Hawaii lawmaker for a week

Election Day is just two weeks away. I hope you’ve already mailed your ballots or are planning to stop by your polling place on November 6.

Reading about the issues and watching the debates, I wondered what I would do if I were a State Legislator. It’s a tough job and I admire everyone who takes on the challenge. Our legislators have to represent their constituents while standing by their principles, reading thousands of pages of proposed bills and sitting through numerous hearings and committee meetings.

What if our legislators had one week every year to get things done? What would their priorities be? Here’s my one-week legislative agenda:

Day 1: Create a nonpartisan unicameral legislature. There would be a single nonpartisan primary election, with the top two candidates competing in the general election. Each senator would have a four-year term, with half the seats up for election every two years. We would have smaller legislative staffs and budgets, less duplication of proposed bills, and more time for actual debate.

Day 2: Submit a zero-based state budget. Every ten years, the state budget should be reset to “zero.” We would slowly build the budget, based on priorities and tax revenue, starting with essential services like public safety and security (police, fire, ambulance, coast guard), infrastructure (roads, highways, streams, harbors, airports), utilities, education.

Day 3: Write a new income tax code. Let’s throw out the existing income tax code and start from scratch based on a flat tax, with few or no tax credits. Tax returns should be no more than two pages, and the entire tax code should be no longer than an elementary school textbook – and able to be understood by an elementary school student.

Day 4: Repeal the General Excise Tax (GET) and replace it with a reasonable state sales tax. The tax would only apply to retail-level goods and services, excluding food and drugs. A sales tax would remove taxation at every step of production, eliminate the requirement to pay taxes on the taxes we pay, stimulate consumer spending and business growth, and lower the cost of consumer goods.

Day 5: Reform state welfare and SNAP programs. We need to merge duplicate programs, eliminate ineffective programs, and share the best practices among all public service programs.

Day 6: Propose an independent audit of the Department of Education (DOE), including the University of Hawaii system. We should focus on ways that technology can help us manage costs and simplify payroll. We should examine contracts and spending authority. We should give schools and principals more hiring and spending authority.

Day 7: Establish legislation caps and rules. Enact limits on the number of new and revised bills that can be introduced in each legislative session. All bills should include estimated costs, funding sources, and a sunset date (no “automatic extension” clauses). At least five days of each legislative session must be devoted to the repeal of out-dated or ineffective laws and regulations.

Someone once said, “The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.” What would you do if you were a new legislator working with other newly sworn in legislators?

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