The chaotic nature of the law making process at the State level is a given. Literally thousands of proposed laws (bills) are introduced, hundreds of hearings are held, thousands of pieces of testimony are submitted, and ultimately several hundred bills are passed into law.
The subject matter focus of these bills range from the smallest amendments and corrections to existing law, to broad and far-reaching changes in public policy. Most, never see the light of day, never receive a hearing and are never voted upon. But having a bill written and submitted into and of itself, represents the start of a discussion of the applicable policy questions.
It is not unusual for a new proposal, to take 3 to 5 years or more to eventually be passed into law. There is a phrase used at the legislature that, a bill or measure must be “ripe.” Unless the 76 legislators are familiar with the issue and recognize the need for the legislative proposal, the matter is not considered “ripe” and therefore unlikely to pass into law.
Some bills are submitted simply as a statement by the introducer (Senator or Representative) that can then be used during an election season, allowing the candidate to say some variation of the statement: “I introduced a bill that would have saved the world…but unfortunately my colleagues failed to support it.”
Other than measures intended as a “technical fix” to existing laws which are normally introduced by the administration, many if not most new bills originate via the efforts of an “advocacy group”, such as a labor union, professional organization (licensing issues), environmental, agriculture or other similar special interests who provide a template of the proposed bill that perhaps has been passed into law in another State.
An essential tool for the public and all who want to follow and influence the legislature is http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov
IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT ANYONE SERIOUS ABOUT BEING INVOLVED, BECOME FAMILIAR AND UTILIZE THIS RESOURCE.
Visit this website please. Establish an account. It is super easy.
This website will allow you to easily read and track the progress of various bills. You can offer testimony and read all testimony that has been submitted by others, and you can see how the various legislators vote. You can even set up “automatic notifications” and receive email notices whenever a bill is changed, or scheduled for a hearing. You can do a “word” text search and discover all the bills that have been introduced dealing with various subject matter.
My personal priorities of current legislation now pending at various stages of the process include:
SB2922 proposes to support increasing funding for public education via a Constitutional Amendment. See the complete Bill history and read the Bill here:
SB3095 proposes to require full disclosure for large users of Restricted Use Pesticides.
This measure is scheduled for a hearing on Monday Feb. 12. Read the hearing notice and offer testimony here:
SB3101 proposes to close the tax loophole for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and use funds generated to fund affordable housing. Read the Bill here:
SB2291 proposes to increase the minimum wage in Hawaii to $15 per hour by 2020, eliminates the tip credit and ensures automatic cost of living increases in the future.
SB833 proposes amendments to the constitution to provide for “direct initiative”. This is my “sick and tired of the status quo” at the legislature and am not going to take it any more, Bill.
SB3008 proposes to increase protections for borrowers utilizing “Pay Day Loans” who are currently charged up to 450% interest on small loans. This is my “prove you are democrats” Bill aimed to regulate an industry that preys on low income working people.
Note: My focus above is on Senate bills (SB’s), however there are also “House vehicles” and HB’s, for each of these measures as well. There are also often multiple variations of similar themes, for example there might be 4 or 5 different “minimum wage” bills that have been introduced. Normally the committee chairs will select one of the most comprehensive measures to be the primary “vehicle” that is used to carry the contents of the bill forward through the process. And, bills will change as they go through the process so must be watched closely.
The above represents just a small sampling of the important measures now before the Hawaii State Legislature that deserve your attention. Whether they pass or fail, to a large extent depends on the input and involvement of the public. Please consider taking a few minutes of your time and engaging in your civic responsibility. Read the bills, explore the website and offer whatever testimony you see fit.
Take ownership of your government.
Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.