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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)

Sunshine Week 2007: March 11-17

Everyone committed to democracy respects the principle of open government. March 11-17 is "Sunshine Week 2007," where the League of Women Voters and others who support open meetings and open records laws speak out on this topic. A better understanding and fuller implementation of our Sunshine Law strengthens trust between citizens and those who spend our tax dollars.

In Hawaii, major reasons for the Law's inefficiency seem to stem from a lack of knowledge about the Sunshine Law on the part of the general public, government agencies, officials, public board members, and nonprofits. Many stakeholders interpret the Sunshine Law differently, leading to inconsistent implementation. It seems that there is still an absence of a real "culture" of open government.

The word "sunshine" suggests different meanings to different people, and people feel quite differently about it. For some it is a political principle involving a citizen's right to know what officials are doing and how decisions are being made, thus avoiding "smoky backrooms" where deals are made in secret. To others, it stands for a set of procedures that make meeting scheduling and agenda planning burdensome, and which sometimes seems designed to restrict operational efficiency.

Some people think the Sunshine Law fails to clearly define 'transparency in government' and that many decisions and communications are still made in private that the public and other stakeholders are unable to verify. In the absence of an enforcement mechanism, those who ignore the law can get away with doing so.

What can be done? In the first place, Hawaii has no single, cohesive Sunshine law. Instead, there are actually two laws, one pertaining to open records and one to open meetings. Perhaps a single law embodying the principle of the public's right to be able to access information will be important to solving our current problems. Second, we need to provide the Office of Information Practices with the authority to enforce the Sunshine Law. This must include the capacity to impose penalties upon those who ignore it.

Carol Bain

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