Common Cause and League of Women Voters name 2019 Rusty Scalpel winner

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HONOLULU – A $350 million-dollar Aloha Stadium deal that started out as a piece of environmental legislation receives the sixth annual Rusty Scalpel award from Common Cause Hawaii and the League of Women Voters of Hawaii.

The award is designed to draw attention to an abusive practice of government, in which legislators take a bill on one topic, gut the language, and replace it with something completely different to avoid the Constitutionally required legislative review. The Rusty Scalpel is given annually by the good government groups to the worst example of “gut and replace” legislation in Hawaii.

The 2019 Rusty Scalpel winner started out as a bill that would move various energy and environmental agencies and programs from the Department of Health and the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism to a new Department of the Environment. But by the time the Governor signed HB 1586, CD 1 (to become Act 268, Session Laws of Hawaii 2019), the bill authorized the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) to redevelop Aloha Stadium and the state-owned stadium property. To finance unspecified redevelopment, HB 1586, CD 1 appropriated $20 million in state general funds, $150 million in bonds to be amortized with general funds, and $180 million in bonds to be amortized by revenues from unspecified private uses. HB 1586, CD 1 exempted the stadium property from laws which apply to “public lands” under the jurisdiction of the DLNR. HB1586, CD 1 also authorized the HCDA to negotiate 99-year leases for private redevelopment/use of unspecified parts of the stadium property.

Article III, Section 15 of the Hawaii State Constitution requires that “No bill shall become law unless it shall pass three readings in each house on separate days.” However, the stadium redevelopment version of HB 1586 had only two readings in the State Senate and only one reading in the State House.

As introduced, and as passed by the House, HB 1586 proposed to transfer various state agencies to a new Department of the Environment. The HD 1 amended version of the bill was referred for joint action by the Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development, and Tourism and the Senate Committee on Government Operations. These two Senate committees deleted thecontents of the bill then held a public hearing on HB 1586, Proposed SD 1 to establish a new State Energy Office within the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism and to modify stateenergy programs and policy. The Proposed SD 1 was adopted as the SD 1 version of the bill, which ultimately was re-referred for joint action by the Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development,and Tourism, the Senate Committee on Government Operations, and the Senate Committee on Ways and  Means. These three Senate Page 2 committees deleted the contents of the bill then held a public hearing on HB 1586, Proposed SD 2 to authorize the HCDA to redevelop Aloha Stadium and the stadium property. With minor changes the Proposed SD 2 was adopted as the SD 2 version of the bill. Because the House disagreed with the SD 2 version, the bill was referred to a House-Senate conference committee. The House and Senate ultimately voted to enact numerous conference committee amendments as HB 1586, CD 1.

Piilani Kaopuiki, President of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, commented: “HB 1586, CD 1, which proposes redevelopment of Aloha Stadium and stadium property, should have but did not receive three separate readings in the Senate and the House. Late in the legislative session, leadership of three Senate committees (Energy, Economic Development, and Tourism, Government Operations, and Ways and Means) agreed to delete the contents of a bill which concerned energy and the environment and insert a totally unrelated bill. This obviously was not an emergency and debunks the claim that ‘gut and replace’ tactics are only used for emergencies.”

Sandy Ma, Executive Director of Common Cause Hawaii said, “while the Aloha Stadium is a landmark in Hawaii, the Legislature should have fully and seriously considered HB 1586 and allowed the public to weigh in on the measure, given the major financial effects on the State, instead of using the ‘gut and replace’ practice currently being challenged in court.”

Common Cause Hawaii and The League of Women Voters of Honolulu challenged legislative gut and replace in 2018. After a loss in Circuit Court, the decision was appealed on May 2, 2019 and a briefing will occur during the Fall.

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase under standing of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Common Cause Hawaii is a state chapter of the national Common Cause organization. Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to protecting and improving Hawaii’s political process and holding government accountable to the public interest.