By Derrick DePledge
State senators, who have been tarred with much of the blame for the impending death of a news media shield law, countered Wednesday that it was the House that sprung the amendment that will effectively kill a bill to extend a weakened version of the law.
The House approved a floor amendment to the bill on Tuesday -- cheered by news media advocates -- that would extend the existing shield law for two years. A two-year extension had been suggested as a compromise by Rep. Gregg Takayama, the bill's sponsor, and also by Jeff Portnoy, an attorney for the news media, in a note to House and Senate negotiators last Thursday.
But a two-year extension was not part of the public debate on the bill as it moved through the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee and then to a House-Senate conference committee. House leaders informed the Senate of the amendment on Tuesday morning.
From Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria:
Passing the amendment without consulting with the other chamber affirmatively kills the bill. The draft that was passed out of conference in the form of HB622, HD1, SD1, CD1 continued the additional protections of a shield law above and beyond what is provided by Hawaii’s constitution for the press.
The floor amendment presented a very substantive change to the conference draft that was agreed upon by the House and Senate conferees. Every draft of the bill up until that point sought to make the shield law permanent. To introduce such a substantive change, moments before the Senate began its floor session, lacked the transparency and openness that the public expects and deserves.