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

February 1, 2015

PDH’s 2015 Legislative Priorities

Progressive Democrats of Hawaii

2015 Legislative Priorities

We have five clusters of priority issues:

TAX JUSTICE
MARIJUANA REFORM
AGRICULTURE JUSTICE
BIG MONEY IN ELECTIONS
BIG ELECTRICITY IN ENERGY

Here are some of the issues within each cluster.

TAX JUSTICE PROPOSALS:

1. Update our Low-Income Household Renters Credit
2. Update our Refundable Food/Excise Tax Credit
3. Create a Low-Income Workers Credit
4. Adopt a State Earned Income Tax Credit
5. Halt the Dec 31, 2015 Tax Cut for High-Income Earners

AG JUSTICE

• Support county home rule on use of pesticides
• Establish Statewide buffer zones and disclosure for pesticide use
• Support diversified, sustainable, and small farms
and, if such a bill surfaces,
• Support labeling of GMO products

MARIJUANA REFORM

Support legalization of marijuana
Support de-criminalization (as a less desirable, fall-back position).

BIG MONEY IN ELECTIONS

We support public financing of elections and overthrowing the Citizens United ruling

BIG ELECTRICITY IN ENERGY

We support the development of alternative energy and oppose efforts to reinforce monopolistic control of the electric system. We need to democratize energy.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Note: these priorities are subject to change as the session continues. Bills morph, new issues arise, others fade. When allies start making progress on their bill and adding support might lead to a victory for them, we will shift over, depending upon our availability.

On each of these bills, there are other groups taking the lead, while we are providing support. If we have the relationships and knowledge to lend a hand for a good cause, we will help, so long as we do not get stretched too thin. We claim no “turf” of our own. It is the issues and the relationships which are important. Not the glory, not the press clippings we can take back to our funders.

NOTE: It would be helpful if we had the bill numbers for each of these issues. There are often multiple bills on the same matter. And, of course, there are versions in both chambers. It will take a bit of time to sort this out. If you have bill numbers which correspond to these issues, feel free to post links to the status page of the bills here. Especially if you are already tracking the bills for an organization. Let’s cooperate and work together rather than leave so many things to chance and force our activists to duplicate work which has already been done.

June 19, 2012

Ed Case Completes PDH Survey

What, in your view, are the reasons preventing the U.S. Senate from passing legislation that better serves the American people?

The main reason is that most of the American people are currently disenfranchised inside the Beltway. The inside crowd is dominated by political action committees and other special interests dedicated solely to the maintenance of their own interests at all costs to the exclusion of everyone else, and Congress is dominated additionally by the mindset that every debate and policy issue presents a stark choice between political extremes.

All of this results in hyperpartisan, my-way-or-the-highway, take-no-prisoners gridlock, and classic alamihi crab syndrome reactions to any attempt to find a better way forward. None of this is representative of the mainstream of the American people. No wonder that, in the most recent poll taken on the subject (Rasmussen, June 2012), only 7% of Americans, crossing all party and other lines, believe Congress is doing an excellent or good job. Please see my Issues Agenda: Fixing Washington.

(more…)

April 9, 2008

Public financing morphed into corporate financing

Filed under: 4Public Financing,HI Politics,SHAPES platform — rachel @ 9:17 pm

When crap like this happens, I wonder why I ever bother to submit testimony on bills. What is the point when legislators can and will change bills to suit their interests no matter what the public says?? A bill that would enact public financing of elections was amended, after all public hearings, to included a provision that would lift the corporate contribution cap to $25,000!!

Here is the deal: HB661 seemed to be the best chance yet for for Hawai‘i to get some sort of comprehensive public financing of elections enacted. From the official description:

Creates a pilot comprehensive public funding program for elections to the Hawaii county council in 2010, 2012, and 2014.

This bill had been left over from last year, when it passed in the House but wasn’t heard by the Senate. This year, the bill was revived and amended to apply only to Hawai‘i County Council races and passed both the JDL and WAM committees of the State Senate. It seemed that all was left was for it to go to conference committee, iron out a few minor differences between the House and Senate versions and then pass it on to the Governor’s desk. I was really hopeful that it was actually going to have a chance this time. Until this.

Yesterday, a “floor amendment” was offered and adopted by the Senate. The most significant part of this amendment comes in section 27 (amended text is underlined):

SECTION 27. Section 11-204, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (b) to read as follows:

“(b) No person or any other entity shall make contributions to a noncandidate committee, in an aggregate amount greater than $1,000 in an election[.]; except that, in the case of a corporation or company using funds from its own treasury, a contribution by the corporation or company to its noncandidate committee shall not exceed $25,000 in an election. A corporation or company shall not contribute any funds directly to a candidate, candidate committee, or party.

Anyone remember the “corporate cap” bill (SB2204) that lawmakers were trying to repeal? Well, after a significant amount of coverage and negative public sentiment , that bill failed to pass (StarBull: 2/27, 2/29, 3/1, 3/5; HonAd: 4/1). So rather than let the issue go for another year, they decided to just insert the language into another bill when the public wasn’t paying attention. That is just wrong.

So now we are left with a bill that would enact comprehensive public financing of elections, which I think is good, yet at the same time would lift the cap on corporate contributions to $25,000, which I think is bad. Beyond just the good/bad aspect… the original intent of the public financing bill was to create a system where a candidate doesn’t have to seek out large contributions at all, corporate or otherwise. So this amendment goes completely against the intent of the original bill. The bill that I thought merited enough importance that I actually took a vacation day from work so that I could go down to the capitol to testify on it.

Why should normal citizens like myself bother interrupting their normal work days to comment on legislation when legislators can do whatever they please with the bills anyway? It is very frustrating.

Larry Geller adds his thoughts on this matter on his blog here.

October 30, 2007

FEC admonishes Case backers

Filed under: 4Public Financing,HI Politics — Tags: — rachel @ 2:20 pm

Somewhat old news now, but I was interested to read this article in the Advertiser today. Remember the Akaka-Case US Senate race? Seems like so long ago… Case loved to point out how much more money the Akaka campaign had meanwhile the US Chamber of Commerce was spending a ton of money to help the Case campaign.

The chamber, which had endorsed Case, paid a telemarketing firm about $2,500 to make nearly 55,000 calls directing voters to a chamber Web site that favorably compared Case to Akaka on economic and small-business issues.

Well turns out they broke the law in doing so…

The FEC ruled this month that the chamber violated federal election law by using corporate money to advocate for Case and for failing to include language in the messages listing the chamber’s street address, telephone number or Web address, or stating that the calls were not authorized by Case.

But I guess this sort of thing is so commonplace and expected that it wasn’t worth more than a minor slap on the wrist.

The FEC chose not to take further action beyond admonishing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of the relatively small amount of corporate money involved.

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:

Description:
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.

February 6, 2007

Public Financing testimony

Filed under: 4Public Financing,HI Politics,SHAPES platform — rachel @ 9:09 am

Here we go for round 7?, 9?… I am not quite sure how many rounds there have been, but it is somewhere around there. The “clean elections/voter owned elections” bill (HB661) that would allow for comprehensive public funding of House races is being heard today by the House Judiciary committee at 2pm!! Well it is actually last on the agenda, so probably not right at 2. The testimony I submitted on behalf of PDH is copied below… let’s hope a lot of people submitted their own too.

To: Rep Tommy Waters, Chair; Rep Blake Oshiro, Vice Chair; Members of the House Judiciary Committee (JUD)

From: Rachel S. Orange on behalf of the Progressive Democrats of Hawaii

Date: Monday, February 5 2007

Subject: Strong Support of HB 661 – Comprehensive Public Funding
House Bill 661
Tuesday, February 6, at 2:00 PM
Conference Room 325, Hawaii State Capitol

Aloha Chair Waters, Vice Chair Oshiro, and Members of the House Judiciary Committee:

I am writing on behalf of the Progressive Democrats of Hawaii in strong support of House Bill 661, Comprehensive Public Funding of elections for House races. Our organization considers comprehensive public financing of elections one of its top five issues. Voter turnout in the last election was only 52.7%, which can be interpreted as a signal that the electorate is largely apathetic perhaps because they feel that their voice does not count. Meanwhile the cost of running a winning campaign continues to soar, forcing candidates to spend much of their time soliciting corporate contributions. Comprehensive public financing of campaigns would free candidates to re-connect with the voters in their district.

I support the Clean Elections program most of all because it will build trust between constituents and legislators. I’m one of the 86% of Hawaii’s residents that a 2005 AARP survey found believe that contributions moderately or greatly influence policies supported by legislators. By eliminating the need to solicit contributions from industry and their lobbyists, voters will be more confident that their legislators are listening to the people rather than the monied interests. This could also save taxpayer money by reducing the temptation for legislators to give in to the influence of industry lobbyists who are looking for pay back.

Comprehensive public financing has been demonstrated to work in Maine, Arizona and North Carolina where publicly financed candidates won 205 state offices in 2006. When Arizona enacted comprehensive public financing in 2000 voter turn out increased by 24% (1998 to 2002) while the percent of all races won by candidates with the most money went from 79% in 1998 down to 2% in 2000.

In summary, comprehensive public financing increases voter turnout while decreasing the cost of campaigns. It will reinvigorate elections and connect constituents to legislators in a real way. It will save taxpayer money and build trust. Since the current public financing bill (HB661) is seeking money from the Unclaimed Property Fund, there is no danger of having to cut other programs in order to implement the program. Please give it a chance to work.

Mahalo for considering this legislation,
Rachel S. Orange,
Co-Chair of the Progressive Democrats of Hawaii

January 9, 2007

A National law on Public financing of elections?

Filed under: 4Public Financing,HI Politics,National Politics — BobSchacht @ 10:03 pm

Matt Stoller over at MyDD.com wrote a blog today on Public financing of election. He wrote, in part,

Restoring the Public

by Matt Stoller, Wed Jan 10, 2007 at 01:10:32 AM EST

[snip] So it’s significant that Dick Durbin is going to put forward public financing for campaigns. We understand that we get the government we pay for, and if it’s business that pays for government they’ll get what they want and the public will get screwed. The obstacles to public financing are fairly high. Ironically, most members want it badly because they really hate raising so much money, but for some reason don’t think that it’s possible to make it happen. I talked to one member who told me that the only real solution to the structural problems in Congress is public financing of elections, but that it’s never going to happen. Lots of them feel this way.There are two basic obstacles to public financing of elections. One is Bush, who will veto any real bill. Two is Mitch McConnell, the impressively mean and intelligent Senate Minority Leader. McConnell is a machine politician, shipping corporate money to Republicans all over the country and wielding huge amounts of power as a result. He hates campaign finance laws, and will oppose this with everything he has. McConnell’s going to have to pick his battles though, since there’s a lot of defense to play and he’s going to have to fight off card check and other serious attacks on his business cronies.Anyway, it’s a very good thing that Durbin is pushing this. It’s a major sign that the Democrats are serious about restoring the public’s ability to govern.

This is where we come in. Durbin, of course, is a Senator, so we need to ask our Senators, Akaka and Inouye, to support Durbin’s bill. We can remind them that the Hawaii Democratic convention passed a resolution in support of public financing. We can do it!

Bob Schacht

October 25, 2006

Della Au Bellati endorsement?

When I got home from work today, on my answering machine I found a ringing endorsement of Della in the unmistakable voice of Sen. Daniel Inouye, although the beginning of the message in which he probably identified himself was missing.

We are trying to decide whom to endorse this week, so I told Della that it would help if we could hear from her on a few critical issues. We have a 5-part platform that we call our “S.H.I.P.S.” platform, and my questions to her were based on this platform.

[Bob]
“S”: Stop the War!
While State legislators can’t vote directly on the war, there are issues that do come up. Would you support legislation calling for the return of the Hawaii National Guard posted overseas to Hawaii, and the resistance to any future deployments of our Hawaii National Guard outside the state?

[Della]
ABSOLUTELY!!!!! We have so many potential needs here in Hawaii, but my understanding is that our National Guard participation is among the highest in the nation.

[Bob]”H”: Health Care for All.
In recent years, there has been some legislation in Hawaii in support of comprehensive, affordable health care for everyone. Do you support such legislation?

[Della]
AGAIN…YES!

[Bob]
“I”: Impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney
It is already public knowledge that Vice President Cheney was involved in the “outing” of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, and a number of books have been written outlining the legal grounds for impeachment of President Bush.
While impeachment per se is, of course, the prerogative of the U.S. House, there is a historic method, based on the “Thomas Jefferson Handbook,” for state legislators to demand that the U.S. House initiate impeachment proceedings. Would you support such an action by the Hawaii Legislature?

[Della]
I would need to think a little bit more about this, but I certainly think this administration has a lot to answer for, not just to Americans but to the world.

[Bob]
“P”: Public Funding of Elections
I recall that you have signed the “Clean Elections” pledge and
favor public funding of elections. Do I understand this correctly?

[Della]
Yes – I would like to explore ways that we can make Voter Owned Elections more sustainable.

[Bob]
What do you mean by “sustainable?”

[Della]
The fear/criticism with publicly funded elections is the mechanism where publicly funded candidates get matching funds to their non-publicly funded candidates which can run up the bill to an unknown amount. We, collectively, need to think of mechanisms and maybe marketing strategies to get around these criticisms. We need to find a funding source (maybe unclaimed property?) that can provide revenue source. And maybe part of the solution is outside of the legislative realm, we need to find brave politicians, like Harry Kim and his $10 donation acceptance, who are wiiling to go with public funding (providing that the public funds will allow them to run a competitive campaign) and show others that with hard work it is possible.

[Bob]
“S”: Sustainable environment
Hawaii has some very special ecological concerns for a sustainable environment. What is your position on these issues?

[Della]
We need to protect our environment, not just in the present but for future needs. Clearly, we need to ensure any development we engage in is sustainable and does not endanger our natural resources.
=========================[End of interview]

I think Della has run a really good campaign. She has some of the qualities of a good politician, in the best sense of the word: She’s a good listener, and can remember names, faces and concerns. Her positions on our platform indicate to me that she is worthy of our endorsement.

Bob Schacht

October 18, 2006

public spending

Filed under: 2Healthcare,4Public Financing,HI Politics,SHAPES platform — rachel @ 3:12 pm

As we approach the legislative session, one of the things PDH & friends will be doing is gathering information about bills that we would like to see enacted. Two that come immediately to my mind are relating to Universal Single-Payer Healthcare and Comprehensive Public Financing of Elections. Last year there were bills dealing with both issues — one was killed at the very beginning of the session and the other made it all the way through only to be vetoed by Lingle. Will either have a chance this year? Both issues will require significant amounts of public funds, yet in the long run would likely save taxpayers’ money. This type of long-term investment is not easy for politicians focused on the time-scale of an election cycle. Will the representatives that we elect on Nov 7 have the leadership it will take? Will we keep the pressure on them to give them backbone?

Single-Payer Universal Healthcare
The bill relating to Universal Healthcare changed various times in many ways as it worked its way through the system. The end result was a bill (SB2133) that would establish a “Universal Hawaii Health Authority” which “shall develop a comprehensive health plan… for all individuals in the state.” Many viewed the bill as having problems, but a good start toward a true single-payer system and much better than nothing. SB2133 passed its final reading in both the house and senate, was forwarded onto the Governor who vetoed it. See measure history here. Learn more about a single-payer system at the Physicians for a National Health Program site and see a summary of arguments for and against at wikipedia.

Comprehensive Public Financing of Elections
The bill relating to comprehensive public funding of elections has a long history. It has been introduced to the legislature in various forms for the past seven (?) years or so. Each time it has failed, but at different times in the process. Two years ago the bill seemed very close to passing and was “tabled” at the very end (status). Last year the bill (SB3223) was killed at the very beginning of the session. The group largely responsible for lobbying and gaining community support for this bill, now called Voter Own Elections, responded by “educating” the public about where certain legislators received their campaign money from. This seemed to have mixed results, angering some legislators and even some supporters, while still gaining more visibility for the topic. One of the big questions has always been, “can this type of legislation be passed in a state that does not allow for citizen led propositions?” “Clean elections” have been enacted by proposition in Maine, Arizona, Connecticut as well as other municipalities and is up for a vote in California this year. In each of those states legislation can be passed by the general public, whereas in Hawaii we must rely on our elected officials. That works well for most issues, but in this case many of the incumbents see no reason to change the system since it is working fine for them. Can constituent pressure be enough to get them to try something new?

This Friday’s NOW episode is called “Votes for Sale” about public financing of elections… watch it to learn more. See a preview here.

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