Hawaii Gov Signals He'll Sign Ethics Reform Bills That Land On His Desk - Honolulu Civil Beat

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Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

Putting pressure on lawmakers, Gov. Josh Green said Wednesday that he is strongly inclined to approve major parts of a package of government reform legislation if they are approved by the Hawaii Legislature.

Specifically, Green was asked about 31 proposals recommended by a special committee to help restore public trust in state and county government. Twenty-eight of them are proposed bills that would require his signature in order to become law.

“If they send it to me, I’m signing it, period,” Green said Wednesday in his fifth floor office at the State Capitol.

Gov. Josh Green says he will sign government reform measures that come to his desk this year.

The work of the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct came at the behest of the state House of Representatives amid outrage after a former state senator and a sitting state representative pleaded guilty to accepting bribes to influence the outcome of legislation.

The acts of the two individuals led many to believe “that a deep moral crisis exists throughout each corner of the state,” according to the report’s executive summary.

The commission, led by retired Hawaii Judge Dan Foley, submitted its report to the House in December. Among other suggestions, it called for enhancing investigation and prosecution of fraud, providing more openness and transparency in government operations and curbing the influence of money to lawmakers.

“I’m not going to hit the pause button on any of these good reforms. I’ll be interested to see what they come up with,” Green told reporters as the Legislature convened on Wednesday.

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Green, a prodigious fundraiser in last year’s gubernatorial campaign, said he “took to heart” the commission’s recommendations to such a degree that he already has adopted one of its proposals: He won’t hold any fundraisers during the legislative session.

As well, Green noted that “at times” he has been “a proponent” of term limits. Another Foley commission proposal recommends that state legislators have term limits.

Whether any of the 28 bill proposals make it to Green’s desk is unclear. None of the 31 reforms is part of the House and Senate majority packages of legislative priorities, which were recently unveiled.

On Wednesday, Senate President Ron Kouchi made no mention of the proposals in his opening day speech. But meeting with reporters afterward, Kouchi said the proposals would be introduced in both chambers and referred to committees for consideration.

Many of the Foley commission recommendations are statutory, but several call for amending House and Senate rules. Kouchi said those ideas would be discussed in the majority caucus, but he was unsure what might come of it.

House Speaker Scott Saiki, foreground, and Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee Chair David Tarnas, left, said they take the work of the Foley commission seriously.

The president also said that the Senate plans to start posting legislative allowances on its website — another commission idea.

For his part, House Speaker Scott Saiki recognized the work of the commission in his opening day speech. He also noted that Foley and another commission member, former U.S. Attorney Flo Nakakuni, were in the House chamber.

“This House takes reset and reform seriously and will take up the recommendations in earnest this session,” Saiki said.

Pressed for details later in a House leadership press conference, Saiki said, “I want to just emphasize that the House takes the recommendations very seriously. We appreciate the work that the Commission put into that report. It’s something that we will totally consider this year.”

Asked for specific proposals that he found appealing, Saiki said the House would consider changes that could be made “on an administrative level” through its own operating rules. House committee chairs are already working on making testimony on bills available to the public earlier or at the time of the hearing, he said.

“The goal is to have a consistent policy that applies to all of our chairs,” the speaker explained.

Rep. David Tarnas, the new chair of the House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, agreed that rule changes would be considered but also said the same consideration would be given to possible statutory changes. He has asked all members to read the commission’s report including the lengthy transcripts of its meetings in order to understand the “context and the nuances” of the discussions.

Tarnas added that, while he could not ensure that all 28 bills as well as the three resolutions would pass, he wants “a fair and honest, open, transparent hearing on these proposals. And I’ll be very clear about what my recommendations are and why. The whole point here is to try to improve transparency in our operations here so we can improve people’s trust in us. So that’s my goal.”

For his part, Green is eager to see what legislators produce. He said he felt disappointed about what happened to former Sen. J. Kalani English and former Rep. Ty Cullen but said they made mistakes and have to answer for that. English has already been sentenced and is serving time; Cullen’s sentencing has been delayed to April 6.

“But going forward, I think it sends kind of a big message and teaches a lot of lessons,” the governor said. “That’s why the Foley report is so relevant. This is a climate now, with a new administration, a ton of new legislators, as you saw today, because we got to meet them today — this is the time to change.”

Reporter Blaze Lovell contributed to this report.

Read this next:

Hawaii Legislature Opens With Show Of Goodwill By Green, Lawmakers

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About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

Latest Comments (0)

First, take the "power" ball out of this session of politics. Replace it with Saiki's ball of "cooperation" and unlimited results will begin to flow for all Hawaii citizens. Yes, I believe.

kealoha1938 · 8 months ago

A little too hands off for my taste, given all that's preceded it. I know he heads up a separate branch of government, but state officials (other than legislators & their staffs) ought to be targets of improved ethics laws, reporting, and punishment standards, and those could be pressed vigorously by a Governor without raising questions the propriety of his involvement. Will you do it, Governor?

MarkS_OceanDem · 8 months ago

This is great that the Governor is making this bold commitment. One of the bills in the package has to do with public records and making it easier to request key documents and information. Wondering if Civil Beat can put the Governor's commitment to the test and submit a records request for the Governor's schedule and for records to see if the rhetoric matches action.

justaguy · 8 months ago

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