HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE TAKES ACTION ON ETHICS REFORM MEASURES
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Members of the House Committee on Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs (JHA) today discussed seven ethics reform bills, as part of the House's ongoing commitment to transparency, accountability, and improving public trust. Six of the measures were introduced by Speaker Scott K. Saiki on behalf of recommendations made in the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct (CISC) Final Report[i].
"The House remains committed to improving our ethics laws," said JHA Chair David A. Tarnas (D-8, North & South Kohala). "We appreciate the recommendations that were made by the members of the Commission, and the testimony provided by the public on these important measures."
The following measures passed out of JHA for second reading and were referred to the House Committee on Finance (FIN) for further discussion:
· HB 719 – Relating to Public Records (CISC)
· HB 463 – Lowers the Threshold for Disclosure of Campaign Expenditures for Noncandidate Committees to $100
The following measures were deferred with justification provided by Chair Tarnas:
· HB 716 – Relating to Elections (CISC)
o Rep. Tarnas said that the proposed system in the bill was unworkable due to concerns from the Attorney General and the Legislative Reference Bureau; both parties said it was inappropriate for them to do this work. Rep. Tarnas suggested forming a working group to discuss and come back with a viable path forward before the 2024 election.
· HB 720 – Relating to Partial Public Financing of Elections (CISC)
o Measure deferred because similar bill HB95 was approved by JHA on 2/1/23.
· HB 725 – Establishes the Office of the Public Advocate (CISC)
o Rep. Tarnas reported that the Attorney General said that the provisions in the proposed measure were unconstitutional. Rep. Tarnas suggested that provisions in the bill be incorporated into the Rules of the House of Representatives, and the House Administrative and Financial Manual.
· HB 728 – Provides Grants in Aid to Several Counties' Boards of Ethics (CISC)
o Measure deferred because similar bill HB134 was approved by JHA on 2/1/23.
· HB 796 – Relating to Term Limits (CISC)
o Rep. Tarnas said, "This measure passed the CISC by a one-vote margin with the League of Women Voters, the Ethics Commission, and Common Cause voting against it. I agree with the reasoning of the League that term limits are not shown to be effective against public corruption. Rather, term limits prevent good legislators from being able to serve as long as the voters support them. During the last ten years, 56% of senators and 65% of state representatives were replaced through elections. Voters have already suceeded in limiting the terms of most legislators."
"As we review our existing laws and discuss measures that have been introduced this session, the House reaffirms that ethics reform legislation sets the tone in ensuring the highest standards of integrity among our elected officials. It reinforces our commitment to transparency, accountability, and improving public trust," said Representative Tarnas.
Click here to watch a playback of the 2/8 JHA hearing on YouTube.
[i]In 2022, the House of Representatives approved House Resolution No. 9, which established the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct. The Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct is composed of the following members: Judge Daniel R. Foley (Ret.), Hawaiʻi State Ethics Commission Executive Director and General Counsel Robert D. Harris, former State Representative Barbara C. Marumoto, retired United States Attorney for the District of Hawaiʻi Florence T. Nakakuni, League of Women Voters of Hawaiʻi Janet Mason, Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Kristin E. Izumi-Nitao, Common Cause Hawaiʻi Advisory Board member Nikos Leverenz.
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