Lawmakers at the Hawaii Legislature would like to do the following:

• Ban the use of the ‘N’ word.
• Study the idea of a Powerball lottery.
• Honor Don Ho with a postage stamp.
• Eliminate Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) attitudes.
• Construct a motorsports center on Oahu.
• Develop quieter alternatives to back-up beepers on delivery trucks.
• Require that only humanely prepared foie gras be used commercially.
• Have drivers be more responsive to blind pedestrians.
• Find a place to store parade floats in Waikiki.
• Implement vermicomposting at public schools (think worms).
• Declare aa as the state rock.
• Restrict how many pet dogs someone can own in order to reduce noise pollution (i.e., barking).
• Establish a sister-state relationship with the province of Marrakesh of the Kingdom of Morocco.

Most of this will never happen.

But each of the above has been requested by lawmakers in the form of a resolution in the 2011 session.

A resolution is a measure “expressing the will, wish, or direction of the Legislature,” according to the Capitol’s website. “It does not have the effect of law.”

That said, lawmakers sure spend a lot of time drafting and hearing them.

Is it all a waste of time and energy?

902 Resolutions

This session, for example, state senators have introduced 112 Senate resolutions and 178 Senate concurrent resolutions.

(We’ll explain the difference shortly.)

House representatives have introduced 294 House resolutions and 318 House concurrent resolutions.

Add that to the roughly 3,500 bills introduced this year, and that’s a heck of a lot of paperwork to comb through.

So, why bother with all those “reso’s”, as they are known?

Not Entirely Irrelevant

Resolutions are not completely without import.

If, say, a resolution requests that a state department or agency look into something, said department or agency usually complies.

This session, SR 17 requests that the Hawaii Department of Transportation study the feasibility of using Kolekole Pass Road as an alternate means of access to and from the Leeward Coast of Oahu.

It’s not a bad idea, as anyone stuck because of a traffic accident on narrow Farrington Highway can tell you.

Kolekole Pass, controlled by the U.S. military, would allow Leeward residents to skip the traffic jam by cutting through the Waianae Mountains to Schofield Barracks and then on to H-2.

SR 17, introduced by Leeward senator Maile Shimabukuro, asks the DOT to report back to the Legislature next year. As of Thursday the reso had yet to receive a hearing, however.

A good many reso’s also ask the state auditor to audit or assess a department, agency or program.

Often, a resolution comes from a bill that died. The lawmaker wants to keep the idea alive, and so introduces a resolution that calls for the same thing, albiet in a non-binding fashion.

HR 139, for example, creates a task force to establish a Bank of the State of Hawaii.

Among other things, the authors believe a state-owned bank “may work in partnership with financial institutions, community-based organizations, economic development groups, guaranty agencies, and other stakeholder groups to better the State’s economy.”

A bill, co-introduced by Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro and calling for the same task force, was deferred in committee March 23.

But a resolution on the same subject, HR 139, also co-introduced by Oshiro, passed a committee hearing March 29 and remains alive.

Recognizing Softball Teams

The Legislature often considers multiple resolutions on the same subject, just like it considers multiple bills on the same subject, even with identical language.

The different types of resolutions are defined as follows:

• Simple Resolution: a resolution adopted by a single chamber of the Legislature.
• Concurrent Resolution: a resolution adopted by both chambers of the Legislature.
• Substantive Resolution: a resolution which requests action or states the Legislature’s position on an issue.
• Non-substantive Resolution: a resolution which congratulates or conveys the condolences of the Legislature.
• Congratulatory Resolution: a nonsubstantive resolution which congratulates a worthy constituent, agency, private establishment, or visiting dignitary for exemplary deeds.
• Memorial Resolution: a nonsubstantive resolution used to convey the sympathy and condolences of the Legislature on the passing of a constituent or a dignitary.

Congratulatory resolutions are popular. Legislators love to invite community members to House and Senate galleries to honor them for their contributions, large and small.

Example: HR 74, which was adopted this session, recognizes and congratulates the Hawaii Pacific University softball team for being the 2010 NCAA Division II National Champions.

HR 74 was introduced by Rep. Karl Rhoads, whose district includes HPU.

Health, Politics and Backyards

A number of reso’s are also part of standard governing procedure, such as resolutions that elect legislative officers and rules or invite the chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court or the governor to address the Legislature.

But the bulk of resolutions are new ideas specific to individual lawmakers trying to express their views and desires. They tend to fall into several categories.

One is the naming of days and months.

HR 28, for example, would recognize Jan. 29 as Thomas Paine Day for the patriot’s contributions to American history, while HCR 58 asks the governor to make September Hawaii Five-0 Month to recognize the positive impact the old and current TV shows have had on the islands.

Raising awareness of important health issues is another common theme.

HCR 94 would create a lupus task force in the Hawaii Department of Health, while SCR 6 asks nursing and medical programs at the University of Hawaii to include breastfeeding curriculum.

Other reso’s address concerns specific to a lawmaker’s district, like the Kolekole Pass and Waikiki parade float reso’s noted earlier.

Then there are reso’s involving political correctness.

HR 258 asks for the removal of the term “Treaty of Annexation” cast in a bronze statute of President McKinley at the Oahu high school named for him.

Introduced by Big Island Rep. Faye Hanohano, a Native Hawaiian, HR 258 reads in part:

WHEREAS, standing at the front entrance to McKinley High School is a bronze statue of President William McKinley holding a document inscribed, “Treaty of Annexation”, which never existed and was never implemented; and

WHEREAS, the statue has contributed to the misinformation disseminated to the people of Hawai‘i and Native Hawaiians about the history of these islands and of the relationship of the United States to the Hawaiian Kingdom, leading to the teaching of an incorrect history; and

WHEREAS, these inaccuracies, when incorporated into public displays such as statues, have been harmful to everyone including not only students at McKinley High School but all young people in the public school system because these public displays perpetuate and promote lies as truths, leaving Hawai‘i’s youth unprepared to engage in meaningful dialogue on Hawai‘i’s history.

HR 258 and a companion, HCR 293, on March 30 passed unamended in House Hawaiian Affairs.

Hanohano is the committee’s chairwoman.

About the Author