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Sunday, April 13, 2014
Conference Committee: Let the Games Begin!
By News Release @ 3:05 AM :: 3610 Views :: Hawaii State Government

Let the Games Begin!

News Release from Senator Laura Thielen April 10, 2014

Because I’m not a Committee Chair, I have the time to observe Conference Committee and post about it.

Even powerless legislators have some perks.

But seriously, Conference Committee is a very interesting time to observe the Legislature, Legislators and the advocates who swarm around us now.  Because it is such an intense, high stakes period, it reveals a lot about the process and the people.

For example, the seasoned veterans are not phased by much, because they’ve seen it all.  People with less experience, or ones who tend to micromanage, get tense and easily upset by public scrutiny.  Bullies get pushier; dealers posture; trouble-makers know just when and where to light the match; and the ones who play fair tend to focus on what they control, move bills forward promptly and don’t get sucked into the drama.

Conference is an insider’s game.  No testimony is taken in Conference Committee hearings; most negotiations take place outside of the hearing; usually only the first hearing is published, with subsequent hearings being announced at each hearing.  This is a fast and furious period where we’re dealing with several hundred bills getting down to the final form.

But, as Winston Churchill reportedly said, democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried – or something to that effect.  If you have a better process, by all means lay it out in the comment section, and we can advocate for improvements.

Bills to watch this Conference period include:

  • HCDA-Kakaako (one bill allowing residential development on Kakaako Makai, the other limiting height and a few other items to rein in HCDA on Kakaako Mauka);
  • Reducing the Minimum School Instructional Hours established in law;
  • Campaign Finance;
  • Minimum Wage;
  • Multiple High Tech Park bills (creating mini-HCDAs);
  • Bills identified by the League of Women Voters as “Gut and Replace;” and
  • Allowing solar facilities on 100% of our second-best agricultural soils.

I’m writing this at home and don’t have bill numbers handy.  But I’ll post more on these and other matters over the next couple weeks.

For the newbies, Conference Committee is the “sudden death overtime” of the legislative session.  Bills have made it through both the House and Senate, but the sides haven’t agreed to the final language.  Click here for an explanation of the process.

Click here for instructions on how to follow a bill in Conference Committee.


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