The Sunshine Blog: A 'Cattle Call' At The Capitol Closes Out Conference Committee - Honolulu Civil Beat

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The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair and Richard Wiens.

Short takes, outtakes, observations and other stuff you should know about public information, government accountability and ethical leadership in Hawaii.

Down to the wire: In a surprise move, Speaker Scott Saiki and President Ron Kouchi on Friday asked all conference committees with outstanding business to reconvene in Conference Room 309 at the Capitol “to ensure that conferences are conducted in an orderly manner,” as a press release explained just before 2 p.m.

It’s a rare procedure known as a “cattle call” and it meant that chairs had to scramble to settle as many bills as they could before that time. The word quickly spread throughout the Capitol, where hundreds of people were still following dozens and dozens of bills including ones that would alter for good the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

The scene in Conference Room 309 at the State Capitol during “cattle call” late Friday. (Chad Blair/Civil Beat/2023)

A number of sunshine bills were among those set to be taken up at 4:30 p.m. in a very crowded Conference Room 309 (capacity 102). An overflow crowd watched two large TV screens set up outside the room as legislators rushed through the list of bills before a 6 p.m. deadline.

Your Sunshine Bloggers were tracking until the bloody end. Here’s what happened:

Senate Bill 1543, the bill to publicly finance state and county elections that was gutted twice this week and now would do very little to make campaigns more competitive, is dead. It did not receive a final vote, and no explanation was given.

“The fact that they wouldn’t approve it when we were asking for no money tells you all you need to know about how they truly feel,” Evan Weber of the progressive activist group Our Hawaii said afterward.

House Bill 719, the public records bill that allows for a capping of copying charges and a waiver in some cases, is dead. It did not receive a final vote, and no explanation was given.

And Senate Bill 627, letting candidates use campaign funds to take care of kids and other family, is dead. It did not receive a final vote, and no explanation was given.

From an email circulated this week to spur support for Senate Bill 1543. It did not work.

But Senate Bill 1076, which calls for a digital voter guide for Hawaii elections to help voters understand who and what they are voting for, was approved. There was some confusion as to exactly how much money the state Office of Elections would receive to pay for the guide, but we will know the final figure once the conference draft is posted.

All bills that did not pass in the 2023 session carry over to the 2024 session, but it is rare for carryover bills to regain much traction after having already gone through so much work.

What’s in a name: Want to run for office in Hawaii? You’ll have to let voters know your real name, not just a preferred name or nickname.

Negotiators this week approved House Bill 1294, which will require the state Office of Elections and Campaign Spending Commission to include a candidate’s legal name “wherever the name requested to be printed on the ballot is used, except on the ballot.”

  • A Special Commentary Project

The legal name must appear on the websites of the two agencies, on voter information materials provided by the same agencies, and at the request of any registered voter.

The legislation was inspired by a candidate in a 2022 House race who used a different name than the one he was born with, thus making it difficult to discover who he really was. He lost.

‘An important measure’: Under current state law noncandidate committees — i.e., a group, party or person that endeavors to influence the outcome of elections — have to tell the Campaign Spending Commission when they receive or spend more than $1,000 total in an election cycle. House Bill 463 would have lowered that threshold to $100, but now legislators have settled on $500 at the advice of the commission.

The bill references a “seminal case” on campaign finance law, Buckley v. Valeo (1976). The U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged the “sufficiently important government interest” in ensuring that voters are “fully informed” through campaign spending disclosure requirements.

Rep. David Tarnas, one of the lead conferees on HB 463, called the bill “an important measure” that will provide greater accountability and public awareness. Sen. Karl Rhoads, the other lead conferee, agreed. The legislation now goes to a full floor vote on Tuesday.

Read this next:

John Pritchett: Benched

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About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair and Richard Wiens.

Latest Comments (0)

The Pied Piper: Don’t trust and follow others blindly because they play what you want to hear. Think, be aware, be cautious, and use your own judgment. Otherwise, results can be fatal. All the hard work and time put into the Foley Commission, wasted! Ask them!As JusticePlease accurately put it earlier, · 4 weeks ago

Wow, it seems like nothing of real substance was passed. All the important bills seem to have died. This is really frustrating for a state that is supposed to be progressive.

Scotty_Poppins · 1 month ago

A few years ago Chair Saiki recalled all House conference committee members late in the conference committee process, thereby killing all bills that had not already passed their committee, reportedly because he didn't like the direction one committee was going on one bill. Sounds like a repeat of that, with Senate President Kouchi joining him. Let's look at how many of the bills submitted by the Foley Commission on Ethics survived this legislature, since it sure looks like these "leaders" were protecting their own interests rather than the public's.

JusticePlease · 1 month ago

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