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HOOSER: Pushing back against state House big dogs

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs called the 2023 legislative session “one of the most dysfunctional legislative sessions in recent history.”

I agree 100 percent.

Yes, there were some wins, but the 2023 legislative session was, overall, a bust. Big time.

We have a historic budget surplus. This was the year to be generous in our funding of public education, not to sell short our children’s future.

Our leaders at the Legislature voted to cut funding for public education by $167 million, from the governor’s proposed budget.

Thank goodness eight members of the state House were willing to stand up, speak truth to power, and vote “no” on the final budget.

Listen to floor remarks, and see list of No and W/R votes here:

Mahalo to Rep. Jeanne Kapela for voting “no” and pulling back the curtain on the shibai of reducing public education funding.

Another “no” vote on the budget we should thank is House Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Rep. Amy Perruso, who pointed out the bill before them would result in a “massive budget shortfall” for the University of Hawai‘i.

Former House Majority Leader, and now Health and Homelessness Committee Chairwoman Della Au Belatti also voted “no,” stating “the budget fails both on substance and process.”

As is evident by the conference committee chaos, “process” is not something taken seriously by the “money chairs:” Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz and House Finance Chair Kyle Yamashita, nor by “leadership” Speaker of the House Scott Saiki and Senate President Ron Kouchi.

Process and rules are trampled on regularly by the big dogs. Rules are changed, suspended, waived, and simply ignored in the mad, self-imposed rush to insert last-minute stuff into the budget and various bills.

All of which happens behind closed doors at the expense of the rest of us.

Two legislators are serving time in prison for bribery. This was the year to emphasize legislative character and to make those important reforms.

In realty, the most significant reforms were killed even when a majority of the public and legislators alike professed to support them.

One would think that if a supermajority of legislators voted in support of a bill, such as voter-owned elections, seven different times and never once was it voted down — that it would pass into law.

And, yes, one would, of course, think that, in a democracy, every decision would be made via a public vote held after public review and input.

One would think.

But, of course, you know that in our legislative system, it’s the big dogs who make the big decisions. And from their perspective, committees, committee members and public input are just for show.

Every government body suffers this affliction to a certain degree, but our Legislature has reached a new low.

Helped along perhaps by an ongoing federal investigation into legislative corruption, the pendulum thankfully may be starting to swing the other way.

As Rep. Elle Cochran said prior to casting her no vote, “something’s got to change. We can’t keep doing things the same way expecting different results.”

The eight members of the State House (six Democrats and two Republicans) who voted “no” should be applauded. Please give them a call — encourage them to stay the course and assure them you have their back.

Six House members also voted “with reservations,” essentially voting yes but holding their nose to hide the stench.

Fourteen House members standing up and pushing back is a big number. Not big enough, but a big number.

How did your representative vote?


Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.
Source: The Garden Island

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