Groups ask Legislature to open it up

The House isn’t even organized yet for the 2011 session, but 18 diverse public interest groups are already pressing the House and Senate to open up their operations and make them more transparent to the public.

Letters addressed to members of both houses asked lawmakers to:

— Broadcast more legislative proceedings and post them on the web.

“Without the ability to watch the hearings and floor sessions, a huge segment of our population is excluded from observing the legislative process. Furthermore, with fewer newspapers and TV news outlets in town, there is reduced news coverage about the legislature and citizens are further removed from the process.”

— Give at least three business days notice for all legislative hearings, excluding holidays and weekends.

“With the existing short notice, it makes it extremely difficult for ordinary citizens to write testimony and almost impossible to rearrange their work or personal schedules so that they may attend a hearing.”

— Post proposed bill amendments online ASAP.

“In some instances, proposed amendments are only available in hard copy by visiting the committee chair’s office. This makes it impossible for those who cannot be at the Capitol to see the proposed amendments.”

— Include in committee reports on legislative measures a list of all organizations or agencies testifying on the topic.

“Historically, this information was always listed in committee reports, but the Senate has dropped this practice.  This makes it more difficult for the reader to identify those who supported or opposed the bill. ”

Signing the letters were AARP Hawaii, ACLU of Hawaii, Americans for Democratic Action / Hawaii, Blue Planet Foundation, Citizen Voice, Citizens for Equal Rights, Common Cause Hawaii, Conservation Council for Hawaii, Grassroot Institute, Hawaii Pro-Democracy Initiative, Kanu Hawaii, League of Women Voters of Hawaii, Life of the Land, Media Council Hawaii, Progressive Democrats of Hawaii, Right to Know Committee, Sierra Club, and Voter Owned Hawaii.
A  new addition to the local online public policy debate is a weekly Internet radio show hosted by tech wiz and Republican Party strategist Peter Kay, who says he hopes to promote “a distinctly Hawaiian Conservative ideology” through “respectful debate from opposite sides of the political spectrum.”

Listeners can tune in live to the Peter Kay Show and call in questions at 9 p.m. Tuesdays, or if you miss it, download the podcast later for listening at your convenience.

The scheduled guest tonight is Malia Zimmerman, editor of the recently expanded Hawaii Reporter.

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3 Comments on “Groups ask Legislature to open it up”

  1. Peter Kay Says:

    Wow Dave! Thanks for the plug. The show is still in beta kinda. I hope I can have you for a guest soon.

  2. Michael Says:

    Why would we need Senate and House to be transparent?
    They say “Man who lives in glass house should change clothes in basement”.

  3. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    As they say, great minds run around in small circles.

    Shortly after the close of the 2010 Session, I sat down and evaluated my experiences over the past eight years working as an advocate for a local non-profit.

    I came up with a list of changes almost identical to the ones contained in the letter and then started talking to House & Senate members. All totaled, I got to meet with about 50 of them. Most members were quite responsive.

    Although the organization I work for was not invited to particpate in signing the letter even though we’ve worked with most of them on legislation & policy changes or are a member of most of them, I am glad to see that other groups have the same concerns.

    Maybe there will some changes in openess & trtansparency forthcoming in legislative policies, especially in the House if new leadership is chosen.

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