As Gov. David Ige and his staff are scrutinizing the myriad of bills on his desk, here’s one he can take off his plate by signing it into law ASAP: Senate Bill 138, which proposes adding new campaign spending report deadlines in general election years.

If this becomes law, candidates for office would have to post who they are getting money from Oct. 1. That means the public and the media can learn more about these campaigns in the weeks leading up to the vote.

The Legislature, where no senator or representative voted against SB 138, liked the bill so much that it added a second reporting date of April 30.

As state law now stands, there is a reporting dark period from after a primary — the second Saturday in August — until 10 days before a general election on the first Tuesday in November.

House leaders at a press conference at the Capitol on March 6 extolling a slate of good government bills. Most of the bills died, however. James Gonser

SB 138 is the idea of the state Campaign Spending Commission. Kristin Izumi-Nitao, the agency’s executive director, told lawmakers in her testimony in support of the bill that the growing popularity of absentee voting warrants new reporting deadlines. Absentee ballots are mailed out to voters 21 days before an election.

“This bill will give voters in the general election, who choose to vote by mail, the ability to access the most current campaign finance information before the voters receive their absentee ballots in the mail,” she testified.

SB 138 is among a handful of good government bills that survived the session. Two others deserving of Ige’s swift signature are House Bill 1248 enacting voting by mail statewide by next year’s election, and Senate Bill 216, which would require recounts in close elections.

We say a “handful” of good government bills because another dozen government reform bills bit the dust.

They include measures closing loopholes when it comes to contributions by state and county contractors, increasing the fines for campaign finance violations, requiring candidates for governor, mayor or president to disclose tax returns, prohibiting sitting governors and mayors from holding down side jobs, forbidding former legislators and executive branch employees from engaging in lobbying for two years after leaving those jobs, creating restrictions on some state employees and officers participating in political activities, and automatically registering people to vote when they apply for a driver’s license or identification card.

These bills had obvious merit. House leaders even held a press conference March 6 to praise the bills.

Also going down in the 2019 session were bills calling for ranked choice voting in primaries (in Hawaii, often the only races that matter) and making public the financial disclosure statements of state agency executive directors.

As is often the case, the Hawaii Legislature passes government reform legislation in baby steps. All mail-in-voting is a giant step, however, and so are mandatory recounts and greater transparency in campaign finance.

But the need remains to keep the pressure on lawmakers in the 2020 session, when all the dead bills get a second chance.

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