Hawaii House GOP: Government Reform Is A Priority - Honolulu Civil Beat

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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.

On Wednesday the leader of Republicans in the state House of Representatives announced that the Legislature had essentially let Hawaii down.

“Our legislative body has lost the trust of the people,” Rep. Lauren Matsumoto said in her opening day speech, which was delivered to an audience that included most of Hawaii’s top elected and appointed officials. “In order to earn that trust back, government reform is imperative.”


Matsumoto said her caucus would propose several safeguards to ensure that elected officials “are held accountable to a higher standard of conduct. … We need transparency in government now more than ever.”

House GOP Caucus presser Jan 19, 2023
From left: Reps. David Alcos III, Kanani Souza, Lauren Matsumoto, Elijah Pierick, Diamond Garcia and Gene Ward at the Capitol Rotunda. Chad Blair/Civil Beat/2023

On Thursday, the House GOP caucus followed through on Matsumoto’s promise. It announced that government reform is one of the five planks that comprise its “Stand for Hawaii” bill package for the 2023 session.

In doing so, the Republicans set themselves apart from their majority Democratic colleagues, who did not identify government reform as a priority.

While House and Senate majority leaders said they would introduce and consider the 31 recommendations of the blue-ribbon Special Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct, the House GOP will adopt all of the proposals as part of an omnibus bill with its strong support.

In a press conference Thursday in the Capitol Rotunda, Rep. Gene Ward singled out the pair of Democrats that were arrested by the FBI for accepting bribes and that prompted the commission’s work last year: former Rep. Ty Cullen and former Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English, who pleaded guilty.

“Some of you remember a couple of us went to jail — a couple of our colleagues,” said Ward, the minority policy leader.

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Ward identified two reform proposals in particular: term limits for legislators and holding committee meeting discussions on bills in public.

But he also said he was already aware of resistance to term limits by Democrats, and that the passage of any legislation is not guaranteed.

Though their numbers have increased from last session, Republicans make up just six members of the 51-member House.

“If it was up to us, if we were the majority, we’d say, ‘Hey, guys, we’re going to have a lot of reform this session.’ But, you know, there’s a lot of pushback already from the other side. We will do as much as we can to speak out. We don’t have the votes, but we’ve got the voice and the public.”

The bills from the minority caucus will be posted on the Legislature’s website Friday, the deadline for introducing bills by members.

In addition to government reform, GOP House caucus members on Thursday provided details about its other four package priorities: bringing down the cost of living, creating more affordable housing, getting tougher on crime but also enhancing pathways to rehabilitation, and strengthening personal rights.

The 15 bills would, among other things, call for the following:

  • addressing the mental health needs of individuals taken into police custody;
  • eliminating the income tax for those whose incomes are less than $150,000 for singles, $300,000 for married couples, and $225,000 for heads of households; and
  • increasing penalties for petty misdemeanors and strengthened “Stand Your Ground” laws.

Affordable housing, tax breaks and greater mental health care are also priorities of Democrats, although there are major differences in policy preference.

The Green administration also shares interest in these issues.

As for government reform, Gov. Josh Green said Wednesday that he would sign any bill proposed by the Special Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct that makes it to his desk.

Read this next:

Gov. Josh Green Wants 'A Better Proposal' For New Oahu Jail

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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)

Hawaii's swamp is so deep. Can we gut and replace most of them? Page right out of their own book, could be a game changer.

wailani1961 · 10 months ago

It's Assinine and Ridiculous to think that in 2023, the Issue of "Legislators Corruption" Is so rampant, that the very Republicans Demanding Reforms Now, were cutting deals (Legal or Otherwise?)w/those who were Indicted & Plead Guilty?In other words, without the FBI, The Legislators Policing themselves is tantamount to allowing,"Foxes to Guard the Hen House."More Political Rhetoric, but No real Substance, Integral Change, or Policy & Procedures Implemented to Root Out Corruption for the Taxpaying Citizens.

PSpects · 10 months ago

The GOP needs to reform itself first and become relevant.

sleepingdog · 10 months ago

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