Harbin backtracks on vote supporting gas cap suspension
As expected, a proposal to suspend the state's gasoline price cap and in its place adopt strict oversight of oil industry pricing was advanced by the full House last week by voice vote.
But the measure lost the approval vote of one Democrat whose vote in committee was recorded as being in support of the measure.
Rep. Bev Harbin (D, Kakaako-Downtown) said she, in fact, does not support the bill because it includes a provision to repeal the gas cap on Jan. 1, 2008. Harbin said that having the repeal in statute before it is determined whether the transparency measures work would be "committing a full surrender to the oil companies."
She contends her vote was misrecorded in committee because of an ongoing dispute with House leadership over her committee assignments.
Harbin said she informed leadership that she would resign from four of five committees she had been assigned to because she did not have any expertise on their subject matters and did not feel she could contribute constructively.
House Speaker Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise-Palolo Valley) had informed Harbin that under House rules, committee assignments were approved in a resolution adopted on opening day of the session, and she cannot unilaterally resign.
One of her four assignments was to the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, which was one of three House panels that unanimously passed out the proposal to suspend the gas cap.
Because she was interested in the subject matter, she attended the hearing but sat in the audience, not at the table as a member of the committee. When the vote was cast, her presence was noted and, under House rules, counted as a "yes" because she did not voice opposition, according to House officials.
She corrected her vote when the bill came to the House floor Friday.
Harbin said she disagrees with House leadership on the interpretation of the rules.
She added that she will continue to sit only on the committee from which she did not attempt to resign -- the Water, Land Use and Ocean Resources Committee -- while continuing her discussions with leadership on her other assignments.