Winter 2006 Home   Newsletters

Spring 2007

May 2007

President's Message (Sue Irvine)
State Convention on April 28 (JoAnn Maruoka)
Sunshine Week 2007: March 11-17 (Carol Bain)
League Stand on Education Bills (Mary Anne Raywid)
Candidates for 2007 State Board
At the Legislature (Jean Aoki)
LWV-Hawaii Budget 2007-2008 (Jackie Parnell)
DC Voting Rights Fact Sheet
Chapter Reports - Hawaii (Marianna Scheffer)
Chapter Reports - Honolulu (Piilani Kaopuiki)
Chapter Reports - Kauai (Carol Bain)
Hawaii Coalition against Legalized Gambling (Grace Furukawa)

At the Legislature

We're at the point when bills that need to go to the money committees, Ways and Means for the Senate and Finance for the House, needed to be moved by the prior committees to which the bills were referred and sent on or held in one of these committees or deferred without a date specific for decision-making which essentially means they will not become law this session unless resurrected along the way.

Some of the bills we have testified on are listed below. Unless held or deferred indefinitely, we cannot predict the fate of the bills.

All of League's testimony can be found on our web site: lwv-hawaii.com

Access & Transparency

Most of the Access bills will be heard tomorrow so we will reserve these for the next issue.

HB 733 Relating to Administrative Rules

Would require disclosure and internet posting of certain tax information to the public by the Dept. of Taxation---disputes settled by the Attorney General in tax cases and settled amounts, penalties and interest imposed.

This would be a deterrent for those who under-report or otherwise attempt to evade their full share of taxes. This bill lends transparency and enforcement to the problem of the "tax gap" and would encourage compliance while reassuring tax payers that tax laws are being enforced as well as is possible.

Bill was deferred. League supported HB 733.

HB 1098 Relating to Procurement; Exemption for Public, Educational and Government Cable Access (PEG)

Would exempt PEG stations commonly called public access stations from state procurement laws.

It has been League's concern that some of our public access stations have not been complying wholly with our sunshine law, FIRS 92. Hawaii's court ruled that PEG stations need not comply with the sunshine law because they are not providing a government function. In our view, this would seem to preclude allowing the PEG stations exemption from the state procurement laws. This means that these stations would have to compete with other potential providers for the contract to run these stations.

Bill appears dead. League opposes bill.

SB 1084 Relating to Legislative Proceedings on the Internet

Would provide for the webcasting of legislative proceedings so that we may all view the hearings and floor sessions plus informational briefings at times convenient for us.

Passed third reading in the Senate. Sent to House for action. League supports bill

SB 1083 Relating to the Legislative Broadcast Program

Would provide adequate funding to wire all State Capitol conference rooms used for public hearings, the capitol auditorium and both chambers to allow for video broadcasts. It would eliminate the need for current manual installations by a contractor, and would improve public access capabilities.

Passed third reading in the Senate. Sent to House for action. League supports bill.

HB 842 Relating to Legislative Access

Would require that each legislator's voting record be available online on every measure on which a vote is taken in committee or on the floor of the chambers.

Committee on Legislative Management deferred this measure. League supported bill.

Constitutional Amendments

SB 947 Relating to Executive Agencies.

Would change the process so that the Senate's failure to reject or act on an appointment to any office, including justices and certain judges, within 30 days would be deemed to be a rejection of the appointment. Currently, failure to act on an appointment in timely fashion is deemed to have given consent.

League feels that every appointee deserves consideration and his/her qualifications aired and Senators held accountable for their actions.

Committee on Judiciary and Labor recommended that the measure be held. League opposed bill.

Drug Policy

SB 1119 Relating to Public Health

Would appropriate funding for a state drug policy study in order to provide the legislature with information to develop a comprehensive drug policy.

Clearly our present drug policy is not working to stem the illegal use of drugs. Referred to Ways and Means Committee for funding. League supports bill.

Elections

HB 1133 Relating to Election Day Registration

Would provide for registration on Election Day, requiring stricter proof of residency to prevent abuse of the system.

The Help America Vote Act requires the availability of provisional ballots for voters whose names do not appear in the poll books at each precinct polling site. Election Day Registration would cut down on the use of provisional ballots, and would increase voter participation.

Referred to Ways and Means. League supports bill.

HB 1135 Making an Appropriation for the Elections Office

Would appropriate funds for the Election Commission, the body that oversees the Office of Elections, employs the chief election officer, holds public hearings and holds hearings on complaints and allegations of fraud, etc.

Currently, the Office of Elections funds the commissioner's travels and other needs of the commission from its own funds. The appropriated funds would be expended by the Office of Elections on behalf of the commission.

Passed second reading, referred to Committee on Finance. League supports bill.

Ethics

HB 1084 Relating to the Legislature

Provides that business interns, experienced business employees, loaned by business entities and other organizations to the legislature as interns or temporary staff are subject to the State Code of Ethics.

At first glance, this seemed like a perfectly reasonable provision until one realized that the practice of embedding business executives and other employees by businesses in legislative offices as interns or temporary workers has been thoroughly criticized and rejected by the public. This bill would legitimize this practice.

Opposition to the bill was in full force at this hearing, and Chair Magaoay of the Committee on Legislative Management acknowledged the opposition and recommended that the bill be held. League opposed this measure.

SB 1957 Relating to the Code of Ethics

Provides that appointees of all boards and commissions are required to file public disclosure statements of their financial interests.

There are two types of financial disclosures----public and confidential. Confidential disclosures are filed with the Ethics Commission but are not accessible to the public. There are all kinds of boards from committees to authorities, some with adjudicatory and/or major policy-making powers, to those that are merely advisory and even these vary in their degree of influence on the final decision-making bodies. Requiring members of all of these boards to file public financial disclosure statements would discourage many citizens from serving on boards, especially those with little or no influence or powers.

SB 1957 was amended to limit public disclosures only to certain boards, and SB 1957, SD1 passed second reading and is on its way to third reading. League opposed the original bill but supports the amended bill.

Government

SB 1926 Relating to Whistleblowers' Protection.

Would expand the protections provided to public employees who report violations of the law, waste and gross misconduct, incompetence, or inefficiency.

Workers are in the best position to notice improper, illegal or wrong practices by employers or other employees and are the best source of identifying these abuses. But the very likely overt and covert retaliatory actions against them make it very difficult for workers to report these violations.

The Judiciary and Labor Committee deferred this measure. League supported bill.

Gambling

HB 1836

Would amend definition of gambling to clarify that purchase of sweepstakes entry that also provides nominal non-gambling value constitutes gambling even if sweepstakes entry can be obtained without payment of consideration.

This refers to the practice of selling sweepstakes game cards in vending machines that typically cost $1 each and can be used, say, to make a brief long distance telephone call. It is another scheme to circumvent Hawaii's policy of not legalizing gambling in Hawaii and this bill clarifies that although there is nominal value in the one or two minute phone call, this is a form of gambling.

The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill with amendments to exclude from this bill's intent, many organizations' practice of holding raffles for fund-raising. League supports bill.

Health

SB 905 Relating to Health

Would have moved Hawaii's medical marijuana program from the Narcotics Enforcement Division of the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health and made other changes to improve the program. We contend that this is a health program, that the transfer would recognize it as such and remove any stigma that might be associated with the use of marijuana for health purposes. The three committee chairs involved -- Health, David Ige; Judiciary, Clayton Hee; and Public Safety, Will Espero -- while sympathizing with supporters of this bill did not approve the transfer, but said that the law would need to be amended to minimize the role of doctors in the application process to merely attesting to the severity of a patient's discomfort and noting the probability that the use of marijuana might ease the discomfort, while not actually prescribing the use of marijuana in order to protect them from federal prosecution.

League supports the bill. Senate Draft 1 was passed out by the three committees, and it now goes to the Senate floor for a vote.

SB 1117 Relating to Health/Sexual Health Education

Requires recipients of state funding that provide sexual health education to provide medically accurate, factual information that is age-appropriate and includes education on both abstinence and contraception.

SB 1110 Relating to Health/Emergency Contraception

Requires a hospital, including a public health facility, to provide information and emergency contraception to a sexual assault victim; requires training/ includes penalties.

Both of these bills passed the Senate and now move over to the House.

Human Resources

SB 1731 Relating to Bridge to Hope

Would appropriate funds for the Bridge to Hope education in Department of Human Services Program and its efforts to help fund post -secondary education for all its clients.

Bill was passed on to Ways and Means. League supports SB 1731.

Judiciary

HB 1151 Relating to Sentencing

Would impose a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for certain theft crimes committed against victims 60 years of age or older.

We argued that one-size fits all sentencing policies are too inflexible to always lead to fair decisions in sentencing. Mandatory minimum sentencing is among many attempts by legislative bodies to narrow the jurisdiction and the independence of courts.

Judiciary Committee Chair recommended that the bill be deferred. League opposed bill.

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Testifying for League: Mary Anne Raywid, Education Committee Chair; Grace Furukawa, League liaison with Voter Owned Elections and Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, Suzanne Meisenzahl, Women's Health & Safety Committee Chair; Carol Bain, PEG Study Committee Co-Chair; Jackie Parnell, Housing Committee Chair; JoAnn Maruoka, Legislative Committee member; Jean Aoki, Legislative Committee Chair.

Jean Aoki

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