Senate re-evaluates
its operating rules

In question is the power of
committee chairmen to block bills

Citizen activists and community groups are praising the state Senate's look at changing rules that allow conference committee chairmen to block legislation.

Legislature 2003
Legislature Directory

Legislature Bills & Hawaii Revised Statutes

Although Democratic Senate leaders did not promise they would change the rules, Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, Judiciary Committee chairwoman, and Sen. Donna Kim, vice president, conducted a public hearing yesterday to review Senate rules.

Up for discussion was a rule that permits Senate committee chairmen on House-Senate conference committees to unilaterally reject a conference committee bill. The Senate rules give extra power to committee chairmen by allowing one senator to overrule the compromise conference committee bill.

It was the first time the Senate has had a public hearing on its operating rules.

"How can a healthy democratic process exist under these conditions?" Laurie Dillon, executive director of the Hawaii Clean Elections Coalition, asked in testimony yesterday.

Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) said the committee will continue to study the issue.

"I suspect that there will be both a minority and majority report or recommendation," she said after the hearing.

State Attorney General Mark Bennett told the senators that the state Constitution does not dictate how the legislative body operates, but that if it makes a decision, it must be in the open.


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