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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, John Hill. Matthew Leonard and Richard Wiens.

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

Looking for a little less sunshine: The legislative session has barely begun, but Sen. Donna Mercado Kim is already hard at work tinkering with the two main laws requiring open government in Hawaii.

As The Blog reported earlier this month, Kim did not seem to understand the Sunshine Law even as she moderated a meeting about its perceived shortcomings. It requires public officials to conduct the public’s business openly, and it’s been in existence for most of Kim’s political career. (The Legislature, of course, exempted itself from the law it wrote.)

Now Kim has her eyes on the other open government law with a bill to regulate members of the news media who report information acquired through the Uniform Information Practices Act. This 1975 statute spells out how government agencies must respond to requests for public records.

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim has wasted no time going after open government laws this session. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2024)

Kim’s Senate Bill 3256 seeks to apply the same UIPA requirements to the media. In essence, news organizations would have to answer requests for public records in the same way that government agencies do.

For the record, Civil Beat would have no problem with providing the public records that it bases its reporting on. After all, that reporting would be attributed to those records in the first place — if we got them, it was for the purpose of sharing them with our readers, right?

But for the government to require us to respond to such requests would obviously violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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The Blog knew that without contacting media lawyer Brian Black of the Public First Law Center, but we did anyway and he made this understatement: “This is not a viable way to deal with misinformation.”

The bill cites some high-profile cases of misinformation, such as Fox News reporting on the 2020 presidential election and talk show host Alex Jones’ claim that an elementary school massacre was a hoax.

Although none of the examples involves Hawaii media, the bill would require island news organizations “to respond to record requests in the same manner as an agency.”

Kim introduced the bill “at the request of another party,” a legislative practice that prevents the public from knowing where proposed legislation is really coming from. She did not respond to The Blog’s request to identify that “party.”

But we do know that five other senators signed on as co-introducers: Stanley Chang, Lynn DeCoite, Troy Hashimoto, Michelle Kidani and Glenn Wakai.

Eh — komo mai? It’s sometimes easy to forget that the Hawaii State Capitol’s historic open-air design allows the sun, wind and rain to enter freely. That used to be the case for visitors to the building as well, but no more.

Sheriffs line Do Not Cross ribbon across the Capitol Rotunda's mosaic called 'Aquarius'. The mosaic is made up of over 600,000 tiles.
The rotunda at the Capitol when work on the “Aquarius” mosaic was being done. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022)

The Blog has reported how it’s more difficult than ever to get into the State Capitol these days, thanks to the addition of metal detectors and security guards at three entrances. The word going around is that public parking in the basement will soon be a thing of the past.

Fortunately, that possibility has been postponed until after session ends in May. Comptroller Keith Regan says the automotive division of the Department of Accounting and General Services is still working on a plan, and it involves determining the most efficient way to allow state workers to park at the Department of Health across Beretania Street.

Depending on the final analysis from DAGS, some of the displaced public parking from the Capitol could be relocated to where the Pulama Ola Kauhale was located — the temporary site for helping homeless on the mauka side of DOH and in Gov. Josh Green’s backyard.

Regan said the goal is to ensure that the 59 public parking stalls currently in the Capitol basement will find a new home at DOH’s Kinau Hale. The five stalls that are ADA-complaint will remain. And there may also be additional stalls provided at the Vineyard Street Parking Garage.

Communication Improvements? The Honolulu City Council has adopted a resolution that urges the city’s first responder agencies “to explore and develop communications solutions that respect their operational needs while ensuring that the media and the public receive timely and accurate information during critical and emergency situations.”

Council Chair Tommy Waters said in a statement that the resolution “recognizes the media’s vital role in communicating to the public during emergency situations.”

More details are needed about the improved access to information, but it’s a start.

Read this next:

Jonathan Okamura: A Report On The Economic Returns Of A UH Degree Fails To Address Ethnicity

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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, John Hill. Matthew Leonard and Richard Wiens.

Latest Comments (0)

It seems like many don't understand the Sunshine Law. I think it should be taught in school beginning in 1st grade. Ethics training in our public schools at an early stage is important, especially in Hawaii.In 2024 ... Honolulu, Hawaii, emerges as the most corrupt city in the United States, according to the Institute for Corruption Studies at Illinois State University.

Greg · 4 weeks ago

Earlier this month, it was reported that personal belongings would not be searched at the Capitol. That is not the case, however. If you have something you would prefer others not see, it would probably be best to not bring it to the Capitol.

Natalie_Iwasa · 4 weeks ago

They sure are acting a lot like the tyrants that our framers warned us about.

ItsOK2bHaole · 4 weeks ago

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