“When they tell you there’s no money, what they’re really saying is it’s not a priority.”
This my friends who are new to policy and politics is a teachable moment. I’ll never forget the exact day and time I first learned of this ultimate legislative truism from Jeff Mikulina then Chair of the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi, probably 15 years ago.
Numerous reports are predicting a state budget surplus of up to $2 billion this year.
If SB1543 passes successfully through the legislative conference committee process, it will be because leadership in the House and Senate and the “money chairs” of the Senate Ways and Means and House Finance committees believe reducing the influence of money in our election process is a priority.
That is the short of it. SB1543 is based on a proven model used now in several other states. There is no need to “study it further” and there are no real “bugs that still need to be worked out” – the only question is whether or not House/Senate Leadership and the House/Senate “money chairs” believe this public policy initiative is a priority.
If you believe as I do that the time for publicly funded elections is now and passing SB1543 must be a top priority for our state – please share your thoughts with the 4 men who ultimately are responsible for passing this important measure into law, or not.
Time is of the essence. Please take action today, over the weekend – so when they come into their office on Monday morning they are greeted with an abundance of email and phone messages in support of passing SB1543.
Senate President Ron Kouchi – 808-586-6030 email@example.com
WAM Chair Senator Donovan Dela Cruz – 808-586-6090 firstname.lastname@example.org
House Speaker Scott Saiki – 808-586-6100 email@example.com
House Finance Chair Kyle Yamashita – 808-586-6330 firstname.lastname@example.org
**If you live in their district – your call/email is 100 times more important so please let them know that important fact.
As always, please keep all communications courteous and professional.
Here is an excellent article published today that’s most definitely worth reading.
Hawai‘i ‘clean elections’ bill nears endgame –
LIHU‘E — The state of Hawai‘i could be weeks away from a radical reenvisioning of politics in the state, as a bill to facilitate full public financing of state and county campaigns awaits debate over final changes by the state Legislature.
Senate Bill 1543, if passed, would create an opt-in system for state and local electoral candidates to receive full public financing for electoral campaigns. Its supporters see the bill as a means of promoting “clean elections,” in which candidates can run without the corrupting influence of private donors.
“Senate Bill 1543 is the most significant and extensive public financing bill currently being considered throughout the nation,” said Heather Ferguson, national director of state operations at Common Cause, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group.
In order to qualify for the program, candidates would need to receive a certain number of $5 contributions within their voting district. Candidates seeking higher-ranking positions would need to obtain more of these contributions, but also receive more funds once they successfully opt in.
For example, a candidate for governor would need 6,250 contributions to receive $1,675,000 in funds — whereas a candidate for Kaua‘i County Council would only need 200 contributions to opt into the program, but would only receive $30,000 to spend on their campaign.
While the bill contains thorough descriptions of how the program would operate, a few core details have been intentionally left out.
For one, all mentions of the program’s funding have been left empty. Additionally, the bill is currently written so that it would take effect on June 30, 3000.
Both the lack of funding details and the ludicrous effective date (commonly called a “defective date”) exist to force a “legislative conference,” in which members of the House and Senate convene to make final edits on the bill.
Finance reform advocate and former longtime state legislator Gary Hooser said he believes the primary point of contention is on funding of the program. Supporters of the bill have stated it would cost around $30 million per electoral season to implement.
“Any other discussion about the details on the bill is really just smoke or cover,” Hooser said. “Because what’s being proposed is already done in other states, so it’s not like this is brand new. It’s just going to be all about the money, and whether or not the leaders in the House and the Senate think that this is important.”
While the legislative conference is all but certain, SB 1543’s future remains unclear. Last month, Sen. Karl Rhoads (D-District 13) — who first announced the bill in early January — expressed to The Garden Island a cautious confidence over the bill’s passage.
“I’m sort of guardedly optimistic,” he said. “I think this is a good year for it to happen in terms of the way political stars are aligned, but there’s no guarantees.”
Additionally, Hooser echoed this sentiment to The Garden Island on Thursday.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said. “We’ve had two legislators go to jail in the past year — one Senator, one House member — for accepting bribes. The person they accepted bribes from was a campaign donor. There’s a spotlight on the House and the Senate. People are saying, ‘Do something, prove to us that you want to do what’s right.’ And so I think the mood is ripe for this kind of change.”
In order to keep the bill alive, the legislative chambers must reach an agreement by April 28. If an agreement is met, the conference committees will publish a Conference Draft of the bill, which would go before the full House and Senate for a final vote no later than May 4.
Jackson Healy, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-4966 or email@example.com.