Think About It: How It Works, or Doesn’t - KFVE, K5-Hawaii News Now, Local Programming

May 5, 2015

Think About It: How It Works, or Doesn’t

According to a local lobbyist I spoke with recently, legislative outcomes in Hawaii are heavily weighted by the opinion of committee chairs. Did you know that in many hearings, most of the committee members don't even bother to show up? They get their information and form opinions after hearing solely from the committee chair or co-chair? It's pretty tough to argue for a cause or a bill when the people making the decisions don't even bother to show up. And where does the voice of the public fit in? Our part-time legislature meets for just 60 legislative days annually. You ask- where are our elected officials when committee discussions come up that deserve their full attention? Sometimes legislators have multiple committee meetings or hearings scheduled at the same time. Maybe 60 days is simply too short a window to get everything done well, especially if committee members are no-shows at vital hearings that have major implications in budgeting and spending.

According to a report in the Civil Beat, and I quote here: "With the exception of the chairs, a lot of conferees don't bother to show up to hearings, or walk in late, sit down for a spell, then get up and leave. That's because (1) it's the chairs who controls things anyway — other conferees aren't even allowed to speak unless a chair lets them — and (2) many members serve on multiple conference committees." Is this really the best way to run a democracy? Is this the most efficient use of out taxpayer dollars, to have a very few making the decisions for the very many when others supposedly paid to be in the loop are actually in the dark, or in the hallway, or in another conference?

Scary thought here, but maybe these decision-makers should be paid more and then work longer each year to ensure that concerns and issues are more fully addressed, heard, and questioned, and perhaps committee chairs shouldn't be so omnipotent and autocratic. Perhaps the system should see some revision and restructuring… and perhaps pigs will fly and hell will freeze over soon. Well, that one could happen with climate change, yeh?  Think about it… 

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