Gutted with a Rusty Scalpel: Groups call for cessation of ‘Gut and Replace’ process

  • Sandy Ma

A bill Gov. David Ige is threatening to veto and one he signed are the “winners” of this year’s Rusty Scalpel award from two public-interest groups.

Both House Bill 862 and Senate Bill 1350 are titled “Relating to State Government,” and both were stripped of their original content and substituted with unrelated wording in the conference committee process, with no opportunity for public input.

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“‘Gut and replace’ legislation violates the Hawaii State Constitution, reduces transparency, undermines accountability, and eliminates valuable public input throughout the legislative process,” Donna Oba, president of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, said in a press release announcing the awards made by Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of Hawaii.

HB 862, the top winner of the dubious award, is on the list of bills being considered for veto that Ige released Monday. The bill, originally intended to abolish the office of aerospace development, was gutted and amended to eliminate the counties’ share of the transient accommodations tax on hotels and short-term rentals and replace it with a local-option increase. It also removes funding for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, among other changes.

The groups contend the bills have constitutional defects.

The Hawaii State Constitution in Article III, sections 14 and 15, sets forth guidelines for how a bill should become a law: the title of the bill should be sufficiently clear for the public to glean the bill’s contents; a bill should have three readings on separate days in each chamber to provide time for comment and meaningful deliberation concerning the general topic of the final bill; and each bill should only have one subject to discourage legislative “logrolling” and “vote-trading,” the groups said.

“The Hawaii State Constitution may not be convenient or expedient, but it provides accountability, transparency, an opportunity for thoughtful policy-making that is accountable to the people,” said Sandy Ma, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii. “The Hawaii State Legislature’s disdain for the rule of law must end.”

The other bill, SB 1350, took the groups’ first runner up award, its first since beginning the Rusty Scalpel recognition in 2014. SB 1350 started out to consolidate several state watchdog agencies under one agency.

It was amended in conference committee to defer legislative raises and to set a standard in the way the state counts military families when reapportioning state House and Senate districts.

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Messages left with the House and Senate leadership were not immediately returned with responses by press-time Thursday.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

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