President's Message (Jacqueline Kido)
Call to Council
Local League News - Honolulu
Local League News - Hawai'i Island
Local League News - Kauai League
Education Committee Meeting
LWV-Hawaii Proposed Budget 1996-1997
Viewpoint on Water (Martha Black)
League of Women Voters
Honolulu League Annual Meeting
In the News
At the time of this report, bills passed by each house have crossed over to the other house and hearings have just begun. This has not been a good year for ethics and open government bills, never mind direct democracy.
As expected, the initiative bill was bottled up in committee and a bill that would have proposed amending the state constitution to provide for optional referendum died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. We testified in favor of this bill. (Interesting to note that the House wanted to put a gambling measure on the ballot for a voter referendum but was advised by the attorney general that this would be unconstitutional.)
Ethics Bill Buried
None of the seven bills introduced on behalf of the State Ethics Commission were even heard. One would have required lobbyists to file income disclosure statements with the SEC, disclosing the source and amount of all incomes received by the lobbyists for the preceding calendar with fines assessed for late filing. Another would have required the members of powerful state boards and commissions to file public financial interests disclosure statements. At present they are only required to file confidential disclosure statements seen only by the SEC.
Two bills submitted last year and automatically carried over to this legislative session again were not heard. They provide for fines for those who file their financial interests disclosure forms late. Last year, a similar measure was passed by the Honolulu city council covering city and county officials. Carolyn Stapleton of the Honolulu Ethics Commission revealed problems created by late and non-filers, and the council adopted a system of fines to correct the situation. To date, the measure seems to have accomplished its goal-no more necessity for second and third notices.
There were a couple of bills introduced that would have eroded the authority of the state ethics commission. Strong protests by Director Mollway and others kept the bills from surfacing.
Bills Relating to Public Notices
There were several bills related to public notices. While commendably including electronic means for the provision of government notices to the public, some of the measures would have supplanted the print media as the carrier of notices. One called for the designation of an "official state newspaper" that would carry all the notices. Another could have required the "official newspaper" to be one with a minimum circulation of 250,000. Only Mid Week, a weekly paper distributed free of charge to O'ahu residents, would have qualified except that it is not distributed on the neighbor islands at this time. One would give different agencies the authority to disseminate public notices using alternative methods. Another allowed the state to post notices through electronic means instead of through the printed media.
Our concern regarding the four original bills was for the rights of the larger segment of the population who are either not familiar with computers or do not have access to them. We also feared that designating one news-paper as the "official newspaper" would limit general access to legal notices. Some of our concerns on all four bills have been addressed in S.B. 3041, S.D. I , the remaining bill which now carries some of the features of the other three.
Instead of one paper of general circulation being designated the official paper, now a qualified newspaper consortium would be selected through a system of bidding for the contract. To qualify for bidding, a consortium would need "the aggregate print and electronic network capabilities to achieve effective statewide distribution of legal notices. The winning consortium would be required to publish all state legal notices once in the consortium's print media and continuously on-line by means of electronic media such as Hawaii FYI or the Internet." A consortium could be made up of (a) a daily O'ahu and neighbor island newspaper publications, (b) a consortium of weekly newspaper publications in combination with other regional newspapers or other publications, or (c) any combination of the groupings in (a) and (b).
Our concern remains the access of information for the greatest number of our citizens.
There were several OIP (Office of Informational Practices) measures introduced. One would have repealed the Uniform Information Practices Act and another would have abolished the OIP. Both are dead. Another provides for certain fees to be paid for various costs connected with the copying of documents, retrieval, and, in certain cases, the sharing of production costs.
H.B.1866, H.D. 1 has the potential of seriously eroding the sunshine law. Among other things it would amend the law that provides for all government boards to hold private discussions if each participant submits a written summary to be included on the agenda of the next meeting and no vote and no commitment to vote is made or sought during the discussion, This bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
We are supporting transfer of the responsibility of maintaining the public access room to the Legislative Reference Bureau. S.B. 3268 also appropriates funds to the bureau for year-round funding of the access room, broadcasts of legislative proceedings, and the legislative internet project, and establishes a joint legislative access committee to oversee and review the bureau's operations in these areas.
The dollar amount has been taken out of S.B. 641, S.D. 2 that appropriates money to the neighbor island public access organizations to purchase equipment for the taping and re-cablecasting of legislative proceedings. We intend to press for refunding the original $62,000.
H.B. 4031 relating to 'Ohana Zoning originally would have impacted all counties, but has been amended to an H.D. 2 addressing primarily the leeward coast of O'ahu. We continue to oppose state interference in county zoning matters and their attempts to exempt second residences on lots from all county zoning, building, and other ordinances as well as all state regulations.
We addressed a bill on progressive taxation recommending incremental increases in the tax rate for taxpayers in higher income levels.
H.B. 2527, relating to school based violence prevention, passed with amendments out of the Joint Committee on Education and Higher Education but was never scheduled in the Judiciary Committee. On the Senate side S.B. 2151 passed out of both the Joint Education and Judiciary Committees but never got out of Ways and Means. LWVHI is concerned about the enforcement of domestic abuse laws by the criminal justice system and how this impacts the safety of victims in our community. In addition to advocacy at the legislature, we have begun a domestic violence court observer project that will concentrate on monitoring proceedings.