- Special Projects
Welcome to Speaker Joe Souki‘s House, a place where friends flourish and foes flounder.
For example, Rhoads saw five of the 45 measures he introduced this session pass, placing him in the top rank of representatives getting their own legislation passed.
This helped Rhoads address the concerns of constituents fed up with rampant homelessness in his district, which includes Chinatown, Iwilei and Kalihi.
Rhoads introduced and passed two bills — one extending the date on a law prohibiting public urinatation and defecation in downtown Honolulu, the other penalizing people who obstruct public sidewalks — despite opposition from advocates for homeless people.
The first bill carried over from the 2013 session and counts as a 2014 bill.
In addition to Rhoads and McKelvey, five other reps saw five of their bills pass, including Souki and Vice Speaker John Mizuno.
As we reported Tuesday on how bills fared in the Senate, being a committee chairman is a big advantage in getting bills passed. Rhoads is chairman of House Judiciary, which heard the bills regarding homelessness.
But being a Souki supporter still appears to have been a big factor in success — or failure — in the House.
Among the 15 representatives who didn’t see a single bill advance to the governor’s desk were Calvin Say, who Souki deposed in January 2013, and Say loyalists Marcus Oshiro, Sharon Har, Jimmy Tokioka and Jo Jordan.
That’s not unusual.
As Civil Beat reported three years ago this month, Say and then-Majority Leader Blake Oshiro had the most bills passed in the 2011 session. Say and his supporters also did well that year in scoring cash for capital improvement projects. Oshiro is now deputy chief of staff in the Abercrombie administration.
Nor is it unusual that of the seven House Republicans this year, only Minority Leader Aaron Ling Johanson got a bill passed. Republican Sam Slom was 0-for-28 when it came to his Senate bills, showing just how rough it is to be Republican in the Aloha State Legislature.
But the 51-member House and 25-member Senate are different in key ways, starting with the fact that there are twice as many reps and their seats are up every two years rather than every four, except following decennial reapportionment. There are also 19 House committees compared with 16 Senate committees. (Committee titles and purviews often change after elections.)
Senators can also introduce an unlimited number of bills in a session. By contrast, in December Souki informed his members they would be capped at introducing just 10 bills, and that the legislation “should relate to the needs of the district … constituent concerns, or personal areas of interest.”
Some committee chairs were allowed to introduce up to 20 bills, while the chairs of Consumer Protection and Commerce, Judiciary, Finance, Education and Higher Education were allowed to introduce up to 25 — as long as the legislation pertained to the respective committees.
There were also other exceptions, and the guidelines could be waived by leadership. That helps explain why McKelvey, chairman of House Consumer Protection and Commerce, saw five of his 52 bills passed, including ones regarding time shares and condominiums. His district, stretching from West Maui to Kihei, has plenty of them.
It also helps explain why Water and Land Chairwoman Cindy Evans saw four of her 60 bills pass, which included measures concerning small boat harbor permits and establishing Outdoor Heritage Month every June.
But another bill from Evans, proposing to set up and fund a hunting advisory commission, died in conference committee, while a measure allowing for a lifetime hunting license for qualified disabled veterans and vets who have received a Purple Heart, didn’t get a hearing in the Senate.
Evans represents a district that runs from North Kona to North Kohala, and it was a good year for some Big Island reps, less so for others.
Richard Onishi, a freshmen Democrat from the Big Island, passed five bills — something unusual for a newbie lawmaker. Onishi’s bills relating to agriculture and land issues fit with his district, which includes Hilo, Keeau, Kurtistown and Volcano. He’s also vice chairman of House Agriculture.
Another Big Island freshman, Richard Creagan, introduced 12 bills and saw none pass. But then Creagan, a Democrat, has only been on the job since January, having been appointed by the governor to replace Denny Coffman, who stepped down for family reasons.
Then there was veteran Puna Democrat Faye Hanohano. None of her 49 bills passed, including the 39 she introduced without co-sponsorship.
Many of Hanohano’s bills concerned Native Hawaiian issues. It’s not clear whether her losing streak was related to her reprimand in March from Souki for her “intimidating” conduct regarding racially charged remarks to a college student and state employees.
McDermott introduced 20 bills, but only received co-sponsorship on two — from fellow Republican Gene Ward.
Republican Rep. Richard Fale was also a lone wolf in the 2014 session. He introduced a single bill — for capital improvement funds for his North Shore district — and it didn’t have any co-sponsorship.
That’s in large contrast to the man Fale wants to challenge in the upcoming election. Fale has announced intentions to run against Sen. Clayton Hee, who is one of the most effective legislators in his chamber.
But as with senators, passing bills is just one metric for measuring a representative’s legislative effectiveness. Language from one bill can later end up in another. And sometimes it’s not clear who deserves the most credit for passing bills.
Take House Bill 1714, which addresses climate change. One of eight measures in a joint majority package this year, HB 1714 lists Souki as the introducer followed by 40 Democrat co-sponsors, including Say supporters.
One of those co-sponsors, Energy and Environmental Protection Chairman Chris Lee, took a lead role in crafting and promoting the climate change bill. Yet, it does not count as one of the five bills Lee got passed this session.
Lawmakers are justly proud to see their bills passed. But writing, hearing, amending and passing legislation is also very much a collaborative process.
Check out the scorecard here:
|Representative||Bills Introduced||Bills Passed||Percent Passed|
|Della Au Belatti||34||1||3%|
|Beth Fukumoto||10||0||0 %|
Contact Chad Blair via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.