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LWV-Hawaii Legislative Testimony

SB 660

Relating to
Public Meetings (Sunshine Law)

Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) - chair: Ige, vice chair: Kim
House Committee on Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs (JHW) - chair: Hanabusa, vice chair: Hee

Saturday, January 1, 2005,

Testifier: Jean Aoki, Legislative Chair, LWV-Hawaii

Click here to view SB660

The objective of the Sunshine Law is not to make life difficult for members of boards, commissions, legislative bodies, etc. It is to make sure that the sharing of information and deliberations on the issues on the agenda are done in public so that the press and members of the public present can understand the reasoning that lead to the final decision on any issue.

This is meant to prevent the discussions and decision-making in private meetings followed by pro forma public meetings where the official votes are taken. Generally in the latter meetings, the deliberations would not be as extensive unless there are strong disagreements by even a small group intent on changing the minds of the majority.

Generally what the public gets is an abbreviated discussion. Why would anyone who has gone through hours of discussion and debate want to repeat the whole thing word for word or with the same intensity when the votes have been determined already.

Many years ago, this law came up for review, and I remember a member of the Board of Regents making the remark that on the plane trip back home from a board meeting, the two from the same island were afraid to sit together because they would be seen as discussing the past meeting or the decisions made at that meeting. I thought, we need some common sense in interpreting the law. Also, subsequent discussions on the same issue at the legislature and at other meetings have me convinced that we really do need some forum for a thorough discussion of the whole law and its interpretations. What’s possible and what is not possible under that law and are there parts of it that need revision. Let’s involve board members, the press, and the general public and let common sense prevail. I do object to piece-meal changes that erode the law.


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