Lawmaking 101 – Hawaii Style: Remind Hawaii Lawmakers They Work for Us

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1.         Pass sunshine law with an exemption for the very body passing the law, the legislature.


2.         Introduce thousands of bills, some of them very similar and others with questionable purpose.  (Do we really need a state microbe?)

3.         Provide 48 hour notices on Friday afternoons for Monday morning meetings.  (This seems to have a dual purpose – it leaves little time for the public to get organized to testify as well as little time for legislators and staff to actually read the bills.)

4.         Schedule meetings at odd times, e.g., 1:17 p.m.

5.         Have committee staff tell testifiers that they may provide testimony personally and on behalf of an organization.

6.         Ignore information provided by staff that additional testifiers would like to testify.

7.         When asking if anyone else would like to testify, immediately put head down so testifiers who raise their hands can be ignored.

8.         Immediately move on to discussion, so testifiers who follow up with staff about procedures and the possibility of testifying do not get the opportunity to testify.

9.         Take recess to discuss amendments privately, so the public is unaware of what the actual amendments will be.

10.         When a legislator asks about a certain concern, have chair state it will be handled by the next committee.

11.         Attempt to start the next committee meeting prior to all legislators receiving their packets, which include copies of the bill, testimonies and any proposed amendments.

12.         Do not prepare committee meeting reports if a bill is deferred, so the public is left to wonder why it was deferred.

13.         Re-refer certain bills in order to fast track them through the process.  (As an example, see SB2927, which was initially scheduled to be heard in four senate committees on January 27, then only two on January 31 and five house committees on March 8 then three on March 14.)

14.         Schedule hundreds of bills for third reading on a single day, so by the time it gets near midnight, legislators will vote “yes” to just about anything to get the day over with.

15.         When one particular bill doesn’t seem to be moving along as planned, simply copy the entire bill and paste it into another bill that is moving.  This is known as the “gut and replace” maneuver and can be quite effective at catching the public off-guard.

16.         Do not allow public testimony for any bills that go through conference committees.

Many items in this list are based on my experience with one bill in particular, SB2927, and the house joint committee meeting held on March 12.  It should be noted that this particular bill, under the SD2, overrides the county zone change process and compliance with zoning standards in state urban districts as well as reduces decision-making time frames to unacceptably low levels.

Rep. Thielen’s concerns about disregarding past community planning efforts are well warranted.  Her “no” vote, along with that of Rep. Riviere’s, as well as the “ayes with reservations” and “no” vote from the senate should be a strong signal to the representatives that there are significant concerns with SB2927, SD2.

More information regarding the state legislative process can be found in the public access room at  I urge everyone to get involved and remind legislators that they work for us.

Natalie Iwasa is a Hawaii Kai resident, and a certified public accountant, who is actively involved with her community and local government.