The Sunshine Blog: Mum's The Word, Heavy-Hitters Back Public Campaign Funding, And The Latest On Conference - Honolulu Civil Beat

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.

Lawmakers flunk out: Your Sunshine Bloggers had an opportunity to meet with dozens of students from James Campbell High School Wednesday when teacher Corey Rosenlee brought his two democracy-focused civics classes to Civil Beat’s pop-up newsroom at the Ewa Beach Public and School Library.

The kids are producing incredibly thoughtful projects designed to teach them about the power of citizen engagement in government. They described numerous intriguing efforts to help solve sticky issues ranging from mental health funding and school food programs to Ohana Zones, the lack of bike lanes and student parking. Bad behavior in the bathrooms. Disrespecting teachers. Four-day school weeks. Even coral bleaching.

Many of the projects led the students to email or call lawmakers to get information on bills they were tracking.

How did many of our lawmakers respond? They didn’t.

In a continued display of shocking-but-not-surprising bad behavior, our lawmakers have simply ghosted these really cool kids. We’re shocked, because it seems easy enough for a legislator or their aide to dash off an email. But we’re not surprised because, well, many Hawaii lawmakers notoriously don’t return constituent’s emails and calls, including ours.

To be fair, when asked for a show of hands amongst the 30 or so kids in the first session about who had a lawmaker get back to them, a pitiful few hands went up. The Blog can report that Rep. Lisa Marten is one of the good ones as were a couple of others whose names the students unfortunately couldn’t remember at that moment.

Civics students from James Campbell High School joined Civil Beat’s pop-up newsroom Wednesday. Their efforts to participate in democracy are being thwarted by elected leaders who have refused to respond to their emails and calls about certain bills. (Ku’u Kauanoe/Civil Beat/2023)

One persistent young man (who has real potential as a reporter) working on House Bill 248, the farm-to-school program, said he emailed and then followed up with a call to every Ewa-area lawmaker — 10 of them. Zero response. He was planning to call them again Wednesday.

Another girl said her project team reached out to every lawmaker, all 76, to ask about funding for mental health treatment, programs and services at the hospital in Kaneohe. Again, nada. Not a single response.

The Blog had to ask: How does that make you feel?

“Disrespected,” she replied.

It turns out quite a few of those kids are old enough to vote. You won’t be surprised who they won’t be voting for.

Power to the people: Two former Hawaii governors and three former county mayors are putting their names behind publicly financed elections.

Former Govs. John Waihee and Neil Abercrombie and former Mayors Harry Kim (Hawaii County), JoAnn Yukimura (Kauai County) and Kirk Caldwell (City and County of Honolulu) declared their support for Senate Bill 1543 in a guest op-ed in Wednesday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

“This is not only a matter of fairness and justice, but also a matter of survival and prosperity for Hawaii,” they wrote. “We cannot afford to let money continue to dominate our politics and undermine our democracy. We need to empower our people and restore our aloha spirit in government.”

Neil Abercrombie and John Waihee, back in the day. (Chad Blair/Civil Beat/2011)

The article in particular urges Kyle Yamashita, chair of the House Finance Committee, and Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, to find the necessary funding for SB 1543. It’s estimated it will cost the state $30 million to pay for two consecutive election cycles starting as early as 2024.

As of Wednesday, SB 1543 had yet to be assigned conferees to begin negotiations over the bill. Presumably the money chairs read the S-A. We know they read CB.

Help wanted at the Capitol: Thirty-three of the sunshine bills addressing transparency, accountability and ethics of state government are in the conference committee stage in which conferees from the House and Senate try to reconcile their differences over the measures.

So far, full slates of conferees have been named for just seven of the measures. Eight have conferees from the House only, and nine have conferees from the Senate only.

For another nine of those sunshine bills, neither chamber had appointed conferees as of Wednesday evening.

There’s no deadline for naming conferees, except that non-fiscal bills must be reconciled by April 27 and fiscal bills by April 28.

  • A Special Commentary Project

Meanwhile, the first conference committee meetings on sunshine bills are scheduled for Thursday at 2 and 2:10 p.m. in Conference Room 325.

The first meeting involves Senate Bill 228, which would establish the offense of fraud as a class B felony and would establish the offense of making a false, fictitious or fraudulent claim against the state or a county as a class C felony. 

Three other measures are on the agenda for the second meeting:

  • House Bill 707 would make it a class C felony to make false, fictitious or fraudulent claims against the government. The Senate version would disqualify a person convicted from holding elected office for five years for that crime, while the House version would make a person ineligible for public campaign financing for 10 years.
  • House Bill 711 would create the offense of fraud as a class B felony as well as disqualify those charged with fraud from holding elected office for 10 years.
  • House Bill 727, which began as a measure to prohibit candidates from regifting campaign donations to other candidates or community groups, has been altered dramatically through both House and Senate amendments.

Key influencer: Sen. Angus McKelvey has emerged as an important figure in the latest conferee selections to be announced. He’ll chair the Senate conference committees for three of the sunshine bills.

Sen. Angus McKelvey will lead Senate conferees on three of the sunshine bills. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

For House Bill 710, which makes clear that obstruction of justice includes intentionally trying to influence the due administration of justice including by coercion or threat of force, McKelvey will be joined on the Senate side by co-chair Karl Rhoads and Sens. Brandon Elefante and Brenton Awa.

For House Bill 712 to encourage boards (with the exception of licensing boards) to maintain recordings of meetings on website regardless of whether the written minutes of the meeting have been posted, McKelvey will be joined by co-chairs Jarrett Keohokalole and Elefante, as well as Sen. Kurt Fevella.

And for Senate Bill 291 that requires the governor to ensure the accuracy of his reports regarding state programs and the budget, McKelvey will joined by co-chair Sharon Moriwaki and Fevella.

And then there were two: Nadine Ando’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee had been delayed several times this year as Chair Jarrett Keohokalole adjusted for scheduling conflicts and also to have the nominee answer more questions.

Nadine Ando at her DCCA confirmation hearing Thursday. (Screenshot/2023)

On Thursday, however, the committee gave Ando an enthusiastic 5-0 vote. Keohokalole thanked Ando for her patience and cooperation, while Sen. Angus McKelvey — who admitted that he had had concerns about Ando — said he was now satisfied that she would be a good pick to lead the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Ando’s nomination now awaits a full Senate floor vote, which seems likely. Only two pukas remain to fill out Gov. Josh Green’s cabinet: someone to lead the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and someone to lead the Office of Planning and Sustainable Development. His previous picks were shot down earlier this session.

Read this next:

The Sunshine Blog: Some Government Reform Measures Are Emerging From The Darkness

Local reporting when you need it most

Support timely, accurate, independent journalism.

Honolulu Civil Beat is a nonprofit organization, and your donation helps us produce local reporting that serves all of Hawaii.


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)

Good article, mahalo! And great name - SUNSHINE Editorial Board. How about spreading some more sunshine and including the names of those on the board. The authors of articles are specified, why not editorials? Seems to me like a no-brainer good practice for all editorials. Ralph Portmore aka dane1998

dane1998 · 5 months ago

"It’s estimated it will cost the state $30 million to pay for two consecutive election cycles"With an estimate like that Bill 1534 appears to be a failure in getting money out of the electoral system.If the same business format of political campaigning with PR consultants, high priced TV ads, glossy mailers, then it appears that the taxpayer and not just monied interests will help finance the existing expensive election extravaganza.Besides getting the corrosive influence of campaign bribes out of politics, isn't the idea to minimize the high costs of campaigning to allow a diversified field of candidates the opportunity to run for office?

Joseppi · 5 months ago

Join the conversation


IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email to submit an idea.


You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.