A bill introduced this session at the Hawaii Legislature, if passed, could shed a more timely light on the relationship between elected and appointed officials and the business of government.

Senate Bill 2609 would require the officials to file a public financial disclosure chronicling the previous year’s activities with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission before the new legislative session begins each January.

As currently written, the law allows them to wait until May 31, nearly a month after sine die.

There’s a lot of bills on insurance, mortgage foreclosures, renewable energy, agriculture, health and broadband this session. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if a lawmaker voting on bills that impact these industries was also financially connected to them?

Asked whether they’d support SB 2609, Senate President Shan Tsutsui said through a spokeswoman he was “open to the idea of moving up the filing deadline for financial disclosure forms.”

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Calvin Say, however, said Say has “not yet considered the bill, and, therefore, has not yet taken a position.”

SB 2609, introduced by Sen. Sam Slom, a Republican, has not been scheduled a hearing, and if it doesn’t get one by March 8, it’s probably dead.

That means that disclosure information won’t be useful — i.e., revealing any link between legislators and special interests — until at least the 2013 session.

Good Government?

It’s not the first time that bills have been proposed to change the disclosure deadlines, as Civil Beat reported just a year ago.

But, with the exception of a handful of legislators, most folks at the Ledge don’t seem to think it’s a pressing matter.

Advocates of good government do believe it is important, however.

Oahu blogger and former journalist Ian Lind, for example, posted an item Wednesday noting that just a handful of legislators led by example and filed their 2011 disclosures early this year.

In the House, those lawmakers were Rep. Rida Cabanilla, Della Au Belatti, Gil Keith-Agaran, Marilyn Lee, Sylvia Luke and Mark Takai. In the Senate, only one member has filed — Tsutsui.

“Bravo to this select group for leading by example,” says Lind, a former executive director of Common Cause Hawaii.

Why It’s Important

Let’s use the Senate president as an example.

Tsutsui, who represents Maui, is a business consultant for Atlas Insurance Agency of Wailuku. His wife is manager of Newcomer-Lee Land Surveyors of Wailuku.

Tsutsui, according to his filing for the year 2011, also owns stock (each is valued between $10,000 and $25,000) in IBM, ExxonMobil and Intel Corp.

It’s useful information for the public if Tsutsui were faced with the possibility of voting on legislation that, say, impacts insurance companies or the petroleum industry — or should he receive lobbyist money from those.

Full disclosure: In the latest filing period with the state Campaign Spending Commission, Tsutsui received $11,300 in contributions, including $1,000 from Island Insurance Employees PAC.

We don’t yet know what Say’s financial disclosure filing for 2011 will tell us.

But we can tell you that his 2010 filing explains that he is president of Kotake Shokai, a garden tools wholesaler in Mapunapuna, and secretary for box-lunch maker Tokyo Bento Nichiyo, also in Mapunapuna. 1

Say’s and his wife’s investments include shares in companies like Dow Chemical, Ford Motor Co., AstraZeneca and Pfizer (pharmaceuticals), Devon Energy Corp., Google, Apple and United Parcel Service, most of them valued at not more than $10,000.

Say’s most recent financial information covers 2010, however, and under current law fresh info doesn’t have to be posted until the end of May, when session is long over.

But we do know from Say’s most recent campaign contribution filing that he received $13,050, including $500 from AstraZeneca and $500 from Bob Toyofuku, a lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America.

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