At the recently held Hawaii Peoples Congress issues with regards to the “accountability of elected officials” was a hot topic of discussion.
The matter of the Maui County Council flaunting the Sunshine Law was discussed.
Also discussed at length was how committees in both the House and the Senate often diminished, ignored or actively blocked the publics participation in the law making process. The “Conference Committee” process and the lack of adequate notice for committee hearings were two of the reoccurring themes.
This conversation led to a close review of the state constitution which appears to indicate both the State House and the State Senate are in violation on a regular basis.
What do you think?
Hawaii State Constitution
Article III – The Legislature
Organization, Discipline, Rules and Procedure
“Every meeting of a committee in either house or of a committee comprised of a member or members of both houses held for the purpose of making decision on matters referred to the committee shall be open to the public.”
Given the above requirement it would seem that both the State House and Senate regularly violates the Hawaii State Constitution.
It is common practice that House and Senate Conference Committee members regularly meet in private “for the purpose of making decision on matters referred to the committee”. They meet in private, negotiate in private and agree on the outcomes in private, emerging from the closed private meetings to announce the outcome and then formally vote at the public meeting. This practice seems obviously to violate the Hawaii State Constitution.
It is also far too common a practice for the various committees of the legislature to provide less than 24 hours notice of a committee meeting. Sometimes less than one hour of public notice is provided. The State Constitution states that a committee meeting held for the purpose of making a decision…”shall be open to the public”. It would seem that a meeting held where it is physically impossible for the public to attend due to basic logistics (time to drive or fly to the meeting once notice is received) also violates the Hawaii State Constitution.
I welcome input from readers (and lawyers) on this. Are there any budding young law school students or aspiring public interest lawyers that want to engage this issue?