The House Republican Caucus strongly believes in a healthy democracy — one that is grounded in open debate and a transparent process.

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However, there is a longstanding tradition in the Hawaii State Legislature that destroys the trust of the public. It’s called “gut and replace” and it undermines well-informed lawmaking.

We align with the legal efforts of Common Cause Hawaii, the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, and most recently, attorney Jeff Portnoy, in their attempts to expose this underhanded method of legislating.

Gut and replace is the practice we see each legislative session where a committee deletes the contents of a bill and replaces it with the contents of another, which often completely changes what the bill does.

Most importantly, the public only sees the final bill after it has been voted on. We have seen this frustrating practice repeatedly — a bill that died in one committee mysteriously comes back to life later in another bill, either replacing it completely or getting crammed in.

Usually this happens so late in the session that the public is completely left out of the process as public testimony is not accepted at conference committee. Without a public forum, chairpeople and committees can slide language into a bill and avoid public comments.

Capitol looking Mauka showing open floor plan and architectural elements.

The Hawaii State Capitol. House Republicans argue that gut and replace hampers transparency in the legislative process.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

It is no wonder that organizations and now a private citizen are challenging this controversial practice via litigation. When bills are gutted and replaced with unrelated content, confusion and frustration abound.

Under the current rules that govern lawmaking, the Legislature uses gut and replace to game the system and push through any agenda if legislators so please. A commitment to the foundation of representative democracy demands that legislators, the public, the media and the courts stand united against gut-and-replace tactics.

Shine The Light

Your state representatives should be proud of their legislation, put all their cards on the table and quit sliding in last-minute changes while no one is looking. Gut and replace is one of the many reasons we hope to add clarity to the lawmaking process.

This year, we will also invest in efforts to promote total transparency with regular video updates on a variety of social media channels. Check out @HiHouseGOP on Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you think.

Lawmakers are by no means experts on all issues in front of the Legislature.

Finally, lawmakers are by no means experts on all issues in front of the Legislature, and that is why we increasingly rely on input from the public to shine light on our blind spots.

In fact, the Legislature bulks up quite a bit during the session by hiring bright staffers to help us filter through testimony and constituent feedback.

We hope to hear from you. To learn more about how to get involved, go to hihousegop.com and click on “Helpful Links.”

Let’s fight for what’s right — contact your representative and tell them to end gut and replace.

Editor’s note: State Reps. Gene Ward, Cynthia Thielen, Lauren Matsumoto, Bob McDermott and Val Okimoto submitted this as members of the House Republican Caucus.

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