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

Have allowance, will travel: The Hawaii House of Representatives this month finally got around to posting its legislative allowances. Like state senators, who began posting their allowances online in March, state reps are allocated $15,952 a year.

The House reports are only as of July 17, so there’s not much to report. Many of the 51 reps filed no report while others paid nominal amounts for newsletter writing and postage, office supplies and refreshments.

But the House reports also turned up travel expenses for more than a half-dozen reps including Luke Evslin — $904 for the 2023 National Conference of State Legislatures summit in Indianapolis next month — and Sonny Ganaden — $1,345 for the same summit. Ganaden’s itinerary lists seven different airports starting and ending in Nashville, Tenn., but does not explain why. And Evslin, a Kauai representative, also spent $389 to travel to and register for the Hawaii Congress of Planning Officials in September at the Sheraton Waikiki.

Kirstin Kahaloa and Nicole Lowen are flying to Burbank, Calif., early next month to attend the CSG West Annual Meeting — the Council of State Governments. Lowen’s airfare was $604 while Kahaloa’s was $785.

House Majority Leader Nadine Nakamura will attend the 10th Annual Conference of State Majority Leaders next week in New York City. For now, no airfare expense is listed on Nakamura’s report, but she paid (that is, we paid) $790 in registration fees for her and staff.

Much more interesting is Kanani Souza‘s plan to fly to Boston this week for the New England Seminar Conference in Forensic Sciences. “Beautiful Setting, Collegial Environment and Great Sessions!” says a promo for the gathering, which will be in Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Airfare: $928.

Souza’s report does not explain why she is going to a conference on forensics — maybe to better understand the state budget?

And David Tarnas, chair of the House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, has expensed $192 to travel with the Hawaii attorney general to visit the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission.
A bill to set up regulations for the growing, selling and taxing of personal use of small amounts of pakalolo passed the Senate this year but never received a hearing in the House.

  • A Special Commentary Project

The Senate has not posted any new legislative allowances since April.

You can peruse all the House legislative allowance reports here.

Legislators often travel by other means, too, but declare the trips as gifts. According to the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, recent travelers and their donors include:

  • House Speaker Scott Saiki, $876 for airfare, lodging, ground transportation and meals, National Conference of State Legislatures, May 18, 2023.
  • Senate President Ron Kouchi, $1,436 for hotel, gift, meals, ground transportation, NCSL, May 21, 2023.

Now you see it: The Hawaii Legislative Reference Bureau released this week on its Twitter account a cool graphic that provides a closer look at selected subjects of bills introduced/passed this session.

While not comprehensive, it does give a nice visual of priorities at the Legislature this past session:

Mark your calendars: The Sunshine Blog is eagerly awaiting the next campaign spending reports that state lawmakers and elected officials are required to file by July 31. That should give a look at who was being showered with cash for reelection campaigns while the legislators were in session and considering legislation that quite possibly effects the person doing the showering.

These reports cover the period from January through June; the Legislature is in session from mid-January through the first week in May.

The Blog is hoping that next session someone will put forward a bill to require more frequent campaign finance reports — like once a month doesn’t seem too burdensome — so people can see who is trying to influence who while it’s happening.

Meanwhile, if you’re still following the reform measures that were passed this last session, here’s a nice summary of campaign-related bills in the recent newsletter put out by the Campaign Spending Commission.


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)

Back in the day legislators would travel and then a staff person would write "their" report. This was a cop out. Some actually spent their conference time playing cards or golf.I objected and always wrote my own reports. It is amazing how one pays attention and takes meaningful notes IF you know in advance you will be personally responsible to colleagues and constituents for your own work. It's the difference between a student doing their own work or letting AI or Chat write itAn important ethical and House or Senate rule would be the obligation to write A personal report. Pay attention and realize that you are traveling on behalf of all colleagues who deserve to learn what you learned.

JimShon · 6 months ago

If the editorial board did its homework, they would have understood it is a forensic sciences conference, as in science, not a forensic accounting conference. I am not attending the conference to better understand the state budget, since I already understood it when I voted NO. It is imperative that as a legislator, doing your job means doing your due diligence-- hence oftentimes traveling to attend conferences to learn from subject matter experts, especially when you intend to introduce legislation on the matter. This article does not account for legislators who have been traveling over the summer who either already completed travel or already paid for their trips for future travel prior to the designated period covered in this piece. We should be more worried about legislators who aren't traveling than those who are, because it simply means (I speak for myself) that I am doing the job I was elected to do, and trying my best to do it well.

RepSouza · 6 months ago

Who were the donors who paid for Saiki's and Kouchi's trips to the NCSL? The differences between those two gifts is also interesting.

Rob · 6 months ago

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