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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sunshine shenanigans don't help confidence

Every law can be improved.

This includes the state's "sunshine law," which governs Hawai'i's open meetings and open records process.

On the surface, a legislative effort to come up with a "task force" to examine the value of the sunshine law makes a certain amount of sense.

But the way this effort is being pursued, and the somewhat obvious goals it hopes to achieve, makes a mockery of the law and its requirements.

Here's the backstory:

Lawmakers have been working on a law that would forbid lobbyists from giving money to political figures when the Legislature is in session. This was an attempt to stop a time-honored practice of hitting up folks for contributions when they are most vulnerable when laws are being written.

No one forces a legislator to hold a fundraiser during the session; that's the lawmaker's choice. Still they felt a law was needed to control the overzealous impulses of lobbyists and their friends.

Then, deep into the session, this bill morphed into something calling for a "task force" to look into the positive and negative effects of the sunshine law. It appears to be aimed at concerns among county council members that their work is hampered by the open government law.

Calling for a last-minute task force as a back door effort to rewrite the sunshine law, no matter how well-intentioned, defeats the test of openness.

Shifting the context of a bill and scheduling it at the last minute for a hearing is precisely the kind of action the sunshine law seeks to prevent.

If legislators are truly interested in openeness they should do the right thing and approve a bill now on hold that would put the Legislature under the sunshine law.

Why should these elected leaders be exempt from the sunshine law and answer to their own set of rules?

Taxpayers deserve more, they deserve an answer.