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Good Government Groups Announce 2016 “Rusty Scalpel” Winner

scalpel award
The outcome of all 2016 legislative measures transmitted to the Governor will be known by July 12, which is the deadline for final approval or veto of the legislature’s bills from this year.  Unfortunately, the Governor has not announced his intent to veto HB1689, CD1 “Relating to Taxation,” which the League of Women Voters and Common Cause Hawaii have identified as their 2016 “Rusty Scalpel” winner.  The “Rusty Scalpel” award 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.

Towards the end of the 2016 legislative session, without meaningful opportunity for public or agency comment, a conference committee replaced the contents of HB 1689, SD 2 with a totally unrelated bill whose subject never had a public hearing in the Senate.  The original HB 1689 amended the existing ethanol facility income tax credit to include other renewable fuels.
All House and Senate committee hearings on HB 1689 concerned tax credits for production of renewable fuels.  But inexplicably, HB 1689, CD 1 did not in any way concern tax credits for production of renewable fuels.  Instead, to everyone’s surprise, HB 1689, CD 1 proposed a new tax credit for production of organic food. 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.

Ann Shaver, League President, said “This makes a travesty of the democratic process.   Just because there are enough votes to pass a measure doesn’t make it Constitutional.  HB1689, CD1 was obviously unrelated to the bill’s original purpose.  The content of the CD1 stunned us; it was passed without a single public hearing.  There clearly was no justification.”

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii is a non-partisan political 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 http://www.lwv-hawaii.com

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. For more information, visit hi.commoncause.org

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