2017 Legislative Priorities

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.

(As of May 4, 2017)

The 2017 Hawaii State Legislative Session came to a close on Thursday, May 4, 2017. It was a mixed bag for good government reforms with both some wins and disappointments. Below are highlights of Common Cause Hawaii’s work.

Wins:

“Sunshine Law Modernization” –first major update to Hawaii’s Sunshine aka open meetings law in 20 years.
 HB165  Requires state and county boards to make meeting documents available to the public. Clarifies notice requirements. Accounts for electronic documents and notices. (HB165 CD1)

Campaign Finance – The Campaign Spending Commission is the state agency that administers and enforces our state and local campaign finance laws. These bills were initiated by CSC and are considered “housekeeping” bills, and we supported these much needed updates.

HB280 HD1 SD1 CD1 Clarifies the due dates of preliminary, final, and supplemental reports of candidate committees to be submitted to the Campaign Spending Commission. Requires that a candidate who is elected and is sworn into office prior to thirty calendar days after a general, subsequent, subsequent special, or subsequent nonpartisan election file the final election period report three business days before the date the candidate is to be sworn into office. Requires that the supplemental report for candidate committees due on January 31 be filed annually. (HB280 CD1)

HB281 HD1 SD1 CD1 Requires the Campaign Spending Commission to publish on its website the names of all candidate and noncandidate committees that fail to file a report or to correct a report within two weeks of the Commission's notice to correct. (HB281 CD1)

HB282 HD1 SD1 CD1 Clarifies that increased fines may apply if a noncandidate committee fails to timely file a second preliminary general report. (HB282 CD1)

Also, the Campaign Spending Commission’s general expenses will be funded by the general fund, and not the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund (HECF). The HECF is the trust fund that provides matching funds for Hawaii’s Publicly Funded (aka Citizen Owned) elections. This will be the first time in about a decade that the HECF will be used for the exclusive purpose of publicly funded elections. This ensures the future of both the Campaign Spending Commission and Clean Elections program.

Ethics

The following bills are supported by the Ethics Commission. We supported these long overdue updates to our ethics laws. 

HB508 HD1 SD1 CD1 Increases the maximum administrative fines for ethics violations. Clarifies the assessment of fines in the context of a settlement agreement. (HB508 CD1)

HB511 HD1 SD1 CD1 Clarifies the laws governing lobbyists by amending the definitions of "expenditure," "lobbyist," and "lobbying." Allows a former employer of a lobbyist to file a notice of termination of employment. Amends requirements for expenditure reports covering special sessions of the legislature. Requires the posting of lobbyist registration statements on the state ethics commission's website within a reasonable time after filing and the posting shall remain on the website for at least four years. Increases the maximum administrative fine from $500 to $1,000 for each violation of the lobbying law. (HB511 CD1)

HB852 HD2 SD1 CD1 Authorizes the state ethics commission to post on its website for public inspection, the names of legislators, delegates to the constitutional convention, or certain employees who fail to file their financial disclosure statements by the statutory deadline. Allows the state ethics commission to use in-person service, electronic mail, or first-class mail to notify legislators, delegates to the constitutional convention, or certain employees who fail to timely file their financial disclosure statements. Increases the administrative fine and late penalty fee for failure to timely file financial disclosure statements. (HB852 CD1)

Protecting our Fair and Impartial Courts – We are proud to have had a hand in stopping the following legislation that if passed would have threatened the independence of our court system.

SB249 SD2 HD1 Reduces the percentage of average final compensation used to calculate the retirement allowance for a member who first earned credited service as a judge after June 30, 2050, to two per cent. (SB249 HD1) (Unfairly targets judges’ (and only judges’) retirement benefits, it will affect the State’s ability to attract the most qualified candidates)

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 judge

Disappointments

Voting modernization –In 2017 Hawaii was named as the state with the lowest voter turnout, for the 5th consecutive presidential election. We need to reduce barriers to voting and make it more convenient and accessible for everyone to make their voices heard. For the past several years we have been supporting Vote By Mail and Automatic Voter Registration. Both reforms have been shown to increase voter turnout in states across the country.

SCR108 SD1 “Automatic Voter Registration Task Force.” Requesting the Chief election Officer to Convene an Automatic Voter Registration Task Force to explore the Feasibility of Establishing and Implementing an Automatic Voter Registration System in Hawaii.

HB1401 HD1 SD1 “Voting By Mail.” Enacts voting by mail uniformly across all counties for all elections commencing in 2020, and allows any election to be conducted by mail prior to the 2020 primary election, in whole or in part, as determined by the chief election officer or county clerk, as appropriate. 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. Requires the office of elections to submit a report to the legislature prior to the convening of each regular session from 2018 through 2023, regarding the implementation of a vote by mail system. Takes effect on 1/1/2020. (SD1) 

(As of April 12, 2017)

The final 2 weeks of April are quickly approaching, which means the start of Conference Committee. This is when the Senate and House work out the differences between bills as only 1 version can be sent to the Governor for consideration -the final step to becoming law. No public testimony is taken during this time. Below is a short list of some of the bills that we are watching during this period.

Voting and Elections:

SCR108 SD1 “Automatic Voter Registration Task Force.” Requesting the Chief election Officer to Convene an Automatic Voter Registration Task Force to explore the Feasibility of Establishing and Implementing an Automatic Voter Registration System in Hawaii. (Support)

HB1401 HD1 SD1 “Voting By Mail.” Enacts voting by mail uniformly across all counties for all elections commencing in 2020, and allows any election to be conducted by mail prior to the 2020 primary election, in whole or in part, as determined by the chief election officer or county clerk, as appropriate. 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. Requires the office of elections to submit a report to the legislature prior to the convening of each regular session from 2018 through 2023, regarding the implementation of a vote by mail system. Takes effect on 1/1/2020. (SD1) (Support)

Sunshine and Transparency:

HB165 HD1 SD2 “Sunshine Modernization.” Requires board packets be made available for public inspection and provide notice of the availability of board packets. Allows boards to allow oral testimony to be presented on agenda items separately and at the time the item is first brought up for discussion at the meeting. Establishes notice and disclosure requirements for emergency meetings. Clarifies notice filing requirements, requires electronic mailing of meeting notices upon request, and requires electronic posting of meeting notices, cancellation notices, and meeting minutes. (SD2) (Support)

HB847 HD1 SD1 Establishes the Innovation and Commercialization Initiative Program to expressly give the University of Hawaii the legal authority to create, promote, and participate in new economic enterprises and expand workforce opportunities based on inventions and discoveries generated by or at the University. Takes effect on 7/1/2050. (SD1) (Oppose, it creates a large loophole in the Sunshine law)

Campaign Finance:

The following are bills supported by the Campaign Spending Commission, to update various sections of the State’s campaign finance laws. These are considered “housekeeping” bills, but are important and we support them.

HB280 HD1 SD1 Clarifies the due dates of preliminary, final, and supplemental reports of candidate committees to be submitted to the Campaign Spending Commission. Requires that a candidate who is elected and is sworn into office prior to thirty calendar days after a general, subsequent, subsequent special, or subsequent nonpartisan election file the final election period report three business days before the date the candidate is to be sworn into office. Requires that the supplemental report for candidate committees due on January 31 be filed annually. Takes effect on 7/1/2050. (SD1)

HB281 HD1 SD1 Requires the Campaign Spending Commission to publish on its website the names of all noncandidate committees that fail to file a report or to correct a report within two weeks from the notice to correct provided by the Commission. Takes effect on 7/1/2050. (SD1)

HB282 HD1 SD1 Clarifies that increased fines may apply if a noncandidate committee fails to timely file a second preliminary general report. Takes effect on 7/1/2050. (SD1)

Ethics:

HB425 HD1 SD3 Makes certain sections of the code of ethics inapplicable to technology transfer activities sponsored by University of Hawaii if the activities comply with the regulatory framework and research compliance program approved by the board of regents. Requires the board of regents to submit written status reports to the legislature every year. Takes effect on 5/12/2050. Repeals on 6/30/2022. (SD3) (Oppose, it creates a large loophole in our ethics code)

The following bills are supported by the Ethics Commission. We support these long overdue updates to our ethics laws.

HB508 HD1 SD1 Increases the maximum administrative fines for ethics violations. Clarifies the assessment of fines in the context of a settlement agreement. Takes effect on 1/7/2059. (SD1) (Support)

HB511 HD1 SD1 Clarifies the laws governing lobbyists by amending the definitions of "expenditure," "lobbyist," and "lobbying." Allows a former employer of a lobbyist to file a notice of termination of employment. Amends requirements for expenditure reports covering special sessions of the legislature. Requires the posting of lobbyist registration statements on the state ethics commission's website within a reasonable time after filing and the posting shall remain on the website for at least four years. Increases the maximum administrative fine from $500 to $1,000 for each violation of the lobbying law. Takes effect on 1/7/2059. (SD1) (Support)

HB852 HD2 SD1 Authorizes the state ethics commission to post on its website for public inspection, the names of legislators, delegates to the constitutional convention, or certain employees who fail to file their financial disclosure statements by the statutory deadline. Allows the state ethics commission to use in-person service, electronic mail, or first-class mail to notify legislators, delegates to the constitutional convention, or certain employees who fail to timely file their financial disclosure statements. Increases fines for failure by candidates for state elective office to timely file financial disclosure statements. Takes effect on 1/7/2059. (SD1) (Support)

Fair and Impartial Courts:

SB249 SD2 HD1 Reduces the percentage of average final compensation used to calculate the retirement allowance for a member who first earned credited service as a judge after June 30, 2050, to two per cent. (SB249 HD1) (Oppose. Unfairly targets judges’ (and only judges’) retirement benefits, it will affect the State’s ability to attract the most qualified candidates)


(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.

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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