Legislature to consider 'sunshine,' ethics bills
Bills to overhaul the Legislature's ethics laws and add increased public notice of legislative actions are scheduled for a hearing next week.
The so-called "legislative sunshine" bill (SB 1062) has never had a hearing in the Legislature, according to the bill's sponsor, Sen. Les Ihara (D, Kapahulu-Palolo).
The ethics reform bill (SB 623) has been heard, but it has never passed the Legislature, according to Ihara.
Both bills will be heard Wednesday at 9 a.m. before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Room 229 of the state Capitol.
The ethics bill comes after Senate President Robert Bunda last year proposed a special ethics committee to hear cases and conduct investigations of possible ethical misconduct by members of the Senate.
Bunda said he would support Ihara's move for new ethics legislation.
"This is the perfect time for this legislation to surface and get the community involved in making some changes," Bunda said.
Ihara's bill would create an ethics committee for both the state House and Senate, tighten up conflict-of-interest laws and add more financial disclosure rules.
Perhaps the most controversial portion would prohibit fundraising by legislators during the 60-day legislative session.
Many lawmakers now ask for political donations while they are in session and acting on legislation.
Ihara said judges are not allowed to have a financial relationship with people or firms involved in a case they are hearing, and legislators have a similar decision-making authority while they are in session.
"Legislators act as judges of legislation before them, and they have financial interests with the persons bringing the legislation before them," Ihara said. "At least while the court of the Legislature is in session, we should cease that relationship and put it on hold."
The sunshine bill would require the Legislature to hold public hearings on changes to legislative rules and open up correspondence about a bill to be public testimony.
Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua), Judiciary Committee chairwoman, said she does not know how the measures will fare in her committee and scheduled them for a hearing because Ihara asked it.
"He felt strongly enough about it to write a letter asking that we hear the bill, but there hasn't been any pressure to hear them or not hear it," Hanabusa said.