By Derrick DePledge
Common Cause Hawaii and the League of Women Voters of Hawaii have awarded the inaugural "Rusty Scalpel" designation to the bill that financed the state's share of a $48.5 million conservation easement at Turtle Bay Resort.
The bill -- House Bill 2434, signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie -- was the product of an innovative idea by state Sen. David Ige, the governor's Democratic primary opponent. But the bill was a "gut and replace" hatched late in the conference committee process and the details never received a public hearing.
Good government groups came up with the "Rusty Scalpel" to shine the public spotlight on legislative tactics such as "gut and replace."
Some insiders at the Legislature, however, thought the Turtle Bay bill might be a reality check for good government activists and their cheerleaders in the liberal blogosphere and alternative media about knee-jerk reactions to tactics. Many environmental and conservation advocates who have joined with good government groups over the years to complain about tactics enthusiastically supported the Turtle Bay bill.
But Common Cause and the League of Women Voters stayed true to their rhetoric by scolding lawmakers about the process:
Regardless of the final proposal’s merits, there was no compelling reason not to extend the session and hold public hearings on this important amended bill.
It disrespects Hawaii’s Constitution when a legislative committee adopts bill amendments with no rational connection to the subject of the bill referred to that committee. Article III, Section 14 of our Constitution specifically requires that each bill have a single subject expressed in the bill’s title and prohibits changing any bill’s title. Article III, Section 15 requires that each bill have three separate readings in each house of the Legislature. The unambiguous intent is to encourage informed public comment on all proposed legislation and thorough consideration of all relevant factors by both House and Senate subject matter committees. The public obviously is not aware of and cannot comment on substantive amendments being proposed in Conference Committee.