Inaction likely to kill proposed ethics bill
A proposed ethics bill that sparked bitter debate among House members last week with accusations of political payback and retribution appears to be dead this year.
"I don't expect that we are going to do anything on the ethics bill," Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said yesterday.
The proposal has passed through both chambers in different forms, and differences would have to be worked out in bicameral conference committee before the end of next week. Hanabusa said she does not expect to appoint conferees, essentially killing the bill.
"It has the appearance, right now, that it is a personal battle and they should work it out themselves," said Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua).
Senate Bill 945 was a carry-over measure from last year that originally extended financial disclosure requirements to judges and justices.
House lawmakers revisited the bill this year, amending it to focus on banning nepotism within government offices.
Some lawmakers objected to a section that was added late in the process by the Judiciary Committee to prohibit lawmakers from entering into contracts worth more than $10,000 a year with organizations that receive state money.
Critics said the late provision appeared to be a "punitive" step aimed at Rep. Josh Green, chairman of the Health Committee, who has waged a public fight with Judiciary Chairman Tommy Waters over medical malpractice and tort reform.
Green (D, Keauhou-Honokohau), who works as an emergency room doctor at a state hospital in his district, said the bill sniffed of "political retribution" and would essentially bar him from practicing medicine in his community.
Waters (D, Lanikai-Waimanalo), an attorney and former public defender, said the measure is needed to address conflicts of interest and denied that it targeted any individual.
"It's going to affect a lot of us, and it should," Waters said yesterday. "It's not addressed at anyone in particular, but all of us as a whole.
"I just think it's a good idea because there is a possible conflict of interest where you are voting on a bill that affects your paycheck on the other side, in your other job," he added. "If that's what's objectionable with the Senate, I'm willing to look at amending that."
Hanabusa noted that each chamber has existing rules to deal with potential conflicts of interest.
"I think that these issues do not need to be embodied in the bill," she said. "These are the kinds of things that should be dealt with by each body. ... It should be looked at seriously because it's depriving someone of potential livelihood."
Green said he was grateful for the support shown to him by colleagues and constituents.
"Because of their support, I hope I can continue to be both a doctor and a legislator," he said.
Waters said he hopes to meet with senators soon to discuss possible amendments to at least keep the nepotism restrictions alive.
The bill still could be heard in conference before the end of next week.