PDHblog This is a place for members of Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i to express their thoughts, hopes and exasperations about political happenings.

February 19, 2007

Clean Elections bill hijacked!

Filed under: 4Public Financing,HI Politics — BobSchacht @ 10:39 pm

The following blog was posted on DailyKos, and gives us discouraging news. As it is now, both the House bill and the Senate bill have been changed. PDH is contacting the VOE team to figure out how to proceed.

Bob Schacht

Hawaii state Senate breaks its own rules to kill Clean Elections bill

by LarryHI [Subscribe]

Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 04:29:02 PM PST

Proponents of clean elections have been working hard in Hawaii, as elsewhere across the country, to get bills through the state legislature. This year looked very promising. Both House and Senate bills advanced nicely.That is, until this morning. By apparently breaking the Senate’s own rules, a committee chair has gutted the bill and replaced it with unrelated text.Can this be the end? No. The movement is too strong to die now.

If this deed is allowed to stand, hundreds of people who have been working to bring clean elections to Hawaii for so many years will be cheated out of their hard work.The way this hijack is carried out in Hawaii is the committee chair, in this case Senator Clayton Hee, Chair of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee performs radical surgery on the bill. It’s called a “gut and replace” operation. This completely removes its contents and replaces it with text taken from an unrelated bill.”Gut and replace” is one of the abuses that reformers are trying to drive out of the Hawaii legislature. It is a technique that can be used by a chair to discard a bill the chair doesn’t like, even if the public is 100% behind the bill. “Gut and replace” is by its nature antidemocratic. The bill that was passed was not the bill that was heard by the committee.

Chairs get away with it because the public generally doesn’t know what has happened. But times have changed. Starting last session, this sort of activity is not likely to go unreported.

Perhaps Sen. Hee overlooked Senate Rule 54. Bills: Amendments:

Rule 54, line 2:
(2) The fundamental purpose of any amendment to a bill shall be germane to the
fundamental purpose of the bill.

That’s right, there seems to be a rule that this can’t be done.

The sordid details

SB1068 is the Clean Elections bill. Here is the description as of yesterday:

Creates comprehensive public funding for elections to the state house of representatives; establishes qualifications, limitations on funding and use of funds, reporting requirements, amends chapter 11, part XII to reflect changes

SB1549 is unrelated. The description of this bill is:

Description: Revises various campaign spending reporting deadlines. Amends definitions of “contribution” and “expenditure”. Increases amount that may be spent per voter for state and county elections and adds prosecuting attorney as an election subject to spending limitation per voter.

As you see, there is no relationship between the two bills. SB1549 was never heard. That’s right. Not enough interest in the legislature to earn it a hearing. It still hasn’t been heard, because the text was snuck in at decisionmaking time, after all public testimony is complete.

There has been quite a bit of testimony on the original Clean Elections bill. It has been one of the hottest topics so far this session, with hopes high that this could be the year that Hawaii might join other states that already have passed similar bills. Candidates and incumbents in those states can choose to give up corporate funding and demonstrate to voters that they are independent of special interests. And those who choose to run “clean” are winning their contests.

Whether Hawaii joins the other “clean election” states should be decided by vote in the legislature (Hawaii doesn’t have an initiative process). Hijacking the bill is not something that will be easily tolerated by the voters.

Supporters and opponents alike should get a straight up or down vote by committee members on the bill that was heard. That would be democracy. It’s the norm, the usual, and what we expect from our state legislators.

“Gut and replace” must stop. If the public doesn’t stop it, other bills will suffer the same fate. Senate president Colleen Hanabusa can be reached at senhanabusa@Capitol.hawaii.gov.

Oh, I forgot to mention… the replacement text is from a bill she introduced that didn’t receive enough interest to be heard. Will she intervene to correct the rules violation? Ask her.

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