The New Political Reality – Virtual Meetings In Virtual Backrooms

It’s times like this when I wish I had finished law school, or perhaps married a lawyer, or had my children grow up to be lawyers, or had a bunch of money and could just hire a bunch of lawyers.

There are some days, as in today when I just want to take the legislature to court and force them to follow the law.

How is it that they can just violate the State Constitution with no repercussions?

I recently attended in a virtual manner, a Senate committee hearing and testified via Zoom along with a dozen or so other members of the public. When the testimony was concluded, the Chair of the committee, stated and I will paraphrase, “Unless any members want to go into a ‘break-out room’ and discuss this further, I will go now into decision-making.”

At that point, a member of the committee raised their hand and stated, “Yes, I would like us to go into a break-out room and discuss this further.”

The Chair then called a recess, and the committee proceeded to meet virtually in private in the “Zoom break-out room”. The rest of us members of the public remained outside in the regular Zoom room, unaware of what was being discussed in private by the committee members.

In the old days, when rooms were actually rooms, the same committee would just exit the main committee room and go into the back hallway to talk in private. But in the days of Zoom, no one has to walk anywhere and it’s all done virtually with the click of a button.

In any case, on this day for this “public hearing”, this committee went into their private Zoom room to have their private meeting to discuss in private the pending decision they were about to make.

Ten minutes or so later, the Chair reconvened the public Zoom meeting and announced the decision of the committee (that the committee had presumably just discussed and agreed to in private).

To restate and to be absolutely clear: A committee of the Hawaii State Senate went into a private room that the public was not allowed to enter, for the purpose of making a decision on matters that had been referred to that committee.

Yet the Hawaii State Constitution Article III – Section 12 states: “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 a decision on matters referred to the committee shall be open to the public.”

While the above describes one particular public hearing that occurred a week or so ago, this is something that happens regularly in both the Senate and the House. Secret meetings in private rooms deciding the people’s business is standard operating procedure at the Capitol.

It’s part of the culture.

It doesn’t mean that the players are criminals in the conventional sense (though some clearly are). It mostly means they prefer to speak frankly to each other and that’s easier to do when the camera is off and the public is locked out of the room.

I get it. I totally understand the rationale actually. But it’s not in the public’s best interest, and it’s against the law.

Either legislative leadership is unaware of the provisions contained in Article III – Section 12 of the State Constitution or they have chosen to ignore it.

The path of choice would be for “leadership” in the House and Senate to just change their internal rules and practices, and follow the spirit, intent, and explicit language contained in the Constitution. The other way is to “take’em to court”. Any lawyers out there want to weigh in and help?

Gary Hooser

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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1 Response to The New Political Reality – Virtual Meetings In Virtual Backrooms

  1. Liko-o-Kalani Martin says:

    Aloha Gary, now you’re talking to something that needs to be done, in essence US Federal investigation/intervention in the Hawaiian Islands…Sen.Schatz says that’s not necessary…or is it long overdue, I’d say about 130 years…but better late than never…but advocacy in what form, political opinion or Facts and Law…let’s bounce to the Mauna Kea criminal trials of which I am a defendant…within a closing motion to dismiss filed by my defense attorney, Francis Alcain…judicial notice was given with regard to a little known (250 page- complete with tables if authorities, exhibits, Affidavit, Writ of Prohibition SCPW-20-0000427, June 18th, 2020–Na’au Pono (Liko-o-Kalani Martin). Vs. Gov. David I’ve, (which the justices ruled on in Five Days) provided to Judge Lubbock, who at the onset of those trials emphatically challenged anyone to bring before her, irrefutable facts and law to substantiate my assertion of civil liberties as a “Hawaiian national …”, to prohibit the US political subdivision aka state of Hawaii, from prosecuting me, due the question of “legitimacy” fundamentally speaking…The ruling will come out on April 3rd, if I remember…perhaps you might find the time to read it, I shirt title it as “ A Tale of Two Societies, the protracted and ongoing “civil war” in the Hawaiian Islands, “ramifications” of January 17, 1893, “an act of war”, US Pres. Grover Cleveland…Gary your so on point that you’ve kinda nailed a coffin shut, the gloom and the doomsday reality likened to the punishment of Ahab that HM Queen Liliuokalani spoke of, as she called to and for the “honest American”, her calling is still echoing…and in your words and deeds, there—is the kind of honesty and integrity that the Queen was looking for…bless you and your children. Btw the writ I mentioned was included among attachment in a letter to an international Human Rights legal expert, in which I offer comments and info. regarding his Memorandum(U), to UN Secretary General Gutierrez and UN Member States “ re: the application of international law in the Hawaiian Islands”…if you care read it, I’d be happy to forwarded it to an appropriate email…the best to you 🌈🌎🙏🏽

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