Something remarkable

As news has started to filter out from the State Capitol, something rather remarkable has come into focus.  While most of you are privately asking me about HB1789, there are three remarkable things to report:

  • HB744 (threatening churches that use public school and college/university facilities) has stalled.
  • HB1789 (eroding both the rights of parents and professional counselors and therapists in their treatment of sexual orientation) has stalled.
  • After much testimony at the Board of Education, the Pono Choices initiative will be reviewed once again by the Board of Education.

You will notice that I chose my words carefully regarding HB744 and HB1789.  Both measures have stalled, and appear unlikely to move this legislative session.  But they are not dead.  While I do not want this post to be bogged down in procedural details, check out the footnote for more information on the nuances of the legislative process.  (1)

While I stand by my impressions that I privately conveyed to many of you that both bills would advance in the Legislature, I am pleasantly happy that I was wrong.  Both Rep. Karl Rhoads (HB744, House Judiciary Committee) and Rep. Roy Takumi (HB1789, House Education Committee) decided not to advance their respective measures.

Without the benefit of asking each of them for their rationale, I am left to speculate based on what I have heard from observers.  HB744 received only 16 pieces of testimony in opposition to counter 14 pieces of testimony in support.  However, HB1789 received about eighty pieces in opposition.  While the weight of the submitted testimony might have had some sway, legislators have historically ignored public testimony when it is not consistent with their objectives. (2)  However, legislators appear to be nervous that people of faith have not left the Capitol.  Contrary to Richard Borreca’s assertions, people of faith may no longer be the “paper tiger” that they have been in the past.

The take home message is that people of faith have made an impact at the Legislature and even the Board of Education.  Public testimony (written, but especially in-person) carries a lot of weight, especially when a legislator sees one of their 2014 votes speaking at the microphone.  But it appears that in the case of HB744, word got back to the State Capitol that people of faith were unhappy about HB744 (even though the testimony did not make that clear).

We made an impact, and that is something to be proud of.  The mere fact though that legislators attempt to advance initiatives like HB744, HB1789 and Pono Choices demonstrates that there is still much work ahead to ensure that our elected officials represent their constituents rather than a liberal/progressive agenda sent from the mainland with campaign contributions.  There is still much work to be done to ensure that people of faith are no longer “paper tigers”.

(1)    The legislature is a place of dark arts and procedural maneuvers that ensure that measures are rarely “dead”.  The only way a measure is killed is if it is defeated by a vote – think of this like a silver bullet.  While this happens on rare occasions, most unfavorable measures are just tabled.  When you check the bill status, that would look something like this:


When a bill is deferred and there is no date indicated to revisit the issue, that would indicate that the bill is “stalled”.  Probably the best description is “dormant” – while it is unlikely to wake up, there is the possibility that it could indeed wake up.  If the status of a bill looks more like this:


— where the bill is deferred, but a date is specified to revisit the measure, the bill can be expected to advance.  The best description for this is “work-in-progress”.  It can be generally interpreted that the committee chair needs to talk with more people about the measure or needs to fix the bill so that it can advance.

(2)    During the 2013 special session, the House Judiciary and Finance Committees listened to public testimony that was in strong opposition to SB1 and the passage of same-sex marriage during the special session.  For every eight people testifying in opposition, only one testified in support.  The overwhelming message was “Not during special session” and “Let the people decide”.  In his remarks, Rep. Karl Rhoads indicated that he heard the public testimony and advanced SB1, rather than passing a measure that would allow the people to decide.  In a press conference after the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee denied thousands of people the opportunity to testify on SB1, Governor Neil Abercrombie said, “Democracy is taking place”.