The Society of Professional Journalists, Hawaii Chapter, representing 10 local media organizations, as well as the Media Council of Hawaii, ACLU, League of Women Voters, Common Cause Hawaii, Hawaii Business Magazine and Hawaii Reporter, submitted testimony to the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee today in support of making the Journalism Shield Bill permanent.
The bill was enacted in 2008, but scheduled to sunset on June 30, 2011, with the idea that the law’s impact would be reviewed. The bill was expected to pass to make the bill permanent or with a 5-year sunset provision.
However, there was a surprise twist in the hearing, with Senate Judiciary Chair Clayton Hee announcing that the State Judiciary evidence committee had requested a chance to study the law over the next two years.
Media attorney Jeff Portnoy, who represents several media organizations in the state including Hawaii Reporter, was surprised with the evidence committee’s testimony.
“One hand, I am pleased that the journalism shield bill will be extended for a minimum of two more years, but surprised by the last minute request that the sunset provision in the bill is not be eliminated so the bill will be made permanent. If they judiciary had interest in evaluating the law, they did not appear to do so over the last three years,” Portnoy said.
Hawaii Reporter has benefited from the law. A native Hawaiian filmmaker successfully used the law in a civil case on Kauai.
Portnoy said he hopes that in conference committee, when the final version of the bill is negotiated, that the House version of the bill, which keeps the law in place and eliminates the sunset provision, will pass.