Clean Elections is Dead, Duplicity is Alive – Long Live Clean Elections

by Gary Hooser

According to just about every political pundit in Hawaiʻi, the Clean Elections bill, SB 2381 – SD2 is “dead.”

We should all wish duplicity at the Capitol and gamesmanship among legislative “leadership” was dead as well.

But neither is dead really.

When they tell you, “the deadline is passed”, the truth is if Senate President Ronald Kouchi and Speaker Scott Saiki want to extend any deadline at all, they have the power to do so.

Similarly, when they say “there’s no money” – the “money chairs” – WAM Chair Senator Donovan De La Cruz and Finance Chair Representative Kyle Yamashita – can always find the money needed for any and all initiatives they believe are priorities.

I do not exaggerate the power granted to these four individuals.

Yes, they are given this power via support from the “majority” and if a majority of legislators feel differently they could assert themselves. But they don’t and they won’t because they’re afraid of being punished by “leadership” and/or the “money chairs.”

Some do, and will, but a majority don’t, and won’t. Instead, they just keep their heads down and hope the moment will pass.

Mahalo to Senator Ron Kouchi and the Senate for passing Clean Elections SB 2381 – SD2 unanimously.

Unfortunately, the measure remains stalled in the House, killed or at least critically injured under the direction of Big Island Representative David Tarnas, Chair of the JHA Committee.

The reasons cited by Tarnas were frankly lame at best, some would say duplicitous (there’s that word again) especially given that he had supported a similar measure in the past AND Speaker of the House Scott Saiki had publicly declared Clean Elections to be his priority.

Tarnas would not have killed Clean Elections if Speaker Saiki’s support was genuine.

This, my friends, is a fact.

If Saiki truly supported the initiative, Tarnas would have instead “kept it alive” and attempted to work on possible amendments to address any valid concerns.

But he didn’t.

Saiki’s public position in support of Clean Elections was a sham.

The people got played. Anyone who talks to anyone in that big square building will tell you this (with a wink, a nod, in confidence, and off the record of course).

Regardless of what Saiki said in January when he introduced HB2321, the House Clean Elections bill, it’s overwhelmingly obvious that Speaker Saiki does not really support its passage.

After garnering the media recognition and accepting the accolades of the bill’s supporters, he now throws them under the bus.

It’s clear his public posturing at that time was disingenuous, less than forthright, misleading, and yes duplicitous. Others will say he was just doing what politicians do, posturing for the headlines (which he got) and then killing the bill behind the scenes (which he did).

If the scuttlebutt in the building is off the mark, if the whispers and the knowing chuckles on the Capitol rail somehow have misread the situation, and if the writers and columnists like myself are universally all wrong – then the Speaker should say so.

Action speaks louder than words. There are two separate but similar Clean Election bills that remain alive. SB 2381 could be re-referred, deadlines extended, and put back on the table OR SB1543 which is sitting in the conference committee could be revived.

These actions and the passage of Clean Elections into law would of course require Senate support. But given that recently 100% of them voted to pass SB2381 – I can’t imagine they would not work together with Speaker Saiki and the House to pass this incredibly important reform measure.

Please contact Rep Tarnas at 808-586-8510 and Speaker Saiki at 808-586-6100 and let them know how you feel on this issue.

And remember, when they tell you it’s too late, the deadline has passed, and there’s no money – know that they are not being truthful with you.

GARY HOOSER is a former Hawaiʻi State Senator and Majority Leader.

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