The Sunshine Blog: Senate results on Sunshine, takeaways from last week’s event, an updated tracker


Short takes, outtakes, observations, and other things you should know about public information, government accountability, and ethical leadership in Hawaii.

Sunshine in the Senate: The Senate Judiciary Committee has picked up the Sun Ball and is moving it across the field. On Thursday, the committee chaired by Senator Karl Rhoads passed 10 government reform bills tabled by the House of Representatives as Hawaii’s legislative session enters its second half.

The bills were mostly small corrections to campaign finance and ethics laws. But it’s a good start for the Senate.

The measures include reforms proposed by the state Campaign Expenditure Commission and the state Ethics Committee, which reflected bills proposed by the Standards of Conduct Improvement Commission, a special House body that included the directors of the ethics and campaign spending commissions, among other experts .

The Senate committee voted largely unanimously to require lobbyists to provide more details about what they are lobbying for, to require mandatory training for lobbyists, and to allow the Ethics Committee to retain financial disclosure forms submitted by officials for more than six years (which it does). needs to be shredded now).

Several bills aimed at giving the Campaign Expenses Commission more flexibility in dealing with candidates violating campaign finance laws, as well as fundraising requirements, raised some objections from Senator Joy San Buenaventura of Pune. She was concerned that the Big Island mail service is so slow that notices of violations and judgments that are served through the mail may not reach candidates in the timeframes specified in the bills. The committee adjusted some of these deadlines and passed the bills with amendments.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Karl Rhoads sent 10 bills reforming ethics and campaign finance through his committee on Thursday (screenshot/2023).

“Forge the iron while it’s hot”: If you missed Wednesday’s Civil Cafe on The Sunshine Bills, don’t worry – we’ll be posting every 90 minutes online on our Let The Sunshine In landing page early next week. But here are a few takeaways from the guests.

Karl Rhoads and David Tarnas, the chairs of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees respectively, expressed optimism that many of the Sunshine Bills will be out of session and before the governor for consideration by May.

“I think we’re in a moment of change that a lot of us have been looking for for many years,” Rhoads said. “So I’m cautiously optimistic that you’ll see something really good coming out of this session.”

Rhoads admitted he’s “not a particularly optimistic person” by nature.

Civil Cafe Legislative Update Sunshine
From left: Robert Harris, Kristin Izumi-Nitao, Chad Blair, David Tarnas and Karl Rhoads. (Ku’u Kauanoe/Civil Beat/2023)

“I don’t want to overdo it,” he explained, but added, “I think we have a real chance of passing a set of bills that will result in meaningful reform.”

The reason?

“In recent years there has been a whole litany of people in high places just doing things that are completely unethical and illegal. And I think that brought us to a moment.”

Tarnas agreed that the legislature had “a great opportunity to strike while the iron is still hot”.

“I think there is support within the House of Representatives, within the leadership, to get a whole bunch of these bills out that would help improve government accountability and build public confidence in our institution. We know this is a critical need right now. Public outrage has not diminished over time.”

Kristin Izumi-Nitao, executive director of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, said she personally doesn’t believe there is “a magic bullet” to deter the kind of behavior that led to the call for reform. However, she said bills to strengthen criminal law could be among the most effective tools against political corruption.

“I think that’s the biggest deterrent, and certainly there are things we can do in campaign finance to help with that,” she said. “But at the end of the day, I don’t think there is a magic bullet. I think it’s in the person and in their moral compass.”

Tracker back on course: Now that we’re getting a clearer picture of which bills are still alive — and which are dead — we’ve updated our Sunshine Bill Tracker to make it easier to keep track of those that are still being considered.

Click here to go to the tracker.

The page is now divided into three sections:

• The actions that came from the so-called Foley Commission, the Blue Ribbon panel of experts headed by retired Justice Dan Foley

• Dozens of other transparency, accountability and ethics bills covering a range of different issues

• and the bills, which are in all likelihood dead – “postponed” – for the 2023 session, which ends May 4th.

Let us know if this was a useful tool for you and what we can do to make it even better as the session progresses.

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