Hawaii Good Government Groups Announce 2015 “Rusty Scalpel” Winner

The League of Women Voters and Common Cause Hawaii have identified HB 15, CD 1 (Act 173, Session Laws of Hawaii 2015) “Relating to Elections” as their 2015 “Rusty Scalpel” winner.  The “Rusty Scalpel” recognizes enactment of a bill whose subject has been substantially amended without opportunity for public input and legislative review as required by the Hawaii Constitution.

Click to view bill

Click to view bill

The Hawaii Constitution sets procedures for enactment of new laws.  The purpose of these procedures is to facilitate public participation and to discourage “fraud” and “logrolling”.  Article III, Section 14 provides “Each law shall embrace but one subject which shall be expressed in its title.”

In plain English, our Legislature is NOT supposed to pass a bill which addresses 2 or more unrelated subjects.  Article III, Section 15 provides that “No bill shall become law unless it shall pass three readings in each house on separate days.”  In plain English, our Legislature is NOT supposed to pass a bill whose subject has not had three separate readings in the State House and three separate readings in the State Senate.

During the 2015 session, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause Hawaii identified more than 20 bills which did not comply with Article III, Section 14 and/or Article III, Section 15.  The 2015 Legislature actually passed seven bills whose subjects did not receive 3 readings in both the House and Senate. (These are Acts 104, 118, 126, 142, 173, 186 and HB 540, CD 1 which was vetoed.) From these seven “candidates”, the League and Common Cause Hawaii have selected Act 173, Session Laws of Hawaii 2015, for our 2015 “Rusty Scalpel” award because:

  1. Act 173 addresses three unrelated subjects (absentee ballot procedures, terms of Election Commission Chair, evaluation of Chief Elections Officer).
  2. One subject of Act 173 (terms of Election Commission) did not have either 3 readings or      a public hearing in the House.
  3. Another subject of Act 173 (evaluation of Chief Elections Officer) did not have 3 readings or a public hearing in either the House or the Senate.

Last year the League and Common Cause chose Act 81, SLH 2014, for our 2014 “Rusty Scalpel” award.  The subject of Act 81 (which authorized the Hawaii Tourism Authority to acquire a conservation easement at Turtle Bay using revenue bonds amortized with hotel tax revenues) did not have 3 readings or a public hearing in either the House or the Senate.  This year the League and Common Cause are pleased to report that the Legislature followed appropriate procedures, and held numerous public hearings, before passing legislation to clarify, replace, and “fix” Act 81.

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