2018 Hawaii Legislative Watch: Freedoms and Rights

The 2018 Hawaii Legislature is in full swing, with an overwhelming 4,948 current 2017 and 2018 Bills (2,621 House and 2,327 Senate) up for discussion and debate. There are just 60 legislative days to effectively read, discuss, re-write, absorb testimony, and vote on these bills.

For the past few years, I’ve read through the bill summaries to find out about the bills being proposed that affect our money, education, and rights. I rely on these summaries to accurately reflect the legislators’ intentions. This year, I decided to highlight a select number of bills covering the issues that I think need the most consideration and debate.

Over the last two weeks, I focused on significant tax, education, and business/economy issues to watch. This week, I’m wrapping up my 2018 legislative review by looking at 3 noteworthy bills that affect our freedoms and rights. If I’ve missed any important bills, please let me know!

* More rights for voters. Every year, there are proposals like HB962, HB1202, HB1365, HB1430, HB2616, HB2662, SB832, SB833, SB2313, SB2723, and SB2725 that provide for direct initiative (where registered voters can force a public vote on an issue), popular referendum (a direct vote on a particular issue), and recall (a direct vote to remove an elected official from office). Only HB1202 calls for all three. I believe these rights would make legislators and elected officials more accountable to voters, and would encourage voter participation.

A major concern is that elections could be distracted by unreasonable or frivolous petitions. One solution would be to require petitions to be reviewed by the Hawaii State Legislator’s Legal Counsel – before petitions are circulated. Another solution would be to limit the number of new or revised bills that legislators can submit each year – and limit the number of variations on the same proposed bill. This could increase the time for public debate, and reduce the amount of legislative paperwork.

* More opportunities fir citizen legislators. On a related note, every year, legislators discuss term limits, and fail to take action. HB411, HB1710, SB827, SB828, SB2486, and SB2724 would limit the terms of members of the Legislature. If we want to increase voter participation and encourage people to take an interest in government, we need to make room for more people to participate in government. Term limits could help by increasing the number of available candidates.

* End of life rights. There are several bills supporting End of Life or Aid in Dying choices, such as HB150, HB201, HB550, SB357, SB1129, and SB2727. As long as it doesn’t harm others, I don’t think we can tell people how to live their lives – or end it. The choices of people who are facing a terminal illness, or caregivers for someone with a terminal illness, should have greater consideration.

The 2018 Hawaii Legislature adjourns on May 3. Please think about these issues and how they may affect you, everyone around you, and future generations. Whether you have concerns or feel strongly about an issue, speak up, talk about it, and be part of the discussion!

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