The Sunshine Blog: Some Bills Show Mojo But Others Still Await Final Action - 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.

Change of heart: It felt a little like pre-Covid times at the Legislature Tuesday, as dozens of legislators, lobbyists and concerned citizens talked story out by the rails while bills were deliberated inside conference rooms. There was even a smattering of sunshine bills getting passed.

The Hawaii House in floor action reconsidered its position on two sunshine bills and agreed to accept the Senate versions, for instance. That means both bills are teed up for final House votes early Thursday evening and are almost certainly on their way to the governor’s desk.

House Bill 141, which comes from the State Ethics Commission, requires legislators to list on their financial disclosure forms the names of lobbyists they have a financial relationship with. Examples: a business partner, a client, a spouse, an employer.

If Gov. Josh Green signs the bill, the enhanced disclosures will be required starting Jan. 1, 2025.

House Bill 712, meantime, asks government boards to keep recordings of meetings and to post them online so people can review them. It will go into effect this coming Jan. 1, assuming Green likes it.

The House of Representatives has agreed to accept Senate versions of several sunshine bills. (David Croxford/CivilBeat/2023)

And the House agreed to yet another Senate bill, which we have not been calling a sunshine bill but probably should: House Bill 983, which defines the term “public servant” to clarify “the scope and applicability of provisions related to the time limitations” to bring prosecution based on misconduct in office.

HB 983, which comes from the Green administration, says that the label of public servant can be used “at any time” when the defendant is in public office or employment as well as for two years afterwards.

The reason for the change, according to the Hawaii attorney general’s testimony, is “because misconduct by public officials often takes substantial time to discover and investigate.” With the time extension, it gives the AG’s office “a more useful tool to combat public corruption.”

The never-ending story: The fate of House Bill 719, the by now notorious public records bill that we’ve been writing about at Civil Beat for some time now, is still unknown.

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The latest twist is that the House is willing to accept the Senate’s proposal to jettison the problematic “deliberative process privilege” language in exchange for allowing the waiver of fees to copy public records.

The hangup? Conferee chairs Sen. Angus McKelvey and Rep. David Tarnas now say they can’t approve the compromise unless the money committees sign off on things. They’ll try again Wednesday afternoon.

Also on the agenda that same afternoon is a bill to require the state to prepare a digital voter guide. Tarnas said it would be a good first step toward having a printed version as well that could be mailed to voters.

A limited stand on nepotism: Conferees on Tuesday also reached agreement on House Bill 717, which bans state employees from hiring relatives and household members as well as awarding them contracts. It’s a Foley commission bill.

Tarnas explained that the legislation does not apply to the Legislature, which sets its own rules and already addresses nepotism to some degree. HB 717 also does not apply to the judicial branch.

Sen. Sharon Moriwaki, that chamber’s conferee chair, lamented that the other branches aren’t covered but recognized that it was getting pretty late in session to try and change the bill again.

The conference committee considers — again — HB 719 and other sunshine measures. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

Sunshine in the forecast: Wednesday shapes up as a big day for sunshine bills that will get their first conference committee meetings, including a potential game-changer in Senate Bill 1543 to expand public financing of candidate campaigns beginning in 2026.

Only a couple of days ago, the Sunshine Blog was bemoaning the fact that the Senate had yet to name conferees to work with their House counterparts in reconciling the versions of the bill that passed the two chambers.

But things happen fast during the two-week conference committee period. On Monday, the Senate appointed Sen. Karl Rhoads — who introduced SB 1543 — as its conferee chair with Sen. Sharon Moriwaki as co-chair. Reps. David Tarnas and Kyle Yamashita are the House’s conferee co-chairs.

Editor’s note: The hearing time for HB 1543 has been updated below.

HB 1543 is scheduled to be discussed during a 5 p.m. meeting in Conference Room 325.

Other sunshine bills will be discussed Wednesday in the same room starting just after 3 p.m. They include:

  • House Bill 1502 would limit compelled disclosure of sources or unpublished information from journalists. This is also commonly called a reporter’s shield law.
  • House Bill 463 would lower the threshold for disclosure of campaign expenditures for noncandidate committees to $100.
  • Senate Bill 19 would guarantee the validity of ballots cast by voters who subsequently die or otherwise become ineligible before Election Day.
  • Senate Bill 141 would update rules for Hawaii’s electors in presidential elections. It’s designed to ensure that the electors vote for the candidate who receives the majority of the votes in the islands.
  • Senate Bill 182 would amend several rules regarding disclosures of financial interests by certain candidates.

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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)

How about "no statute of limitations."Government transparency and not making money off of tax payers asking for PUBLIC information, get real. Nothing to hide? Come on Finance and Ways and Means..this isn't the way to collect revenueLimited, huh? Good luck. This will never be eradicated. To many ways to undermine the system! · 6 months ago

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