Good Government Groups Challenge Constitutionality of New Law

For Immediate Release September 5, 2018

Contact: Corie Tanida

Good Government Groups Challenge Constitutionality of New Law

Watchdog Groups Use Sharp Knife of Litigation to Curb “Gut and Replace” Tactics, Restore Public Voice in Democracy

(Honolulu, HI)— Common Cause Hawai`i and the League of Women Voters of Honolulu today filed a complaint against the State of Hawai`i, to curb the use of “gut and replace” during the legislative process and protect the public’s voice in democracy.

The complaint seeks to void Act 84 (2018) on the grounds that SB2858 was radically changed late in session, which denied the public a meaningful voice in its passage and deprived legislators adequate time to thoroughly review the consequences of the change. The gut and replace tactic violated Article III, sections 14 and 15 of the Hawai`i State Constitution, the complaint states.

The original version of SB2858 would have required the Department of Public Safety to prepare an annual report with performance indicators regarding efforts to improve recidivism rates and inmate rehabilitation. After crossing over to the House, the House Committee on Public Safety, deleted (gutted) its contents and replaced it with language from a completely unrelated bill. The final version of the bill requires the State to consider (but not necessarily meet) hurricane resistant criteria when designing and constructing new schools.

“Gut and replace and other deceptive practices have been used for years to cut the public out of the conversation. Enough is enough,” said Corie Tanida, Executive Director of Common Cause Hawai`i. “Everyone, especially our lawmakers, should respect and abide by our State Constitution. Nobody is above the law.”

The complaint coincides with the fifth annual Rusty Scalpel Award, established by Common Cause Hawai`i and the League of Women Voters in 2014 to expose and curb the widespread abuse of gut and replace. The watchdog groups decided to increase pressure on lawmakers to end the practice this year with the legal complaint.

Explained Nancy Davlantes, President of the League of Women Voters of Honolulu, “It became woefully clear that the Rusty Scalpel Awards have not curbed the abuse, that shame does not seem to work on legislators and, that left to their own devices, they have no impetus to change. Even the disgusting phrase, ‘gut and replace,’ is now used so openly—has now become so commonplace—as legislation moves along, that we’re prepared to ask ‘where is the outrage?’ The heart of democracy is public participation, this undemocratic and callous disregard for the people deprives the public of any meaningful voice in the legislative process.”

The groups assert that because “gut and replace” was used on SB2858 late in the process and the final bill bears no resemblance to the original, it fails to meet Article III, sections 14 and 15 of the State Constitution. Article III, section 14 of the Constitution of the State of Hawai`i which provides in relevant part: “Each law shall embrace but one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.” Article III, section 15 of the Constitution of the State of Hawai`i provides in relevant part: “No bill shall become law unless it shall pass three readings in each house on separate days.”

SB2858 was an abhorrent abuse of gut and replace in 2018, but it is far from the only problem. In previous years, the good government groups awarded the Rusty Scalpel Award to bills that transformed from proposals to fund conservation, improve health care and reduce tax liability for low-income people to bills that helped the private sector or special interest groups.

Click here to read the complaint.

Common Cause Hawai`i is a state chapter of the national Common Cause organization. Common Cause Hawai`i is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to protecting and improving Hawai`i’s political process and holding government accountable to the public interest. For more information, please visit

The League of Women Voters of Honolulu is a non-partisan organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit