislator rose to announce that he would be voting against the recommittal, it seemed that the motion would be rejected. At this point, the Speaker declared a recess and the House Democrats went into caucus.

When they returned, by voice vote, the motion to recommit H. B. 1258, HD 1 was approved.

Jean Aoki

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