2017 Legislative Priorities

(As of March 13, 2017)

We have just passed the half-way point for the 2017 Hawaii State Legislative Session! Many bills did not meet internal deadlines and are “dead” for 2017. However, because Hawaii follows a biennial schedule, these bills could be “resurrected” in 2018. Please review the list below to see how our bills are faring.

Legislative session is fast paced. For more frequent updates, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

If you’d like to help us by submitting testimony, please email hawaii@commoncause.org for more information.  

PRIORITIES

Automatic Voter Registration: This would register qualified individuals to register to vote, unless they decline, when they apply for or renew their driver’s license or state ID. Voter registration would also be electronically transferred from the licensing agency to elections officials for processing (rather than paper forms). –Dead for 2017

HB292/SB460 Requires an application for voter registration to be part of the applications associated with the issuance of a civil identification card under section 286-301 and a driver's license under section 286-109.

While the AVR bills are dead for 2017, thanks to public support, we were able to get resolutions introduced in both chambers. SCR108 / HCR116, HR70.  If passed the resolution would form an AVR task force which would bring together various government agencies (Office of Elections, Dept of Transportation, county DMVs, etc.) to review current procedures, determine the feasibility, cost savings, and cost of impact of implementing AVR, and propose AVR legislation. This may not seem like a big deal, but communication between the agencies has been spotty at best on AVR and this will help us address some logistical issues which will help improve implementation once passed.

Voting By Mail: Under this program, elections would be conducted by mail. However Service Centers will be located across the state for those who prefer to vote in person, need assistance, or needed to register to vote (thanks to Same Day Registration in 2018). There were various versions of VBM introduced, but the bills have been narrowed down to 1 vehicle from each chamber.

HB1401 HD1  Enacts voting by mail uniformly across all counties for all elections commencing in 2020. Repeals and amends provisions relating to polling places, including absentee polling places. Establishes voter service centers to accommodate personal delivery of ballots. Appropriates funds. (HB1401 HD1)

SB334 SD2 Enacts voting by mail uniformly across all counties for all elections commencing in 2020. Establishes a limited number of voter service centers that would remain open from the tenth business day preceding an election through the day of the election to receive personal delivery of mail-in ballots, accommodate voters with special needs, offer same day registration and voting, and provide other election services. Allows for additional places of deposit for personal delivery of mail-in ballots. Appropriates funds for the implementation and administration of the election by mail program. Takes effect on 1/7/2059. (SD2)

Legislative Broadcasts: Legislative hearings provide valuable information, but are held during business hours, making it difficult for people to participate.

HB416/SB156 Requires the legislative broadcast program to make an audio or audiovisual recording of all public hearings and informational briefings held at the State Capitol, and maintain an archive of the recordings to be made available to the public. Appropriates moneys. –Dead for 2017

 STRONGLY SUPPORT

Fair Treatment: Reverses legislators’ exemption of a portion of the state ethics code that specifies that legislators cannot use their elected title for personal gain.  –Dead for 2017

HB98 Clarifies the fair treatment law by delineating limitations placed on persons who are task force members from those placed on legislators who are task force members. Clarifies that legislators are not prohibited from making statements or taking action in the exercise of their legislative functions.

Public Funding for House of Representatives: A public funding option for the brave souls running for a House of Representatives seat would give political candidates (both new and incumbents) a choice to spend less time fundraising, and instead to spend that time working with constituents and solving problems. This plan would let political candidates who “opt-in” to the program, break their dependence on big dollar contributors by providing them with enough public money to run competitive races for office.  –Dead for 2017

HB443 Creates a comprehensive public funding program for candidates for election to the state House of Representatives. Repeals those candidates' eligibility for partial public funding under the existing partial public funding program. Appropriates funds to the Campaign Spending Commission.

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV):  sometimes known as Instant Runoff Voting, describes a voting method that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference and then uses those rankings to elect a candidate who combines strong support with broad support by simulating a series of runoff elections in the event that no candidate receives a majority of the votes in the initial count. –Crossed over to Senate

HB179 Establishes ranked choice voting for special election for Congressional races and for the election of council members in counties that have adopted the method.

Establish video-conferencing mechanisms to allow citizens to submit live-oral testimony remotely: Legislative session is fast-paced, and public hearings are scheduled at a moment’s notice. Currently, only written testimony and live, in person testimony can be submitted. It becomes challenging for people who live and work outside of downtown Honolulu to participate in the lawmaking process (Ewa, Mililani residents, and Neighbor Island residents, we hear you). A video-conferencing mechanism would make it more convenient for citizens to productively engage in civic dialog with lawmakers on pressing issues they are concerned about.

HB1547 Establishes the Remote Testimony Task Force to develop procedures to make available remote testimony technology throughout the State that enables the public to testify remotely via the Internet during legislative proceedings. Legislature to adopt rules to establish remote testimony capability. Makes an appropriation. –Dead for 2017

SB834 SD2 Requires LRB to conduct a feasibility study that includes the costs associated with the implementation of audiovisual technology in both chambers of the legislature. Makes an appropriation. Effective 7/1/2050. (SD2) –Alive. Crossed over to House

Funding the Campaign Spending Commission: The Hawaii State Campaign Spending Commission is the state watchdog agency that administers and enforces our campaign finance laws. For the past 10 years, the legislature has been using the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund, a trust fund meant to support Hawaii’s Publicly Financed Elections program, to fund the Commission. Because of this added strain, the fund is close to depletion threatening the survival of both the Commission and the Publicly Financed Elections program. --Alive. Crossed over to House

SB412 SD2 Replaces the Hawaii election campaign fund with the general revenues of the State as the funding source for the operating expenses of the campaign spending commission. Allows the commission to use moneys from the Hawaii election campaign fund for investigations if the commission determines that its operating expenses appropriated from general revenues will be insufficient to cover the costs of investigations. Appropriates general revenues to the commission for operating expenses. Takes effect on 01/07/2059. (SD2)

Threats to Good Government

Shady bills that aim to cloud our sunshine laws, giving potential for lawmakers to deliberate on issues “off the record”

HB315/SB455 Amends conditions under which two or more members of a board may attend an informational meeting or presentation on matters relating to official board business. Allows members of a county council to attend such meetings or presentations without limitation on the number of attendees.  –Dead for 2017

HB327/SB480 Allows any number of County Council members to attend informational meetings or presentations on matters relating to official board business. Allows two or more members of other boards, but less than what would constitute a quorum, to attend a community meeting open to the public. –Dead for 2017

Threatens fair and impartial courts

HB1186/SB328 Proposes a constitutional amendment to amend the timeframe to renew the term of office of a justice or judge and require consent of the senate for a justice or judge to renew a term of office. –Dead for 2017

HB1/SB673 Proposes amendments to the Constitution of the State of Hawaii relating to the appointment and retention of justices and judges. Authorizes the senate to approve or reject subsequent terms of office for justices and judges. Changes the required time frames from thirty to ninety days for the process to appoint and consent to a justice or judge. Harmonizes the senate consent procedures for district court judgeship nominees to mirror the senate consent procedures relating to supreme court justices and intermediate court of appeals and circuit court judges. –Dead for 2017

Bills that increase money’s influence on politics

HB1189/SB251 Establishes an exemption from the prohibition against using election campaign funds to make charitable donations or to award scholarships during the period from the filing of nomination papers to the date of the general election, for candidates who are already declared elected to office after running unopposed in an election.  –HB1189 dead for 2017; SB251 alive

Gutting our Ethics Code

HB31 Repeals the standards (1) requiring a liberal interpretation of the state ethics code; and (2) allowing determinations of gifts law violations under the state ethics code based upon an inference of impropriety, to instead require a finding of actual intent to influence the recipient of the gift. Requires state ethics commission advisory opinions to be approved and signed by a majority of the commission members. Requires that 2 of the 5 members of the state ethics commission be appointed by each chamber of the legislature. –Dead for 2017


(As of February 6, 2017)

The Common Cause Hawaii Team scoured the over 1,900 bills that were introduced during the 2017 Hawaii State Legislative Session. Below are our top priorities and bills that are threats to our democracy.

Legislative session is fast paced. For more frequent updates, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

If you’d like to help us by submitting testimony, please email hawaii@commoncause.org for more information.  

PRIORITIES

Automatic Voter Registration: This would register qualified individuals to register to vote, unless they decline, when they apply for or renew their driver’s license or state ID. Voter registration would also be electronically transferred from the licensing agency to elections officials for processing (rather than paper forms).

HB292/SB460 Requires an application for voter registration to be part of the applications associated with the issuance of a civil identification card under section 286-301 and a driver's license under section 286-109.

Voting By Mail: Under this program, elections would be conducted by mail. However Service Centers will be located across the state for those who prefer to vote in person, need assistance, or needed to register to vote (thanks to Same Day Registration in 2018).

HB291/SB459 Requires elections by mail, beginning first with certain counties in the 2018 primary election, until the 2022 primary elections, when all elections are to be by mail. Clarifies the election laws to provide for elections by mail, including defining "absentee voting" and "election by mail", and stating how absentee ballots are to be prepared for counting and how and when the ballots are counted.

Legislative Broadcasts: Legislative hearings provide valuable information, but are held during business hours, making it difficult for people to participate. This bill would require all public hearings and informational briefings to be recorded, to be stored in a public archive.

HB416/SB156 Requires the legislative broadcast program to make an audio or audiovisual recording of all public hearings and informational briefings held at the State Capitol, and maintain an archive of the recordings to be made available to the public. Appropriates moneys.

STRONGLY SUPPORT

Fair Treatment: Reverses legislators’ exemption of a portion of the state ethics code that specifies that legislators cannot use their elected title for personal gain

HB98 Clarifies the fair treatment law by delineating limitations placed on persons who are task force members from those placed on legislators who are task force members. Clarifies that legislators are not prohibited from making statements or taking action in the exercise of their legislative functions.

Public Funding for House of Representatives: A public funding option for the brave souls running for a House of Representatives seat would give political candidates (both new and incumbents) a choice to spend less time fundraising, and instead to spend that time working with constituents and solving problems. This plan would let political candidates who “opt-in” to the program, break their dependence on big dollar contributors by providing them with enough public money to run competitive races for office.

HB443 Creates a comprehensive public funding program for candidates for election to the state House of Representatives. Repeals those candidates' eligibility for partial public funding under the existing partial public funding program. Appropriates funds to the Campaign Spending Commission.

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV):  sometimes known as Instant Runoff Voting, describes a voting method that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference and then uses those rankings to elect a candidate who combines strong support with broad support by simulating a series of runoff elections in the event that no candidate receives a majority of the votes in the initial count.

HB179 Establishes ranked choice voting for special election for Congressional races and for the election of council members in counties that have adopted the method.

Establish video-conferencing mechanisms to allow citizens to submit live-oral testimony remotely: Legislative session is fast-paced, and public hearings are scheduled at a moment’s notice. Currently, only written testimony and live, in person testimony can be submitted. It becomes challenging for people who live and work outside of downtown Honolulu to participate in the lawmaking process (Ewa, Mililani residents, and Neighbor Island residents, we hear you). A video-conferencing mechanism would make it more convenient for citizens to productively engage in civic dialog with lawmakers on pressing issues they are concerned about.

HB1547 Establishes the Remote Testimony Task Force to develop procedures to make available remote testimony technology throughout the State that enables the public to testify remotely via the Internet during legislative proceedings. Legislature to adopt rules to establish remote testimony capability. Makes an appropriation.

               Threats to Good Government

Shady bills that aim to cloud our sunshine laws, giving potential for lawmakers to deliberate on issues “off the record”

HB315/SB455 Amends conditions under which two or more members of a board may attend an informational meeting or presentation on matters relating to official board business. Allows members of a county council to attend such meetings or presentations without limitation on the number of attendees.

HB327/SB480 Allows any number of County Council members to attend informational meetings or presentations on matters relating to official board business. Allows two or more members of other boards, but less than what would constitute a quorum, to attend a community meeting open to the public.

Threatens fair and impartial courts

HB1186/SB328 Proposes a constitutional amendment to amend the timeframe to renew the term of office of a justice or judge and require consent of the senate for a justice or judge to renew a term of office.

HB1/SB673 Proposes amendments to the Constitution of the State of Hawaii relating to the appointment and retention of justices and judges. Authorizes the senate to approve or reject subsequent terms of office for justices and judges. Changes the required time frames from thirty to ninety days for the process to appoint and consent to a justice or judge. Harmonizes the senate consent procedures for district court judgeship nominees to mirror the senate consent procedures relating to supreme court justices and intermediate court of appeals and circuit court judges.

Bills that increase money’s influence on politics

HB1189/SB251 Establishes an exemption from the prohibition against using election campaign funds to make charitable donations or to award scholarships during the period from the filing of nomination papers to the date of the general election, for candidates who are already declared elected to office after running unopposed in an election.

Gutting our Ethics Code

HB31 Repeals the standards (1) requiring a liberal interpretation of the state ethics code; and (2) allowing determinations of gifts law violations under the state ethics code based upon an inference of impropriety, to instead require a finding of actual intent to influence the recipient of the gift. Requires state ethics commission advisory opinions to be approved and signed by a majority of the commission members. Requires that 2 of the 5 members of the state ethics commission be appointed by each chamber of the legislature.

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