Panel defers 'Sunshine Law' bill
The measure would have created a task force to review the open-government law
Lawmakers have tabled a measure that critics said would have put the fate of the state's open-government statute, or "Sunshine Law," largely in the hands of elected officials who have opposed such requirements in the past.
Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee deferred Senate Bill 1061, House Draft 1, after hearing testimony mostly in opposition to the proposal.
It would have established a task force to review the law and recommend ways to "clarify, revise and promote effective and efficient compliance."
The task force would have been composed of one member from each county council, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Board of Education, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents and the Charter School Administration Office, and two members each appointed by the House speaker, Senate president and the governor. The director of the Office of Information Practices, or an appointee, would also serve.
Current OIP Director Les Kondo was among those who opposed the bill.
"It really is one-sided," Kondo said of the proposed task force. "It doesn't have representation from public interest groups and media groups."
Supporters for the bill included the City and County of Honolulu corporation counsel, along with members of the Honolulu City Council and Maui County Council.
"The Sunshine Law is a critical means of ensuring public participation in an open governmental process," Maui County Council Chairman G. Riki Hokama said in testimony to the committee. "At the same time, the vagaries of its interpretation can create confusion and impede progress.
"Appointing a task force comprised of members who regularly operate within the parameters of the Sunshine Law, members who are not currently subject to the Sunshine Law and a representative of the Office of Information Practices will allow the input necessary to make informed and productive recommendations."
Opponents, including the Hawaii chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the League of Women Voters and other public advocate groups, said it was unlikely to expect government officials to come up with acceptable public meeting requirements based on past practices.
"This is probably a prescription for failure," said Jean Aoki of the League of Women Voters.
Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke recommended that the measure be deferred, saying it made more sense for members to support various House and Senate resolutions still alive urging a third party, namely the University of Hawaii College of Social Sciences Public Policy Center, to study the law and make recommendations.
"I think they would be in the best position to look at these issues and have dialogue and then call the various stakeholders in" to come up with recommendations, said Luke (D, Pacific Heights-Punchbowl).
Opponents also criticized the committee's gutting of the underlying Senate bill to include the Sunshine Law review. The original bill proposed a ban on lobbyists from making campaign donations during the legislative session.
Luke said the underlying bill still could be brought back before the end of session.