Hawaii Legislative Watch: People vs. Government

Barry Goldwater said, “A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.”

We’re half-way through the 2012 Hawaii legislative session… Today, let’s take a look at bills that affect our freedom – bills that give power back to the voters, and bills that attempt to grow the size and power of government.

There are 5 proposals that ensure our freedoms and check the power of government:

1. Initiative, recall, and referendum: HB195 establishes the initiative process. HB187 allows for the recall of elected public officials. SB76 provides for citizen assembly and the power of referendum. This would make elected officials more accountable to voters and encourage voter participation.

2. Term limits: HB539 limits state senators to two consecutive terms and representatives to four consecutive terms. We need citizen-legislators, not career politicians.

3. Fiscal notes: HB449 requires the cost estimates when bills are proposed. A proposed bill tells us why we need it and how it will solve a problem; but the big question is: can we afford it?

4. Nonpartisan voting: HB415 allows voters to vote for any candidate, regardless of party affiliation; the two persons who receive the highest votes in any primary would advance to the general election. I think we should vote on character and values, not party affiliation.

5. Nepotism prohibited: HB252, SB662, and SB994 prohibit legislators and state employees from appointing, employing, or advancing an unqualified close relative. This shouldn’t even need to be a law; we should hire the people who are the best for the job.

There are 5 trends and proposals that expand the size and scope of government:

1. More bureaucracy: There are a number of bills that propose the creation of a new agency, committee, commission, authority, board, or task force. Just to name a few: a Commission on the Year 2050 (HB185), an emergency response vehicle noise task force (HB233), the Hawaii Health Authority (HB272), a Coastal Memorials task force (HB501), a state-owned bank task force (HB1840), a school immunization task force (HB2087), a Hawaii sports task force (HB2135), a Super Bowl task force (HB2136), a school garden task force (HB2245), a Commission to create a roll of qualified Native Hawaiians (SB1), and a commission on transit-oriented development and affordable housing (SB697). These bills create more layers of bureaucracy, create more duplication of services, and make elected officials less accountable for their decisions.

2. More bans: HB77 bans foie gras. HB95 bans the complete operation of leaf blowers. HB490 and HB969 impose a statewide ban on consumer fireworks. HB604 bans novelty lighters. HB2113, SB171, and SB2152 ban aerial luminaries. SB827 bans aspartame. HB891 bans non-compostable checkout bags. HB903 bans caffeinated beer beverages labeled as “pre-mixed drinks” and SB639 bans caffeinated or stimulant-enhanced malt beverages. HB1157 bans Pacific blue marlin. SB677 bans blunt wraps (tobacco). SB724 bans carbon monoxide (or other gas to preserve color or texture) in raw fish. SB746 bans audible motor vehicle alarm systems. SB1059 bans plastic bags. SB2232 bans bear gallbladders or bile. HB2352 and SB2923 ban opihi harvesting. Individuals and businesses should be able to make their own decisions about products and services.

3. More vocational licensing: HB337 and SB155 regulate athletic trainers. HB559 regulates music therapists. HB2108 regulates body piercers. Okay, I don’t have a problem with this – it’s about health and consent for minors. SB738 regulates beekeepers. Does the government need to get involved? Can each occupation regulate itself?

4. Hawaii wants to watch our odometer: SB819 and SB1131 establish a “Vehicle Miles Traveled” pilot program to evaluate a vehicle miles traveled user fee. In many cases, a pay-per-use fee makes sense. But I don’t know if I want Hawaii to check my odometer. If I don’t pay the miles traveled fee, will they ignition-lock my car?

5. Hawaii wants to check our trash: HB1527 prohibits the “knowing disposal” of fluorescent and CFL bulbs in the trash and requires recycling programs for retailers or wholesalers. Can we start by recycling lightbulbs in the “blue” trash bin instead of creating a new law?

Please think about these government issues and how they may affect you and everyone around you. If you feel strongly about an issue, speak out! Talk to your family and friends, let your Hawaii legislators know about it, and write letters to the local newspapers.

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