Action on Ending Gut-and-Replace in 2021 and 2022

Honolulu Star-Advertiser – April 17, 2022 – Hawaii lawmakers still practicing gut-and-replace surgery on bills

It may not yet be time to retire Hawaii’s “Rusty Scalpel” competition. A pair of good-government organizations have bestowed the ignominious annual award in recent years to the worst piece of legislation at the state Capitol produced using the “gut and replace” tactic that dodges democratic lawmaking principles rooted in Hawaii’s Constitution. The Hawaii Supreme Court laid down a precedent-setting November ruling that invalidated a 2018 law stemming from a gut-and-replace maneuver, designating certain aspects of the practice as unconstitutional.

Yet at least two examples of bills that could easily be considered an affront to the court’s decision popped up recently at the Legislature.

Sandy Ma, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, which challenged the 2018 law with the League of Women Voters of Honolulu, called HB 510 “problematic” in the context of whether it meets the court’s new standard for being germane to versions that received public input and lawmaker consideration last year. “This is still taxes, but it’s two completely different taxes,” she said.

To read the entire article, please click here.

Honolulu Civil Beat – April 17, 2022 – Honolulu Civil Beat – April 17, 2022 – The Hawaii Legislature Is Winding Down. Will The Gut-And-Replace Ban Hold Up?

Lawmakers have much leeway to make drastic changes to bills in midsession, but could also be hauled into court if they go too far. Hawaii lawmakers face a new test in the weeks ahead as they wrap up this year’s session: Can they get their business done and go home without surprising the public with entirely new proposals or dramatic, last-minute amendments to the bills they have been debating since January?

That long-standing gut-and-replace practice was often bitterly criticized by frustrated advocates and activists who would follow legislation all year, only to see bills transformed into something entirely new and different at the last minute.

Common Cause Hawaii was so dead set against gut and replace that it went so far as to create a special “Rusty Scalpel Award” in 2014 to help draw attention to the practice, but that attempt at public shaming appeared to do nothing to curb the practice.

Click here to read the entire article.

Honolulu Civil Beat – April 05, 2022 – Are Lawmakers ‘Testing the Boundaries’ Of the Ban on Gut and Replace?

A new draft bill approved by the House Finance Committee and the House Labor & Tourism Committee would create a new 14-member Natural Resource Management Commission to distribute up to $30 million in grants that would be funded by hotel room tax revenues. The bill would also provide $60 million a year to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which is tasked with marketing Hawaii to the world. But none of those provisions in the bill were in any of the earlier drafts of SB 775, which raises a legal question – it may violate the recently passed bill dealing with “Gut and Replace.”

House Labor & Tourism Committee Chairman Richard Onishi said he believes the bill will hold up in court if it is challenged.

Sandy Ma, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, said she has received calls from lawmakers’ staffs asking if she thinks bills including the House amendments to SB 775 comply with the court ruling. “It just kind of strung things together, and it should just be a pure one subject, one title, and it’s not,” Ma said. “It does seem like they are testing the boundaries of what is allowable, and what they can get away with.”

To read the entire article, please click here.

Common Cause Hawaii Webinar on “Gut and Replace” Legislation – December 09, 2021 

Sandy Ma, Common Cause Hawaii’s Executive Director hosted a one-hour webinar on December 9th to share with participants the issues associated with this less-than-transparent tactic too often employed by Hawaii’s State Legislature. Attorney Brian Black of the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest and Tom Yamachika of the Tax Foundation of Hawai’i shared their expertise on how good government advocates can deal with this practice. For a video recording of this important Zoom session, please click here.

Honolulu Civil Beat – November 04, 2021 – Hawaii Supreme Court Ends Legislature’s Gut-And-Replace Tactic.

The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Legislature should not be allowed to gut the contents of a bill and replace it with new provisions, sometimes unrelated to the original bill, because the practice “discourages public confidence and participation.”

It’s a significant ruling, putting an end to a long-held legislative maneuver just months before lawmakers are set to reconvene in January.

News of the ruling was welcome to Sandy Ma, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The ruling “gives guidelines and guide rails for the Legislature going forward,” Ma said

Joint Press Release by Common Cause Hawaii and the League of Women Voters of Hawaii – June 21, 2021 – House Bill 862 Awarded Annual Rusty Scalpel Award By Good Government Groups.

This award is given to state legislature’s most dishonest “gut and replace” legislation, and today, Common Cause Hawaii and The League of Women Voters of Hawaii announced that this year’s Rusty Scalpel Award for most unconstitutional state legislation was given to HB 862 “Relating to State Government,” for its overly-broad scope, ever-changing intent, and lack of transparency throughout the bill-to-law process.

To read the entire press release, click here.




The Hawaii State Constitution sets procedures for enactment of new laws. The purpose of these procedures is to facilitate public participation and to discourage deceptive practices and “logrolling”.

Article III, Section 14 provides in relevant part, “Each law shall embrace but one subject which shall be expressed in its title.”

Article III, Section 15 provides in relevant part that “No bill shall become law unless it shall pass three readings in each out on separate days.”

In plain English, our Legislature is not supposed to pass a bill which addresses 2 or more unrelated subjects, and is not supposed to pass a bill whose subject has not had 3 separate readings in the State House and 3 separate readings in the State Senate. The purpose is to ensure a fair process, where the public and legislators have time to review and comment on proposed legislation.

Unfortunately, legislators use deceptive practices such as “gut and replace”, when a bill is stripped of its original content and replaced with an unrelated bill’s contents, and “Frankenstein bills” which is when bills encompassing various subjects are cobbled together into one bill.

Common Cause Hawaii opposes these practices as it deprives the public of any meaningful voice in the legislative process and deprives legislators adequate notice and time to thoroughly review the consequences of proposed legislation before making a decision.

Further, in order to expose and curb the widespread use of “gut and replace” and “Frankenstein bills”, we have partnered with the League of Women Voters of Hawaii to create the “Rusty Scalpel” award.

Read about previous Rusty Scalpel winners:

2019 Rusty Scalpel HB 1586

2018 Rusty Scalpel SB2858 

2017 Rusty Scalpel HB375 

2016 Rusty Scalpel HB1689

2015 Rusty Scalpel HB15

2014 Rusty Scalpel HB2434