The Sunshine Blog: Conference Committees Shape Up, Pot Proposals Go Up In Smoke - 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.

Bridging the gaps: The lineups of Hawaii legislators who will serve on conference committees began filling up Monday as efforts get underway to reconcile differences in bills that have passed both the House and the Senate chambers.

At least some conferees have been selected for 19 of the 32 sunshine bills that we are tracking in conference committee. Soon we’ll see how serious legislators are about making state government more transparent and accountable.

The House has made its appointments for all nine of the bills now in conference committee that were proposed by the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct that was established last year after a series of public scandals. The trio of Judiciary Chair David Tarnas, Vice-Chair Gregg Takayama and Rep. Kanani Souza will represent the House on six of the so-called Foley Commission bills.

Thirteen of the sunshine bills in conference committee still lack conferees from either chamber. 

Rep. Scott Nishimoto of the Finance Committee joins those three as co-chair with Tarnas for House Bill 719, which would cap the charges for reproducing government records. The latest Senate version would allow some draft documents to be kept secret until a decision is made.

And Rep. Lisa Kitagawa of the Finance Committee joins the trio as co-chair with Tarnas on House Bill 727, which began as a measure to prohibit candidates from regifting campaign donations to other candidates or community groups and has been altered dramatically through both House and Senate amendments.

The Senate also announced its conferees for HB 727, including Judiciary Chair Karl Rhoads, Sen. Joy San Buenaventura and Sen. Brenton Awa.

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Senate conferees for five other sunshine bills will include Rhoads as chair and various combinations (two more senators for each measure) of Sens. Brandon Elefante, Mike Gabbard and Awa.

Besides the Foley Commission, sources of sunshine bills include the State Ethics and Campaign Spending commissions, among others.

Thirteen of the sunshine bills in conference committee still lack conferees from either chamber. This includes Senate Bill 1543, which could lead to a comprehensive system of public financing for all candidates seeking election to state and county office as early as 2026.

For a measure to stay alive, its different versions must be reconciled by the deadline of April 27 for non-fiscal bills and April 28 for fiscal bills.

To see the latest on conferee selections, go to the conference committee section of the Legislature’s website and then click on All Measures in Conference. You can also click on the “action sheets” to see a list of all the conference committee bills that began in the House and in the Senate.

The coming negotiations will happen behind closed doors, and many bills die during the two-week conference committee period — some don’t even get further consideration. We’re hoping the sunshine bills will be treated better than that.

For more information about the conference committee process, check out this primer from the Legislature’s Public Access Room.

The dreaded triple referral: The House won’t hear the Senate’s bill to allow for the growing, sale and use of small amounts of pakalolo. Speaker Scott Saiki just doesn’t think we are ready for it, even though 27 states and four U. S. territories allow the use of cannabis for either medical and personal purposes or both.

Indeed, Hawaii is one of those states. Just a few years ago we decriminalized possession of 3 grams or less of marijuana for adults — the smallest amount of any state to decriminalize or legalize, a national group pointed out.

Undeterred, the Senate passed a resolution on April 5 calling for a working group to study the idea of setting up a system to allow for both med pot and personal adult use.

But that plan is almost certainly dead, too, with the House assigning it no less than three committee hearings this month — the dreaded triple referral.

One senator grumbled that it actually amounts to a quadruple referral, as a total of four committees would be involved, two of them in a joint referral. (Get it? “Joint” referral. Smirk.) And the final committee would be House Finance … even though there is nothing in the Senate reso calling for money. Sigh.

Yet another study? Really? A digital voter guide is still a possibility at the Legislature, but the House and Senate are disagreeing on what it should look like. If they don’t work things out by the end of next week — including deciding exactly how much it will cost the state — it ain’t going to happen.

As backup, the House is moving ahead with a resolution asking the Office of Elections to prepare a proposal for a voter guide and get back to the Legislature with specifics by next year. This guide would be printed and copies would be mailed to voters, but it would also be made available in electronic form.

Too bad the Legislature hasn’t already done this, as California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska did some time ago. The guides have photos of the candidates, statements on where they stand on the issues, clear explanations of proposed constitutional and charter amendments, and translations into area languages.

“Public confidence in the conduct of elections is essential to the operation of self-governance,” the resolution reads, stating the obvious.

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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)

Really Scott? You don't think that Hawaii is ready for legalized marijuana? You are sounding more and more like a Dino, and you are not representing the people of Hawaii with your views.

Scotty_Poppins · 1 month ago

Into the backroom meat grinder they go. Or do we call it a cricket grinder now because Climate Change?

TenPercentForDaBigGuy · 1 month ago

We are all watching carefully as they regularly tweak the verbiage so it comes out twisted and not accurately reflecting public interest. They should approve all of Foley commission's proposals with minor adjustments in favor of transparency,

Concernedtaxpayer · 1 month ago

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