Coming up short on ethics
Star-Adv Editorial May 14, 2022: … Jolted by a February corruption scandal involving two of their own, state legislators were poised to take a big swing at restoring the public’s trust in politicians and the political process. But instead of a home run, which initially looked possible, runners were left on base.
A disappointing example was Senate Bill 555, intended to stop political fundraising during legislative sessions, a blatant “pay to play” practice that should have been banned long ago. While legislators did pass a version of the bill to ban fundraising events for state and county officials during legislative session, they failed to prohibit the asking for, or accepting of, political contributions during session. The weakened bill doesn’t quash the possibility, let alone the appearance, of quid pro quo between donors and legislators during active lawmaking.
A stronger measure that would have outlawed any legislator fundraising during the annual 60-day session was among more than a dozen supported by the new Commission to Increase Standards of Conduct. That entity was created by legislators in February after then-Rep. Ty Cullen and former Sen. Kalani English were charged with taking cash and other bribes to advance or influence public-policy legislation. Both have pleaded guilty, and will be sentenced in July.
In the coming months, the commission will hold public meetings to assess existing state laws and rules relating to ethical conduct of public officers and employees, then deliver a final report, including proposed legislation, by Dec. 1 to the Legislature.….
(The purpose of this exercise is to dissipate reform energy ensuring nothing substantial is changed.)
read … Coming up short on ethics
Reality: Corruption Reforms: What They Left Out
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Legislation Adopted to Improve Standards of Conduct
8 of the 14 bills identified by Commission were adopted by 2022 Legislature
News Release from House Democratic Caucus, May 12, 2022
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – The Hawaiʻi House of Representatives' Commission to Improve the Standards of Conduct's March 30, 2022 interim report identified 14 bills that were alive in the 2022 Legislature and could be adopted to improve the standards of conduct in four (4) areas:
- Strengthening Investigation and Prosecution of Fraud
- Giving Openness and Transparency a Boost
- Serving the Public Interest with Ethical Awareness and Oversight
- Reducing the Power of Money in Politics
Eight (8) of the bills identified have been passed by the Legislature, including one (1) that has already been signed into law by the Governor.
"The Commission's preliminary report focused on bills that were alive for action by the 2022 Legislature. The Legislature adopted many of the bills identified by the Commission. In the coming months, the Commission will be holding public, live streamed meetings to discuss a variety of topics. I am looking forward to its deliberations and final report, including proposed legislation, which is due by December 1, 2022," said Speaker Scott K. Saiki.
The Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct was created by the Hawaii House of Representatives by House Resolution 9 on February 17, 2022. Its purpose is to review and assess existing state laws and rules relating to conduct of public officers and employees to ensure that the laws contain clear standards, enforcement, and penalties to ensure compliance.
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Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct
March 31, 2022 Report Bill Status
Strengthening Investigation and Prosecution of Fraud. One (1) of the four (4) bills identified that could strengthen the investigation and prosecution of fraud has been adopted by the 2022 Legislature:
- SB 665, Relating to Violations of Campaign Finance Law, establishes that "intentionally providing false information concerning the name or address of a person paying for a campaign advertisement" is a class C felony.
Giving Openness and Transparency a Boost. Three (3) of the three (3) bills in this area have been adopted by the 2022 Legislature to open the governmental process to public scrutiny and participation:
- SB 3252, Public Records, improves access to government records by imposing a cap on the costs charged for the reproduction of certain government records beginning July 1, 2023. This bill also waives the cost of duplication of government records provided to requestors in an electronic format; imposes a cap on costs charged for searching for, reviewing, and segregating digital records; and provides for a waiver of fees when the public interest is served by a digital record's disclosure. This bill also authorizes and funds two full-time positions in the Office of Information Practices.
- SB 3172, Relating to Public Agency Meetings, requires that any electronic audio or video recording of a board meeting be kept as a public record beginning October 1, 2022. It also clarifies that only one version of any recording must be kept. Removes the requirement that a written summary must accompany any minutes that are posted in a digital or analog recording format.
- While SB 2143, Relating to Board Meetings, died, the substance was included in HB 2026. HB 2026 amends Chapter 92, Hawaii Revised Statutes, the "Sunshine Law" to include a definition of "board packet" and requires state boards to make its board packets publicly available to interested persons at least 48 hours prior to the board meeting.
Serving the Public Interest with Ethical Awareness and Oversight. One (1) of the two (2) bills identified has been adopted.
- HB 1475, Relating to Mandatory Ethics Training, requires state legislators and employees to complete mandatory ethics training courses every four years beginning January 1, 2023.
Reducing the Power of Money in Politics. Three (3) of the five (5) bills identified in this area were adopted:
- SB 555, Relating to Campaign Fundraising, prohibits legislators and employees and persons acting on behalf of legislators from holding any fundraiser during a regular legislative session or special session.
- HB 1427, Relating to Reports Filed with the Campaign Spending Commission, clarifies that candidates are not required to file preliminary general reports if they are either unsuccessful or are elected to office in the primary election. Clarifies the aggregating contributions and expenditures that determine when a committee needs only to file the final election period report. HB 1427 was signed into law as Act 3 on April 7, 2022.
- SB 2043, Relating to Candidate Committee & Noncandidate Committee Organizational Reports, repeals references in the campaign spending law that have been previously repealed.
While not included in the Commission's list of bills recommended, HB 2416, Relating to Campaign Spending, was also adopted by the Legislature. HB 2416 specifies consent procedures for when 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations operating as noncandidate committees can use donations for electioneering communications, independent expenditures, or contributions and requires these organizations to provide certain written notice to donors beginning January 1, 2023.