Hawaii Supreme Court and Constitutional Requirements for Bills
News Release from Senator Laura Thielen April 24, 2013
There are several Hawaii Court decisions on the Constitutional mandate that the contents of a bill must contain only one subject, and the subject of the bill must be expressed in its title.
I’m reviewing them to prepare for the response to the Petition we recently received, to reject gut and replace and Frankenstein bills. FYI, regarding the response, I only post about matters of public record. Caucus discussion is confidential; private discussions are as well. So I don’t post about my discussions in those settings, and limit comments here to public discussions and my personal perspectives.
I’m still digesting the information from the cases. But I read two things worth sharing now.
One: our Supreme Court has overturned Hawaii laws, and portions of laws, on the ground that the bills violated this Constitutional mandate. However, they have also upheld more laws than they overturned.
Two: while there’s no bright line drawn by the Court, they look at the purpose behind the Amendment when evaluating a complaint. There is a great statement on the purpose that was quoted by the Court:
“It may therefore be assumed as settled that the purpose of these provisions was:
first, to prevent hodge-podge or ‘logrolling’ legislation;
second, to prevent surprise or fraud upon the legislature by means of provisions in the bills of which the titles gave no intimation; and
third, to fairly appraise the people, through such publication of legislative proceedings as is usually made, of the subjects of legislation that are being considered, in order that they may have opportunity of being heard thereon, by petition or otherwise, if they shall so desire.”
Cooley’s Constitutional Limitations.
The third purpose – protecting the public’s right to weigh in on a bill – is well stated. I’m going to cover that more in a later post.
The second purpose – protecting legislators from unwittingly voting for a bill – is less obvious, but recognizes that Legislators may not physically be able to read every amended version of every bill.
I had no idea what the first purpose meant. So I Googled “logrolling.”
“Log rolling is a tactic used by legislators to tack on favored bills to proposed legislation without conducting serious debate on its issues.
It may be accomplished by a legislator agreeing to vote on another legislator’s bill in exchange for the other legislator’s vote on his/her own favored bill. A concession may be made to another party on a less important topic in exchange for that other party’s support on a more vital issue.
Another tactic is to include several sub-bills in one bill when passage of them individually is not possible.”
Hmm. This calls to mind the amendments to HB 252, where over 40 pages on geothermal development was “amended” to a 4-page bill on Native Hawaiian Roll Commission. The original geothermal language was in another bill that had died in Committee. I wrote about this in an earlier post.
We’re going to post the Hawaii Supreme Court cases on the Resource Page in a day or two (my Legislative Aide is out sick right now, so it’ll be after she recovers). In the meantime, thoughts on the topic are welcome.
MORE: Does Our Constitution Prohibit Gut and Replace?
RELATED: Petition Lists 7 Gut and Replace Bills, 11 Frankenstein Bills