Chair Yamashita, Vice Chair Tokioka, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii opposes HB 2175, which exempts from the conflict of interest law under the state ethics code a person serving on a task force or working group established by the legislature for the purpose of recommending possible legislation.
While we understand the need for and certainly encourage participation by citizens in such task forces and working groups, there is no sound reason for such an exemption. We are gravely concerned about the inherent risks of actual or at the least the perception of conflict of interest, including undue influence and use of public office for personal gain. In fact, from a citizen's perspective, this proposed exemption flies in the face of good sense and simply does not pass the smell test. It would not only set a bad tone, it could well start things down a slippery slope. In these times of badly-eroded public trust in government, it does not make sense to build in loopholes that are counter to openness and transparency.
The purpose in having a Code of Ethics is to prevent corruption in government. Every step forward in protecting against corruption helps improve public confidence in government. For government to work people must have faith in the integrity of its elected officials and the culture of honesty. Excluding those who provide the legislature with advice or comments, but especially who formulate recommendations on possible legislation is a step backward. We want all those who participate in the formulation of public policy, laws and rules to be held to a high standard. We urge you to hold the bill in committee.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.