HONOLULU – Gov. Neil Abercrombie will allow Senate Bill 2682 Relating to Financial Disclosure Statements to become law, the governor said today in a letter to Senate President Donna Mercado Kim and House Speaker Joe Souki.
The bill will require members of 15 state boards and commissions to disclose their financial interest. Some of the boards include the Board of Land and Natural Resources, University of Hawaii Board of Regents, Board of Education, Hawaii Community Development Authority and Public Utilities Commission.
The governor had the bill on his possible veto list, but was criticized by his primary gubernatorial opponent, Senate Ways and Means Chair David Ige, and Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, for his lack of transparency.
Ige said in a June 26 statement: “I think it’s incredible that the governor is planning to veto a bill that increases government transparency and accountability and was unanimously passed in both the House and the Senate. The Legislature listened to the many citizens who want a more open government, and I call on the governor to do the same. If the governor’s concern is that the bill will discourage certain individuals from accepting these positions, then so be it. We need people in our government who are willing to be forthcoming and transparent. If I were governor, I would have signed this bill immediately because I believe in an open government that is held accountable and discourages conflicts of interest.”
Slom said in a June 24 statement: “Why shouldn’t the public and the media know if state board or commission members or their immediate family members have a financial interest or an association that may affect the member’s decision making? This is just an example of the ‘same old, same old’ where the Governor and his appointees get to wield power with a distinct lack of public scrutiny. Let’s face it, this veto doesn’t help the people of Hawaii establish any confidence in their government.”
The governor said Monday the measure will become law without his signature.
In the letter, to legislative leaders, Abercrombie said: “When it comes to the role of volunteer participation in the policy and decision-making process of governing in a democracy, the power of government to intrude in people’s lives becomes far more than a technical issue. It goes beyond labels of left and right. The whole rationale of democratic governance, after all, is to ensure the protection of individual rights, particularly in matters of personal information and dignity.
“There are tough issues to be considered in this bill with competing values: Legitimate inquiry into possible conflicts regarding the public interest versus legitimate concerns about personal information on family, finances, credit history and medical records becoming cannon fodder in political battles.
“It seems reasonable in these circumstances then, to allow this bill to become law with the object of reviewing the disclosure documents to determine what information serves the public interest, what limitations are relevant and most importantly, what constitutes conflict. The issue then, is not about disclosure, but to what end and by what means.”
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