Chair Hee, Vice Chair Shimabukuro, members of the Committee on Judiciary and Labor,
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii is totally opposed to the proposed SD1 of SB671.
What was a very good ethics bill which provided much needed transparency to lobbying activities by tightening up on required financial disclosures, requiring timely reporting of campaign donations made during the legislative sessions, and disclosure of contractual relationships between lobbyists and legislators which provide income to legislators among other things, was gutted and replaced by provisions that are mostly unacceptable.
Chapter 84 – 11 Gifts. (a) begins commendably with the inclusion of the clause, or facilitate the solicitation on behalf of another person to actions that legislators or their employees may not employ to ask for gifts in the form of things, money, entertainment, travel, etc., but soon exempts any gift that “does not exceed $200 in value from any entitiy...................so long as the value of the gifts received from that entity or principal does not exceed $_______ in the aggregate in any calendar year”. From our past experiences, we cannot support any blanks within bills.
The intentions for the different passages sound so good, until we come to the exceptions and the exemptions ---- like the part trying to define what would not be defined as honoraria which are generally not allowed.
The purpose in having a Code of Ethics is to prevent corruption in government, a problem that is so prevalent in governments all over the world and even, we hope to a lesser extent, in many of our states and counties. Even the giving of aid to nations that are suffering from hunger because of drought or earthquake damage, etc. are hampered by the theft of so much of the money by corrupt government officials.
For government to work, people must have faith in the integrity of its elected officials and the culture of honesty and belief in government's mission by the employees who implement the policies set by our elected officials. And giving mixed messages in our laws designed to make ethics a shining principle of an incorruptible government is not the way
Section (e) on page 6 of this bill states, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit, approve, or prohibit the proper jurisdiction of the ethics commission.” The League of Women Voters believes, that rather than trying to itemize every allowable and every prohibited act, limit the bill to objectives, intent of the legislature, broad policies, and leave the minutae for the Ethics Commission to interpret as to their appropriateness in advancing ethical behavior.
We ask you to pass the original S.B. 671 and give more thought to the passage on “gifts” at a later date. Thank you for this opportunity to address these two bills, SB 671 S.D. 1 and SB 671.