April 1995 Home   Newsletters

May 1995

June-July 1995

President's Message: League Lobbies Legislature (Suzanne Meisenzahl)
League Action at the Legislature (Jean Aoki)
Violence Prevention and Education Bill Dies (Pamela Ferguson-Brey & Martha Ross)
Convention Delegates Sought
Restructuring Committee Put on Hold (Jean Aoki)
Letters: Queen's Beach (Jean Aoki & Astrid Monson)
League Reviews Oahu Regional Transportation Plan (Arlene Ellis)
Action Alert
Kudos
Membership
Vote Count Volunteers Needed (Arlene Ellis)

League Action at the Legislature

This was the year that the legislature was expected to address campaign finance reform, ethics enforcement and insurance and workmen's compensation reforms, since the projected shortfall in revenues was not going to allow much in the way of program expansion and new initiatives requiring funding.

With agreement from the state League, we followed closely the bills that dealt with campaign finance reform, ethics enforcement, and access to the state legislative proceedings. At the time of this report, most of the bills are subject to reconciliation in conference committees.

ETHICS

S.B. 1291 and H.B. 112 were the main bills that dealt with enforcement of the state ethics code. The substance of several other shorter bills relating to this topic were eventually incorporated into the bodies of these bills. The intent of these bills are:

  1. To bring sunshine into the ethics enforcement process.

    1. after probable cause of a violation is determined, the charges become public record.
    2. Hearings will be open to the public.
    3. The sanctions by the proper authorities against those found guilty of violations or the decision not to provide sanctions will be matters of public record.

  2. To enhance the Ethic Commission's ability to enforce the Ethics Code.

The main disagreement at this point between the House and Senate version is the statute of limitations. The Senate version allows the commission three years after the discovery of a violation to take appropriate action. The House version allows four years after the violation for the commission to commence these proceedings. (We had urged the extension of the statute of limitations from three to six years if the House version were to be adopted.)

The Senate version of this bill would also discourage the filing of frivolous suits by providing that the Ethics Commission will rule on whether a suit is frivolous or not, and allow a party to sue for recovery of fees and costs incurred in defending against such charges.

Other bills which we supported as time permitted were: one that authorized the Ethics Commission to investigate incomplete financial disclosures and granted the commission the authority to issue late filing fees of $25; and another that provided for timely replacement of commission members whose terms had expired.

PUBLIC ACCESS

Last year, and again this year, we obtained permission from the state board to support the access bills: 1) one to fund the access room and 2) to fund the telecasting of legislative proceedings. We also supported the funding of the community television stations on the neighbor islands to buy the necessary equipment to enable there to telecast the taped proceedings. Because of the state's poor fiscal condition, we have yet to see if the funding of the limited telecasting of legislative proceedings will be saved. The funding of the access room seems assured. The ultimate goal is gavel-to-gavel coverage of entire legislative proceedings.

We also testified on bills relating to telecommunications to urge requirements for universal access at affordable rates and to preserve industry-subsidized access for individuals, organizations, libraries and schools, such as is provided by the cable industry through 'Olelo.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE

HB 2094 and SB 1951 on campaign spending reform, each consisting of more than 50 pages, were introduced simultaneously by both houses in the legislature. We addressed only a few of the many issues submitted by the Campaign Spending Commission:

  1. Requiring contractors who received $450,000 or more in government contracts over an election period to file a report with the Commission. We testified that perhaps these contractors should be prohibited from making contributions to candidates, as counties currently do.

  2. Limiting campaign contributions in non-election years. We suggested that to level the playing field for challengers, perhaps fund raising should be prohibited in non-election years.

  3. We agreed that voluntary spending limits be established by candidates.

  4. We suggested that partial public financing of elections include indirect financing, such as voters' guides, TV/radio spots, etc.

  5. We suggested increasing eligible public funds for Board of Education candidates, who need it most.

  6. We suggested that political parties should not contribute funds to candidates seeking non-partisan offices.

OTHER ISSUES...

In addressing another bill, we questioned whether the Judiciary should use voter lists in choosing jurors, when driver's licenses and tax returns cover most of the eligible citizens. We noted that some eligible voters resist voter registration with claims of undue imposition into their lives.

Following League's national policy on encouraging progressive over regressive taxation, we testified against reducing or eliminating state tax credits for low income families and suggested instead that credits for families with incomes below $40,000 be eliminated, and that the graduated credits below that level be raised considerably.

We supported a concurrent resolution calling for a visitor carrying capacity of the Waikiki Special Design District (WSDD). We think that before the Waikiki Master Plan can be intelligently addressed and before any changes are made to the WSDD regulations, it is essential that the study be undertaken and completed. The resolution died in both houses.

At the City Council level, we are following two ethics bills: Bill 7, which provides for civil fines for the late filing of required financial disclosures and Bill 17, which allows the County Ethics Commission more discretion in publishing advisory opinions in order to facilitate public disclosure of unethical conduct.

Jean Aoki
Legislative Action Chair

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