The Sunshine Blog: Conflicts Of Interest, Not Really The News, Session Skullduggery - Honolulu Civil Beat

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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.

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

An important sunshine bill bites the dust: One major election reform measure that started the legislative session with high hopes has met its political end.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Karl Rhoads says he won’t hear House Bill 726, which would forbid state and county elected officials from asking for and taking donations during session. House Bill 89, which called for much the same, stalled out a long time ago.

“I considered broadening the ban to all fundraising during session, but decided that was logistically difficult,” Rhoads tells The Sunshine Blog. “Most House and Senate campaigns ramp up late in the year before or early in the year of the election. This is true of both challengers and incumbents.”

“As long as we have a privately financed campaign system, I don’t see how we can ban fundraising during the most important period of a campaign. To ban incumbents only is an obvious bias against incumbents. To ban challengers and incumbents, means challengers will have an even harder time getting their campaigns off the ground.”

Rhoads also points out that the Legislature banned fundraisers during session last year, “which hurts incumbents more than challengers. Banning a practice that is particularly advantageous to incumbents seems justified. Banning fundraising during the heart of a campaign does not.”

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Instead, he is satisfied with a measure he introduced, Senate Bill 1493, which is still alive and appears headed to conference committee to work out differences with the House.

That bill calls for banning lobbyists from donating to any candidate during the legislative session that runs from mid-January to early May as well as during what Rhoads calls “a buffer zone” at the beginning and end of session. But everyone else can still donate whenever they want.

Kudos to the House for unanimously passing HB 726 and HB 89, which were also enthusiastically backed by the Campaign Spending Commission and the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct — aka the Foley commission.

Read all about it: Readers of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser may have been surprised to learn that Chris Sadayasu and Scott Glenn could be staying in the Green administration well into next year, even though both were rejected just last month by the state Senate.

Dan Nakaso in his front-page story wrote that the failed nominees to lead DBEDT and the state planning office “will remain in place until the May 5 end of the legislative session and possibly for the rest of 2023 and even longer.”

A screenshot from the newspaper of record on Wednesday.

The story, which ran Wednesday, went on to say that keeping Sadayasu and Glenn as interim directors “would give them a full year’s worth of experience with the possibility of coming back with stronger resumes for potential confirmation — especially with some senators facing reelection in 2024.”


Among those correcting the story in the comments section were attorney Jim Wright, who cited Article v. Section 6 of the Hawaii Constitution: “No person who has been nominated for appointment to any office and whose appointment has not received the consent of the Senate shall be eligible to an interim appointment thereafter to such office.”

Also commenting was someone identifying themselves as “Senator Green”: “Thank you for the commentary. I won’t keep individuals in these positions if they aren’t confirmed by the Senate. That would be wrong and not in the spirit of balanced government.”

That particular comment was signed “Josh, Governor.”

A screenshot from the same newspaper later on Wednesday.

Hours later, the online version of the Star-Advertiser said Green would now look for new nominees “who will be more acceptable” to state senators to lead the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and Office of Planning and Sustainable Development:

“Green is prohibited by Senate rules to name replacements for Chris Sadayasu and Scott Glenn this session after they failed to win Senate confirmation.”

Thanks, commenters, for setting the record straight.

Back to the future, and not in a good way: Last week we fretted that House Bill 719 was close to death in the Senate because it still needed a hearing before a joint session of Ways and Means and Judiciary. We surmised that Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz was going to kill the bill — which reduces the fees that the public would have to pay to obtain public records from state and county agencies — by refusing to hear it.

Instead, the bill is scheduled for a hearing on Thursday — just in the nick of time — but with an evil twist. It appears some lawmakers are intent on using a bill that would make it easier to get public records as the vehicle to put in place a law that would make it much harder to get the kinds of records the public needs to understand how government is conducting the people’s business — things like budget documents, consultants’ reports, revenue estimates for proposed legislation, evaluations of an agency’s overall performance, forecasts of general fund tax revenues and even audit recommendations.

House and Senate Judiciary committees earlier this session rejected resurrecting the so-called “deliberative process privilege,” which the state had used for decades to keep important information secret. Civil Beat challenged the practice in court and in 2018 the Hawaii Supreme Court agreed with us that the state had no basis for withholding those kinds of documents and overturned 30 years of precedent by invalidating it.

Since then some state officials, led by the director of the Office of Information Practices — which is supposed to be an advocate for public information but actually isn’t — have been trying to get it back into state law.

We can grudgingly admire the OIP director for pulling a political fast one with the help of our favorite senator from Wahiawa — both have made it known they don’t like the idea of reducing public records. But rolling back one of the most significant government accountability decisions of the past 30 years should be met with outrage.

Read this next:

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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)

Lobbyists should be prohibited from making or facilitating a contribution of anything of value to a state official. Ever. What is so hard about this? Other states do it. E.g., California.

MarkS_OceanDem · 8 months ago

Ever notice how often the excuse for government not doing something is "It's too hard"Would they get away with that in a private or commercial business?Would they get a raise?

Taueva · 8 months ago

I know this is not directly related to this article, but not sure why Civil Beat has not raised more concern about the Governor's use of emergency proclamations and lack of transparency when these are extended. For example, Green signed a proclamation for homelessness on January 23rd during his State of the State, and then quietly signed a extension on March 20 with no news coverage or what took place during the original 60 day emergency period. There was also a recent 7th emergency proclamation for Medical Transport Aircraft and Crews on March 31 and a 7th emergency proclamation for Axis deer signed on March 21. The lack of news coverage on these items seem to indicate a lack of transparency. It also raises questions about the over reach of the executive branch and whether overly broad executive powers provide more opportunity for corruption and abuse. It seems like the emergency proclamation has become a crutch that prevents government from going through normal processes.

justaguy · 8 months ago

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