Standing up. Speaking out. Pushing back.

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.

This was the year to be generous in our funding of public education, not to sell short our children’s future.

We have a historic budget surplus. Yet, 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.

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.

Representative Hussey-Burdick said the process was so chaotic that “even the conferees didn’t get to see the final draft of the budget before they voted on it”.

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.

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 by a legislative committee 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. Big time.

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?

How do we get that number to go up?

I’m thinking the answer is Plan B.


Closing note: Some may say I am being unfair and that calling out the Money Chairs and House/Senate Leadership by name and saying they are specifically responsible for the debacle that occurred is a personal attack. The truth is that any one of them could have stood up and said “No” and refused to go along with the trampling of the process. Nothing that happens at the legislature will happen without the agreement of these 4 men. If any one of them refuses to go along, the process will stop until agreement is reached. There are real human consequences to their actions and decisions. My remarks are not to imply in any way that they are bad people, but only that they are making bad decisions.

I’m less concerned about being perceived as unfair to those who are in power than in giving voice to those who elected them — and those who didn’t. Voters and non-voters alike deserve fair representation. It’s the least we can expect of our democracy.

From the words of Frederick Douglass (1857)
“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

Listen to the actual floor remarks, and see the list of No and W/R votes here: Read Civil Beat – The Hawaii Legislature Is Broken Read also Russell Ruderman: This Year’s Legislature Was Much Worse Than Business As Usual

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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3 Responses to Standing up. Speaking out. Pushing back.

  1. Frank says:

    Exactly right.

    Love the quote too by the way. It’s the title of one of my favorite books. “ Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement is a 1996 book by American legal scholar Gary L. Francione. It’s instructive for all movements for change and talks a lot about co-optation of movements by the very forces they oppose.

  2. Luann says:

    I agree, you are right on with your comments. I agree 100%. Thank you for speaking up. We need to know how our representatives are voting. Happy to say that Amy Perruso is our representative.

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