Chair Hee, Vice Chair Shimabukuro, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii cannot support HB 2175 HD2 as written. The Standing Committee Report notes that provisions were inserted “to allow and encourage persons with knowledge and expertise necessary to the State to serve as members of temporary groups convened to study an issue, make recommendations, or offer advice to state officers, even where these persons have a professional or financial connection to the subject.” However, we believe the bill has the unintended consequence of exempting task force members from ALL of the Ethics Code provisions, including the gifts and fair treatment provisions.
While we understand the need for and certainly encourage participation by citizens in such task forces and working groups, we strongly urge you not to give what is essentially a blanket exemption to the state Ethics Code to those who provide the legislature with advice and especially who formulate recommendations on possible legislation. As we have testified on the original bill and HD1, we are gravely concerned about the inherent risks of actual, or at the least the perception of, conflict of interest, including undue influence. We want all those who participate in the formulation of public policy, laws and rules to be held to a high standard.
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. We urge you to hold the bill in committee.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.