Monday, August 20, 2018
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Friday, April 27, 2018
Let’s restore accountability at the Capitol
By Keli'i Akina PhD @ 6:05 PM :: 1070 Views :: Ethics, Hawaii State Government

Let’s restore accountability at the Capitol

by Keli’i Akina PhD, Grassroot Institute, April 26, 2018

In theory, the legislative session is a time when complex issues can be hashed out in full view of the public.

Citizens are free to testify and offer feedback to legislators about proposed bills. Legislators can research and debate the possible impact. Hearings are held. Compromises are found.

In theory, the process helps protect us from legislation hastily composed or with secret agendas and possible unintended consequences.

In theory.

In reality, you only need look at how transparency goes by the wayside at the end of the session.

Consider the state budget bill.

We know that Gov. David Ige asked for an extra $50 million to help meet payments for the state’s unfunded liabilities. What was less clear until recently is that the state is sitting on a multi-year surplus. However, it’s only an “unofficial” surplus because it wasn’t submitted as part of the governor’s financial plan.

But let’s not get mired in the semantics of bureaucracy. The money is either there or it’s not. If it is, what is the Legislature planning to do with it? The Hawaii Constitution says any excess revenues must be either given back as a tax refund or credit, deposited into an emergency fund or used to pay down state obligations.

You would think that how to allocate the unofficial surplus would be a public matter, but it has been surprisingly difficult for the public to get any information at this stage. The budget proceedings tend to be very opaque, and are neither broadcast nor recorded. In essence, the only way for the public to learn what is in the budget bill is for the Legislature to approve it.

Even worse is the notorious practice of gut-and-replace. Every year, Hawaii legislators take advantage of a vaguely titled bill to swap out its contents with an entirely different measure they want to see advance. Thus, a bill that has passed one chamber — going through public testimony and debate — can end up being transformed in the other chamber into an entirely different bill. That amended bill then moves along to a conference committee and passage, immune from the need for more hearings and public comment.

And gut-and-replace isn’t unusual. It typically happens more than a dozen times every session.

For example, in the current session HB1985 began in the House as a bill about zoning, land use, and affordable housing. Then it went to the Senate where it was transformed into a bill about the Mauna Kea Management Authority.

HB2304 started as a bill about industrial hemp. Now it’s an appropriation for capital improvements in East Maui.

HB2471 started as a proposal to regulate video games. It became a licensing bill aimed at “payday” loans.

The practice of gut-and-replace is a repudiation of transparency and citizen involvement. It allows legislators to advance pet projects without subjecting them to fair scrutiny or the full legislative process.

Yet, the practice is so common that the League of Women Voters and Common Cause Hawaii created the “Rusty Scalpel Award” for the bill that makes the greatest leap in subject without  constitutionally required legislative review. In 2017, that award went to a bill that started as a vehicle to lower income tax rates for the poor but ended up as a $1 million appropriation for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

The real damage here isn’t to Hawaii’s budget or tax system, though they’ve unquestionably suffered as well. More important is how these practices have destroyed public trust in government.

The purpose of transparency and legislative review is to keep government accountable to the public. Through secretive budget hearings and gut-and-replace tactics, the Hawaii Legislature instead has signaled it doesn’t care about the public, and fostered the notion that it doesn’t need to play by any rules.  

What we need is a show of integrity and restraint from our policymakers.

Open up the legislative process. Consider passing rules that would prevent gut-and-replace tactics.

This isn’t just about getting more sunlight into those “smoke-filled” rooms. It’s about making our legislators accountable to the people they are supposed to be serving — all of us who live here in Hawaii.

E hana kakou (Let’s work together!),

Keli'i Akina, Ph.D.

President/CEO

Links

TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote

2aHawaii

808 Silent Majority

808 State Update AM940

ABCDEFG Blog

ACA Signups Hawaii

ACCE

ALEC

Alliance Defending Freedom

Aloha Conservative Alliance

Aloha Life Advocates

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

American Mothers of Hawaii

AMVETS-Hawaii

AntiPlanner

Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Audit The Rail

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Better Hawaii 

Blaisdell Memorial Project

Broken Trust

CAFR Hawaii

Castaway Conservative

Children's Alliance Hawaii

Children's Rights Institute

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Citizens for Recall

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

Coffee Break

Conservative Forum for Hawaii

CSIS Pacific Forum

DAR Hawaii

DeedySupport.com

DVids Hawaii

E Hana Kakou Kelii Akina

E Māua Ola i Moku o Keawe

Farmers For Choice Hawaii

FIRE

Fix Oahu!

Follow the Money Hawaii

Frank in Hawaii

Front Page Magazine

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Get Off Your Butts!

God, Freedom, America

Grassroot Institute

Habele.org

Hawaii Aganst Assisted Suicide

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Credit Union Watch

Hawaii Crime Victims' Rights

Hawaii Crop Improvement Association

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defending Marriage

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Families for Educational Choice

Hawaii Family Advocates

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii Firearm Community

Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance

Hawaii Future Project

Hawaii Gathering of Eagles

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii March for Life

Hawaii Meth Project

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Right to Life -- Big Island

Hawaii Right to Life -- Oahu

Hawaii Senate Informer

Hawaii Shield Law Coalition

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together

Hawaii Votes

Heritage Foundation

HI Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

HIEC.Coop

Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Homeless Crisis

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

Horns of Jericho Blog

House Minority Blog

House Republican Caucus YouTube

HPACC

Hump Day Report

Hunting, Farming and Fishing Assoc.

I Vote Hawaii

If Hawaii News

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

Iowa Meets Maui

Jackson v Abercrombie

Jihad Watch

Judgepedia Hawaii

July 4 in Hawaii

Kahle v New Hope

Kakaako Cares

Kau TEA Party

Kauai Co GOP

Keep Hawaii's Heroes

KeyWiki

Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Malulani Foundation

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Mauna Kea Recreational Users Group

MentalIllnessPolicy.org

Middle East Forum--The Legal Project

Mililani Conservatives for Change

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

Muslim Brotherhood in America

NAMI Hawaii

NARTH

Natatorium.org

National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

National Wind Watch

New Zeal

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Northwest Economic Policy Seminar

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

Now What I Really Think

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport

ObamaCare Abortion Hawaii

OHA Lies

Ohana Policy Group

OurFutureHawaii.com

Pacific Aviation Museum

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Pritchett Cartoons 

Pro-GMO Hawaii

P.U.E.O.

RailRipoff.com

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Republican Party -- Hawaii State

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

Salvage The Rail

Save the Plastic Bag

School Choice in Hawaii

SenatorFong.com

SIFE Remington

SIFE W. Oahu 

Sink the Jones Act

Smart About Marijuana--Hawaii

St Marianne Copenull

State Budget Solutions Hawaii

State Policy Network

Statehood for Guam

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

TEA Party Maui

TFB Micronesia

The Harriet Tubman Agenda

The Long War Journal

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Truth About Trade & Technology - Hawaii

UCC Truths

Union Members Know Your Rights

United Veterans Hawaii

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

Valor in the Pacific

VAREP Honolulu

Waagey.org

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii

Yes2TMT