My name is Jean Aoki, and I am the Legislative Chair for The League of Women Voters of Hawaii. I would like to comment on HB 2404.
This issue has been festering for a very long time. I remember a long and hardly - debated hearing in the early 1990’s. The remark that sticks to my mind even to this day is a member of the UH Board of Regents stating that he and another regent, both living in another county, could not even sit together on the plane going home for fear of violating the sunshine law. My immediate reaction at that time was, “That’s silly. That is over-reaction.”
This is a very complex issue. What action seems common sense may have unintended consequences depending on the interpretation of a particular rule. I have always felt that what we really need is a thorough and comprehensive review of the law including what the present law allows and what it does not. It and other issues would certainly require more time than hearings in conference rooms can provide.
We would suggest that the Legislature provide for a formal conference to take place after this session, inviting representatives of the Legislature, County Councils, Neighborhood Boards, Board of Regents, the Administration, public interest groups, individuals, etc. It could be more than a one-day affair, continuing over two or more weekends It would be a working conference with committees formed focusing on
different perceived problems and issues. It could include information gathering in the beginning, with panels of experts discussing the issues, other panels made up of people who are directly affected like county councilmembers, neighborhood board members, etc. discussing their interpretation of the present law and the problems they see. Then working committees could be formed to study, analyze, and discuss to come up with proposals for amendments to the law and/or rule changes, and present these to the whole conference.
We would suggest that a small task force be formed to plan this conference with people like the OIP Director Les Kondo and Bev Keever of the University of Hawaii who is an expert on this issue.
If this conference comes up with some common understanding especially in the interpretation of what the present law does and does not allow, and proposals that would make clear how the law can be enforced without the confusion it seems to be causing, plus any amendments needed to help observe the spirit of the sunshine law without strangling all communication, it would be worth the time and effort expended on it.
Thank you for this opportunity to share our comments.