Hawaii’s Legislature and the Death of Big Ideas

Charles Djou
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Charles Djou

BY CONGRESSMAN CHARLES DJOU, R-HI (2010) – I had the privilege of attending the opening day of the 27th Hawaii Legislature this week.  Having participated in numerous opening day ceremonies as an elected official, it was an interesting change to be part of the legislature’s opening as a private citizen.  What struck me most was the near complete lack of discussion of any big ideas.  Major initiatives, conservative or liberal, to move Hawai‘i forward, were nowhere to be found.

Instead, the biggest event on opening day was a fight over who should hold the House Speaker’s gavel, followed by parliamentary machinations over whether Republicans should hold any vice chairmanships.  The most significant discussion on opening day appeared to center on where former House Speaker Calvin Say should sit.  State Rep. Sharon Har complained that Say’s new seating position failed to accord him due respect as the former speaker; to which Rep. Scott Saiki argued that the former speaker’s new seating assignment was one of the best locations on the House floor.


Fighting over leadership and seating assignments appeared to be the primary focus.  Completely lacking from our legislature were any bold new proposals, and is a sad testament to the lack of creativity in Hawai‘i government today.  This is the direct result of one-party rule in our state.

In both percentage and numerical terms, the Hawaii Legislature has fewer Republicans in its ranks than non-communists in communist China’s National People’s Congress.  This domination by one party in our government creates a class of officials more interested in maintaining power and preserving the status quo than in pushing the envelope of public policy with bold ideas.  After all, why take any chances with creative policy initiatives if there is no real risk with a competition of ideas between the political parties during the election?

States all across America are aggressively confronting the major issues in their communities; from labor reform in Michigan to gun control in New York.  But for Hawaii residents, we are left with a class of politicians more interested in who sits where on the House floor and who gets what committee assignment, than leaders interested in discussing and moving big ideas designed to improve the lives of their constituents – whether it be to stimulate the economy, create jobs, reduce homelessness, improve our schools – the list is endless.

Unfortunately, this ‘smallness’ in thinking by our state’s politicians won’t change until we change the dynamic of our elections and build a true two-party democracy in Hawai‘i. The competition of political parties engenders a competition of ideas that results in elected officials competing to demonstrate to their constituents that they can do more to improve the quality of their lives and that of their families.  If elections in our state are foregone conclusions, as they often are today, Hawaii will continue to fail to move forward.





  1. Is it not about time that our Party started setting forth ideas about the major issues you mentioned? If there is a vacuum when it comes to ideas from the one party, seems to me that this creates an opportunity for the other party. I don't think very many voters cast their ballots to help create a two party system. If our Party addresses issues, and offers solutions, this will provide the ammunition to bring people to the polls.

  2. It is unfortunate that Congressman Djou did not come over to listen to the speeches in the state Senate on opening day. Had he done so, he would have heard some big ideas, alternative proposals and consistent conservative principles espoused both by new Senate Democrat President Donna Mercado Kim as well as the Senate Republican Minority. There were fresh ideas, specific goals and detailed ways of achieving a better business climate and standard of living for Hawaii's residents.

    Here are the links to the speeches:

    Thanks – Sam Slom, Senate Minority Leader

  3. "One of the penalties of not participating in politics is that you will be governed by your inferiors."


  4. Speeches are nice Sam, but isn't it time to start make motions instead of speeches? Maybe if there were enough ballets on election day the election outcome may have turned out different.
    The people of Hawaii are tired of the way politics are run. When the governor (with the lowest approval rating in the unioin) can just put his toadie in a position held by one of the most powerful senators in history then there's a problem.
    I have no confidence in the system. I recommend everyone to watch the recording of Bill O'Reillys interview with Collen Hanabusa. I don't care for Bill but he sure made her look like a fool. Wouldn't it have been a good idea to have done her homework knowing she was going to be interviewed by one of the biggest douchebags on TV? And she represents us? And I don't see any difference in any of Hawaiis other elected officials.
    It seems like Charles is the only politician that makes any sense. He needs to be reelected. He has always had my vote but I guess big business and big money is in charge and they don't want a smart, educated, no nonsense veteran getting in their way.

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