Now is that time of the year when Hawaii’s skies seem a brighter shade of blue, the ocean more inviting and there is an increased sense of hope for harmony between our citizens and with the islands we inhabit. It becomes this pretty place and time as a direct result of the Legislature no longer being in session. The great tent of the circus that bedazzles, befuddles, bemuses, confuses and exasperates has been dismantled to prepare for the next grand entertainment in 2016.

Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismark, Duke of Lauenburg aka Otto von Bismark has been described as an undisputed world champion at the game of multilateral diplomatic chess. For almost 20 years after 1871 he was devoted exclusively and successfully to maintaining peace between the powers that were. He had a gifted wit and was skilled with language. The later not particularly surprising as he was fluent in English, French, Italian, Polish and Russian as well as his native German.


Mike Licht/

In dealing with lawmakers Bismark counseled that “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” The basic ingredients of sausage include salt, meat and 20 percent to 50 percent fat. Sausage meat includes beef, pork, lamb or game animals. The casing of the sausage is often the scrubbed salted intestines of a pig. There is also talk of “rusk” and cautionary posts of other “nefarious” ingredients. I was sold with scrubbed salted pig intestines and 50 percent fat as sufficient to support Otto’s warning.

The problem is that if there is good reason to change, create, or eliminate a law or laws the most direct route can be the Legislature. This doesn’t always work out too well. In the words of Old Lodge Skins played by Chief Dan George in the 1970 movie Little Big Man, “Well, sometimes the magic works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.”

Most concerning is that there are occasions when it takes paltry few lawmakers to screw up a really good idea. Some of these problem children can accurately be described as “Panjandrums,” self-important pretentious officials.

In my Oct. 14 column I discussed guns and alcohol. In Hawaii there is no law that prohibits a person from drinking and having a loaded gun on their person. To this day I can’t think of any safe or sensible reason why a person, including a law enforcement officer, should have a loaded gun in their hand while there is alcohol or illegal drugs in their blood.

The law could be pleasingly simple. If you have a loaded gun in your hand the law mandates you have zero alcohol or illegal drugs in your system. The primary purpose of the law would be deterrence and its penalty could be similar to driving under the influence of alcohol which is a petty misdemeanor and does not require a jury trial. Under the original draft of the bill, a blood or urine test would not necessarily have been required. There are other ways to tell if someone has been drinking, including witness testimony.

To promote such a law I called Speaker of the House Joe Souki with the idea and immediately received his assistance. He couldn’t have been more helpful. I called then Senate President Donna Mercado Kim. She assigned her chief of staff to monitor the bill and assist if appropriate and necessary.

My next step was to call the President of the National District Attorney’s Association (NDAA), Michael Moore, to seek the support of the association that acts as the voice of America’s Prosecutors. Michael Moore and I met years ago when we were members of the Board of the NDAA.

To this day I can’t think of any safe or sensible reason why a person, including a law enforcement officer, should have a loaded gun in their hand while there is alcohol or illegal drugs in their blood.

Michael Moore is the State’s Attorney of Beadle County, South Dakota. I once gave a talk to some members of his community and was rewarded by Michael with a special outing to Mount Rushmore. It included the opportunity to stand on George Washington’s head. Since I am not particularly comfortable with heights I did far more sitting and crawling around on all fours than standing. The experience was breathtaking and something I savor to this day.

When I called State’s Attorney Moore and told him I was considering proposing legislation about gun possession, illegal drugs and alcohol he did me a second favor. He told me South Dakota already had such a law, it worked well and he would be happy to email me a copy of the statute and/or its citation. I said email away and thank you very much, again.

I then enlisted the help of some crackerjack legislation persons who helped me when I was Prosecuting Attorney and Mayor. I asked them to take South Dakota’s law, draft it to be consistent with Hawaii’s statutes, present it for submission and let me know which committees it would be referred to. I then asked if they could let me know when I needed to show up and testify. As usual they did a superlative job.

My first trip for a hearing on the matter was before the House Judiciary Committee Chaired by Karl Rhoads and Vice Chair Joy A. San Buenaventura. I answered all their questions and for reasons known only to their combined brilliance they decreed the new law would only apply to those who had a .08 blood alcohol level. So the change they invented required scientific testing a suspect’s blood alcohol level.

I was confused by their action. It seems to me it would have made a great deal more sense before what appeared to plucking this change out of thin air for the Chair and Vice Chair to have asked me while I was testifying my thoughts about such a change. In the alternative, if the change was done on the spur of the moment I was still sitting directly in front of their noses. They could have easily asked me if their proposed change presented any problems.

The problem they created and overlooked was a small but blindingly obvious flaw. The suspect can refuse scientific testing.

After the bill had been voted on I waited around and during a break I asked them what they planned to do when a suspect refused to have their blood level tested. The Vice Chair didn’t appear capable of comprehending why this was a problem while Chairman Rhoads understanding the issue gave the rough equivalent of an “Oops.”

As the bill moved forward added to the mix was Sen. Will Espero who can put together in short order a witty charming and hilarious poem but doesn’t possess the same level of talent when it comes to effective legislation. Watching Espero and Rhoads working harmoniously together I was reminded of other dynamic duos such as Frick and Frack, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and Flotsam and Jetsam.

Under their tutorage the bill moved forward and become miserably mangled. Even they admitted it was less than perfect legislation. In fact it was so entirely imperfect that I left a message for Joe Souki thanking him for his assistance but due to changes inflicting the legislation I could no longer support it.

I called a whole bunch of other people with the same message and asked them to please kill the now useless bill. Due to their pressure intelligently applied, the bill was shelved and died for this year.

If there is hope in the future for a useful re-incarnation of the bill next year Bismark suggests I can expect the intervention of benevolent providence. The architect of the German Empire mused that “There is a Providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America.”

While I neither support nor particularly appreciate this sentiment I am pained to confess that after watching the machinations of Espero and Rhoads he may have a point.

Or perhaps I can encourage their future sense and sensibility with a modest proposal. Rhoads and Espero can submit the bill word for word as it was originally provided to them and I will swear, not under oath, on a stack of dictionaries, works of fiction, copies of the National Geographic or anything else similarly appropriate that the legislation was exclusively their idea, it is brilliant and they deserve all credit due for its adoption.

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