The Hawaii Legislature has hired Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa as its attorney in a case against the state filed by two open-government groups over lawmakers’ gut-and-replace tactics in passing bills.
“The separation of powers has long stood for the proposition that the judiciary will not interfere with the affairs of the Legislature absent a constitutional mandate or a deprivation of a constitutionally protected right,” the motion says.
Judge Gary Chang has set a hearing for 3 p.m. Dec. 19 in 1st Circuit Court.
“The Legislature is the entity that can best protect its constitutional rights as a co-equal branch of government,” Hanabusa said in a statement Wednesday.
Corie Tanida, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, described the filing as a “very interesting development” in the case.
“The Attorney General represents the state and its interests. By requesting an amicus, is the Legislature implying that the Attorney General is not competent to defend their anti-democratic gut-and-replace practices?” Tanida said in a statement. “Many of the arguments made repeat what the state has already said, in defense of this ‘shell game.’ Either way, we are looking forward to the Dec. 19 hearing.”
They asked the 1st Circuit Court to void a recent law because legislators overhauled the bill late in session without giving the fundamentally changed version three readings in the Senate. But the groups are hoping a court decision will also set a precedent that ends gut-and-replace practices in the Legislature.
Senate Bill 2858 initially set out to beef up the Department of Public Safety’s annual reports to the Legislature by requiring performance indicators to track progress in areas such as recidivism, drug rehabilitation and demographics.
The measure moved through two committees in the Senate before clearing the chamber with a couple of amendments in early March.
But in the bill’s first House hearing, the Public Safety Committee deleted its entire contents and inserted new language dealing with disaster preparedness.
The measure’s title, “A bill for an act relating to public safety,” remained unchanged. But the bill now required all state buildings built after July 1 to include a hurricane shelter room.
The bill sailed through the House Finance Committee, with public testimony criticizing the fact that it no longer pertained to DPS’ performance. But people also realized that having hurricane shelters was a good idea.
The bill easily cleared a final vote by the whole chamber, and a watered-down version eventually passed the full Legislature without further public testimony.
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