Procedure

February 5th, 2014
By

State Sen. Clarence Nishihara, in a point of personal privilege Wednesday on the Senate floor, told his colleagues that he harbored no ill will over the 3-3 vote on Tuesday in the Senate Agriculture Committee that killed his procedural move to keep right-to-farm legislation alive.

But Nishihara, the committee's chairman, did not let the moment pass without a comment about Senate tradition. "When I first got here 10 years ago, there were two things I was told: And one was keeping your word, and (the other was) the courtesy of letting the chair know if you decide you can't vote with him," he said. "And those two I've always stayed with."

There is a tacit understanding in the Senate that committee chairmen and chairwomen have the prerogative over how to handle legislation before their committees. If a chairman does not have the votes, the legislation is typically held or deferred, sparing the chairman the awkwardness of losing a vote in his own committee.

This understanding has a practical as well as political application: it preserves order, since 16 of the 25 senators are committee chairmen and chairwomen and have mutual interest in retaining their individual power.

Nishihara's experience in the Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday was not a perfect example of the process. He could have called a recess before the vote and tracked down Sen. Glenn Wakai, who serves on the committee and would have voted with the chairman if he was present, which would have made the vote 4-3 in favor.

Nishihara could also have simply not held a vote once he realized his committee was split.

Sen. Clayton Hee told senators that Nishihara was merely asking for a procedural vote so the right-to farm legislation might be heard later at a public hearing. He said he planned similar procedural moves in his own Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee.

"These are procedural matters that have been cut at its knees -- pre-empted from having the merits debated in a public hearing," Hee said. "And that is unfortunate."

Sen. J. Kalani English, who voted against Nishihara's move, clarified that Nishihara has a right-to-farm bill that has been referred to committees for review. He said short form bills -- like the one Nishihara tried to amend  -- should be used when there are no other available titles to deal with an issue.

"In this case, there was one that was square on point and it was already referred. So to my thinking, why not move the bill that was already there?" he said. "The chairs couldn't agree -- I understand -- on the hearing. But that is our process. So, you know, to say that we have not followed our process is a little bit misleading."

English said inserting the contents of the right-to-farm bill into the short form bill might be seen as circumventing the process.

But Hee said it should be the prerogative of committee chairmen.

"So if this chamber starts on its way of undercutting the chair's authority, so be it," Hee said. "Let us give notice to each other at this time. We give notice we cut you at the knees -- procedurally. That's the argument before this chamber, not the merits of the discussion."

Senate President Donna Mercado Kim said: "At the end of the day, every member has the right to exercise their right to vote, whether it's procedural or whether it's on the merit of the bill."

12 Responses to “Procedure”

  1. Kibosh:

    Hee is full of it.


  2. Bart Dame:

    i got a sense Senator Nishihara was not fully aware of the forces in play during yesterday's meeting. He read from a prepared script when describing the bill and the process. At one point, he wondered aloud if testimony would be allowed. I do not know which senator he was obliquely criticizing with his floor remarks. BUT, his unexpected reliance upon the gimmick of the short form bill caused a great deal of confusion, as well as rapid mobilization among opponents of the bill. We were expecting to get advanced notice of a hearing on B3058.

    Then we learned, with less than 24 hours, the substantive language of that bill was being dumped into SB110 and that NO TESTIMONY would be allowed. So emails flew and phonecalls were made, emergency meetings were scheduled with members of the committee and they heard from residents in their district.

    Whatever assurances Nishihara might have thought he had received from committee members were blown away by the whirlwind HE generated through his unusual tactic. The "traditional rules" of the Senate are more likely to carry weight when the chair also honors the normal rules. He tried to pull a "fast one." And that speed worked against him.

    I think his lengthy speech at the hearing, once he realized he did not have the votes to pass the bill, shows a serious gap in communications and goodwill. He (mistakenly in my view) declared his side had a monopoly of science and rationality, while opponents of the bill only had emotionalism. I know the Senator to be a tender-hearted man. I think he needs to see the issue with more receptivity to the parents on the Westside of Kauai, with children suffering from horrible birth defects.And see it less through the eyes and words of the highly-paid GMO industry lobbyists working the Capitol building and organizing fundraisers for him.

    Neither side has all the facts, nor all the virtue. We need more heart to heart dialogue.


  3. sue:

    WoW, Derrick DePledge, you really got the the WHOLE story: "Nishihara...could have called a recess before the vote and tracked down Sen. Glenn Wakai, who serves on the committee and would have voted with the chairman if he was present, which would have made the vote 4-3 in favor.

    "Nishihara could also have simply not held a vote once he realized his committee was split."
    A+ So sharp... Hope your boss gives you a raise.


  4. Knudsen:

    Pushing senators to reveal what they want to vote before an important vote, is
    that a kind of attempt to do some kind of corruption??? Knowing what senators will vote, gives quite an advance to manipulate various votes to ones own advance. Is it democracy? Is it corruption? Is it illegal?.. Just wondering.


  5. Hawaiino:

    Sue

    Sarcasm is an imperfect tool....if you are interested in making a point, other than that you don't (currently) respect DD then you have some work to do.

    I'm interested...


  6. kamaaina808:

    Hee's Majesty said, "...We give notice we cut you at the knees -- procedurally."

    Watch out.


  7. ohiaforest3400:

    Kolea, if you've got information that establishes, or even suggests, a causal link between pesticide use and/or GMO cultivation and birth defects on the West Side, I NEED TO SEE THAT. You got some citation, source material, etc.?


  8. Especially Incognito:

    "Chauncy Gardner...Perhaps a simpleton but no universal wisdoms gleanable."


  9. Hawaiino:

    I did a search for "birth defects Kauai". There's some historic state data but for recent links its mostly anecdotal.
    DOH says 4% of births in Hawaii have a recorded defect of some kind. The article I read quoting the concerned doctors and nurses of Kaua testifying on bill 2149 said they observed 4 defects in 750 birhs over 3 years.
    Seems the statistics are getting bent to the shape of the advocates. When passions are inflamed, or fear rules, it's good to "cool head".
    BD did I miss some sources?


  10. Especially Incognito:

    "DOH says 4% of births in Hawaii have a recorded defect of some kind. The article I read quoting the concerned doctors and nurses of Kaua testifying on bill 2149 said they observed 4 defects in 750 birhs over 3 years." Hawaiiano.

    "Kaua"? "750 birhs over 3 years"

    Off Topic unrelated to Procedures. Must be a Kaua transplant who married their cousin and ended up with down syndrome. How I know?
    Seems the one without brain had a stroke. His brain not fed oxygon and blood. Making that person oxymoron.


  11. Especially Incognito:

    "Seems the statistics are getting bent to the shape of the advocates. When passions are inflamed, or fear rules, it's good to "cool head".
    BD did I miss some sources?" Hawaiiwhino.

    Came out of right fields and missed the catch


  12. gale:

    But, what about the sickening of students and teachers at Waimea Canyon Middle School several times between 2006 and 2008, and the Abercrombie Administration trying to charge $1800 for the information. http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2013/12/23/20710-hawaii-ag-dept-heavily-redacts-public-documents-at-syngentas-reques


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