The House Republican Caucus is demanding that a last minute “gut and replace” trick to legalize gambling in Hawaii be stopped.
“We strongly object to a clumsy attempt to hi-jack a bill relating to the Aloha Tower Development Corporation (SB 1247) and turn it into a bill to establish a casino in Waikiki,” Republican Policy Leader Rep. Barbara Marumoto stated.
The bill in question was proposed yesterday in the conference committee on transportation. The draft replaces the contents of Senate Bill 1247, which initially related to Aloha Tower Development Corporation, with language establishing a casino in Waikiki.
“This bill will forever change Hawaii from a beautiful family destination into just another place to gamble,” Rep. George Fontaine of South Maui pointed out. “The legislation appears to violate Article III of the State Constitution which requires that each bill embrace one topic expressed in its title.”
The Rules of the House of Representatives also require that conference committees resolve differences between current versions of legislation. The rules explicitly forbid inserting a new or unrelated subject. (See Rules 16.4 and 16.5)
This attempt to replace a bill with a pro-gambling measure is not the first made this session. In March two House committees voted to replace a bill that created a tax holiday for school supplies with a bill allowing peer-to-peer gambling.
The House Republican Caucus has taken a strong stance against gambling in Hawaii, successfully defeating two similar measures this session.
“An attempt to sneak gaming into the final hours of the 2011 Legislative session in a totally unrelated bill is wrong and must be opposed,” added Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson of Moanalua Gardens and Foster Village.
Efforts by pro-gambling lobbyists have increased in the last few days. Constituents have reported receiving automated phone calls telling them they need to choose between gambling and increased taxes.
“This is simply not true and clearly is a desperate effort by gambling interests to push through a self-serving proposal in the final hours of the Legislature,” House Republican Leader Gene Ward stated. “These robo-calls demonstrate the desperation of the gambling lobby. It is a sad and inappropriate attempt to pass their legislation by demoralizing our constituents and making them believe they have no choice.”
The House Republicans have recently issued a biennium budget that closes Hawaii’s budget gap without raising taxes or relying on gambling revenues.
The conference committee considering the gambling version of SB 1247 will reconvene today for a vote.
“The backroom dealing must stop. We urge our Senate colleagues to reject this legally flawed bill and return to the task of completing the budget and passing final legislation prior to our May 5th adjournment,” Rep. Cynthia Thielen of Kailua concluded.
The House Republican Caucus is Minority Leader Gene Ward, Minority Floor Leader Kymberly Marcos Pine, Minority Policy Leader Barbara C. Marumoto, Assistant Minority Leader Cynthia Thielen, Assistant Floor Leader Corinne W.L. Ching and Minority Whips, Representatives George Fontaine, Aaron Ling Johanson, and Gil Riviere.