2020 Legislative Update
Message to Supporters Sept 18, 2020
The 2020 Hawaii State Legislative session officially came to a close on Friday, July 10, 2020. And, Governor Ige’s deadline to veto bills has passed, so we know which of the bills that made it through this most unusual session will become law!
The Hawaii State Legislature convened on January 15, 2020 with the intention of adjourning on May 7, 2020. The session, however, went into unexpected recess on March 17, 2020 due to the coronavirus. It came back into session on May 11, 2020 to address CARES Act funding and recessed again 10 days later on May 21, 2020. It then reconvened again on July 22, 2020 for an abbreviated 3-week session to wrap up the remainder of the 2020 term and ended on July 10, 2020. The Governor’s veto deadline was September 15, 2020.
Common Cause Hawaii’s priorities entering into the 2020 Legislative session were ambitious! We focused on:
1) Legislation strengthening our ethics laws and campaign finance reform to get money out of politics
2) Automatic Voter Registration
3) Improving our Vote By Mail law for the 2020 Elections
4) Transparency and accountability through remote testimony at the legislature
5) Stopping Article V Constitutional Convention
Even with COVID-19 impacting the 2020 Hawaii State Legislative session, Common Cause Hawaii chalked up some major wins!
And, it was all due to members, supporters, and activists like you. Many Common Cause Hawaii advocates submitted testimony, testified in person, and called elected officials on measures important to securing our democracy! Mahalo for taking action!
Strengthening our Ethics Laws
o Emoluments – HB361 will prohibit the governor and each county mayor, beginning November 11, 2022, while holding those offices, to maintain any other employment, maintain a controlling interest in a business, or receive any emolument, beginning on the sixty-first calendar day after their election or appointment to office. Common Cause Hawaii has supported this measure on the principle that the highest officials in the executive branch should be fully attentive to the demanding responsibilities of their offices. They should not be distracted by other professional duties or be choosing which job's priorities come first. Governor signed this bill into law!
o Police Officers’ Disciplinary Records – HB285 requires county police departments to disclose to the Legislature the identity of an officer upon an officer's suspension or discharge and amends the Uniform Information Practices Act to allow for public access to information about suspended officers. Again, Common Cause Hawaii has supported this measure for a number of sessions. The public needs access to prior police disciplinary records for full transparency and accountability. Governor signed this bill into law!
o Lobbying – HB2124 prohibits certain former State employees and everyone who has to file a financial disclosure under Hawaii Revised Statutes § 84-17(d) from representing certain interests in a legislative or administrative action before the State for twelve months after the termination from their respective positions. Common Cause Hawaii supports this measure, which prohibits lobbying by former legislators and executive-branch employees through instituting a twelve (12) month “cooling-off” period at the administrative level. Due to Common Cause Hawaii efforts, the individuals covered by this measure were expanded from the original version of the bill. This bill made it through the legislature but was VETOED by Governor Ige on September 15, 2020, so we shall try again next session! Governor Ige vetoed this bill based on an unfounded concern that improving ethics will make it significantly more challenging to attract and recruit the most qualified individuals for service on boards and commissions.
o Disclosure of clients assisted – HB2125 requires that candidates for state elective offices, including candidates for election to the constitutional convention, shall only be required to disclose their own financial interests and financial interests include the names of clients assisted or represented before state agencies, except in ministerial matters, for a fee or compensation during the disclosure period and the names of the state agencies involved. Common Cause Hawaii supported this measure to improve transparency. Candidates for elective offices will be required to report any clients assisted or represented before state agencies. Governor signed this bill into law!
Stopping Article V Constitutional Convention – We were able to prevent any resolution in favor of an Article V constitutional convention from even getting a hearing in the 2020 Hawaii State Legislative session!
Automatic Voter Registration – We had two bills (one in the House and one in the Senate) both supporting AVR, which both failed. The COVID interrupted session halted momentum for the bills in the legislature. We, however, are not deterred and will try again next session!
Improving our Vote By Mail process – As you know, the 2020 elections are the first year that Hawaii will be an all mail-in state. For voting by mail to succeed, it must be complemented with a sufficient number of voter service centers and drop boxes. We had several clean up bills that failed. We will again look to improve the vote-by-mail law after the 2020 elections knowing more where the fixes are needed.
Remote Testimony – We were trying multiple ways to have remote testimony at the Legislature – pilot legislative committees, pilot boards and commissions, etc. The COVID interrupted session disrupted momentum for the remote testimony bills in the legislature. We will try again next session!
Campaign Finance Reform – We were involved in many bills in 2020 to improve disclosure and transparency with our Campaign Finance laws and to increase public funding of our elections. And, again, COVID interrupted momentum for the bills in the legislature. We will continue to work on campaign finance reform next session! As the saying by Ralph Waldo Emerson goes, “Patience and fortitude conquer all things.”
It is truly remarkable the successes Common Cause Hawaii had during the crazy 2020 Legislative session! And, it can all be attributed to the wonderful support of members and activists like you!
Common Cause Hawaii looks forward to continuing to work with you to uphold the core values of American democracy by expanding voting rights, reducing money’s influence, and creating a more ethical, open, and transparent government.
Mahalo for everything you do and yours in common cause,
Sandy Ma, Executive Director
and the team at Common Cause Hawaii