First Quarter Edition 2000 Home   Newsletters

Spring 2001

Summer 2001

State League Convention
Flawed Process (Jean Aoki)
Money and Politics (Nikki Love)
President's Message (Maile Bay)
Judiciary Study Committee Receives Grant (Jean Aoki)
Campaign Finance Reform Legislation (Laure Dillon)
Education Committee Report (Mary Anne Raywid)
Health Care Laws and Domestic Violence
Local League News - Honolulu
Local League News - Kauai
Local League News - Hawaii
Coalition Against Legalized Gambling (Grace Furukawa)
Programs Recommended by the Board of Directors
Studies Planned by Local Leagues for 2001-2002
Report of the Nominating Committee

A Flawed Process

With just the agreement of the three chairs of the committees addressing HB 169, the pilot program for the public funding of the election campaigns of candidates for the Honolulu City Council seats, the bill died. It died without any of the other committee members being given the opportunity to vote on it.

The recommendation of the lead chair, Senator Calvin Kawamoto of Transportation, Military Affairs & Government Operations, was to defer. TO DEFER. Very often, committees will defer decision-making to another date to give themselves more time to deliberate on the measure, or to seek additional information, etc. and a vote is not required on this decision to defer to a date certain for decision-making, but decision-making on this particular bill was plain deferred (to eternity?) last session, and again this session. This effectively killed the bill WITHOUT ALLOWING A VOTE BY THE COMMITTEE.

After a hearing, after all the testimonies have been heard, a committee will recess for decision making. After some discussion on each bill, sometimes lengthy, sometimes none at all, the chair will either 1) recommend that the bill be passed, or reported out of committee, and each committee member's vote is recorded 2) recommend that the bill be held in committee (if the bill is not reported out to continue its progress through the legislative process, it is dead) and there is a recorded vote of all the members or 3) announce that the decision making will be deferred to another date, the next day or the day after, etc. but date certain, and there is no vote taken. Apparently, there is a fourth option which was used on our public financing bill, both last session and in this session. The chair just decides to defer the bill, and since it will miss all deadlines, it is dead.

Some years ago, open voting was not part of the committee hearing process. Public discontent with the secretiveness of the process where the chairs just announced the decisions without the open voting now part of the rules of both houses, brought about the change. However, the Senate rules, at least, do not specifically address this issue of the indefinite deferral, but apparently it is a recognized practice. In the case of HB 169 we're left to wonder why this decision was made by the chairs. Were they afraid that they did not have the votes to hold the bill? Of course, we know that many legislators are reluctant to oppose the recommendations of the chairs. This may be an important reason for not wanting to vote. Senator Kawamoto, in A Honolulu Advertiser article of March 26, gives us another reason for using the fourth option. He said, "Some members didn't like the bill and didn't want to take a public vote for fear the vote would become a [campaign issue.]" Well, so much for accountability. Any time one house of the legislature wants to kill a popular bill, it can use this nontransparent way of doing it. No one but the chair needs to take the blame.

Honesty Would Be Respected

I would like to think that if any legislator has valid and defensible reasons for opposing a bill, no matter how popular, the public would respect his/her decision. If before voting, one were to declare one's reservations about the bill, and the public perceives that one's decision was made honestly and fairly after much deliberation and study of the available information, we have got to respect that person's integrity. This has got to be preferable to that fourth option.

(The papers have covered many other issues before the legislature, and while I would like to discuss some of them with you, the above issue was too important so we'll save them for the next issue. The chairs of the subject matter committees will be discussing their own legislative efforts.)

Jean Aoki

First Quarter Edition 2000 Home   Newsletters Summer 2001