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State lawmakers gut and replace contents of bills

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:32 p.m. HST, Apr 09, 2014

A series of bills that lawmakers passed in the Hawaii Senate were drafted without giving the public the proper chance to weigh in, following a "gut-and-replace" maneuver scorned by government watchdog groups.

"Gut-and-replace" is a term for what happens when a bill is stripped of its original content and replaced with something entirely different, or changed so dramatically that it no longer resembles the original proposal.

The state Senate approved at least six bills that were either "gut-and-replace" or "Frankenstein" proposals — a term for bills that were revived from the dead, said Sen. Les Ihara.

"It's one of the practices by the Legislature that is held in disdain by the public," Ihara said. "My interest is in fostering trust in the legislative process, and I believe this fosters distrust."

In one maneuver, senators tacked two Senate bills — one of which died in the House — onto a barely related House agriculture bill (HB 2486). The additions suggest spending state money to develop programs on property owned by Dole Food Company in Central Oahu, according to property records.

One of the measures proposed creating foreign agricultural trade zones, and the other proposed creating a "technology park" to promote collaboration between the agriculture and technology sectors on the same plots of land. Both of those additions were bills originally introduced by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz. He and a representative from Dole did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Critics have tracked at least 10 gut-and-replace bills so far this session, although there may be more out there, said Janet Mason, legislative chairwoman of The League of Women Voters.

She said the technique was widely used this year, on bills about topics from genetically modified foods to ethics.

One bill, House Bill 493, would have made it a crime to catch pet dogs or cats in a trap set out for bears. But when that bill moved over to the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, lawmakers there dropped all the animal trap language and swapped in new rules banning the unlawful sale or trade of ivory from elephants, whales and other creatures. Sen. Clayton Hee, who is chairman of the committee, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Some bills look entirely different from original drafts. In other cases, the changes are more subtle.

"We're very disappointed that the leadership of the Legislature hasn't stepped forward to try to shut this process down more effectively," Mason said.

Senate President Donna Mercado Kim said that a number of gut-and-replace bills were brought to her attention, and she then referred them to committees where hearings were held, she said. Those bills are likely to wind up in conference committees, and the public can weigh in by submitting written testimony, she said.

"There's no perfect system, there's no perfect way of doing it," Kim said. "If something you believe in got killed on one side of the house, and you wanted it to be kept alive, then you would be advocating for it."

Ihara voted for the proposals, but did so with reservations to bring attention to the issue, he said.

"There are ways to cure it," Ihara said. "They could have an informational briefing... there's the possibility, which I doubt they'll do, but theoretically they could be cured."

A few other bills that changed include:

— HB 482 was a bill about agricultural tax credits. It is now about creating a special fund to acquire land from Dole Foods Company. Status: Alive.

— HB 1280 was about the way law enforcement officers serve papers and issue subpoenas. It is now a bill about creating a technology campus for first responders. Status: Alive.

— SB 2435 was about using special fund money to buy land for agricultural production. It became a bill about genetically modified foods. Status: Dead.

— HB 449 was a bill about financial disclosures of state commissioners and board members. It became a bill about ethical conduct of lawmakers and legislative staff. Status: Dead.

— SB 451 was about including air carriers in the definition of a public utility. It became a bill about increasing the compensation of the chairman and commissioners of Public Utilities Commission and changing the way they appoint and hire personnel. Status: Dead.

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AhiPoke wrote:
For the most part, they're all crooks. I mean all politicans from both parties. The problem is they create and manage the system so there's little chance that it gets modified to be more open. Anyone who believes that they rely on testimony at publically attended meetings, instead of back room deals, is very naive.
on April 9,2014 | 03:11PM
copperwire9 wrote:
If you only had a clue, you'd have something worth saying.
on April 9,2014 | 04:28PM
AhiPoke wrote:
Excuse me but I do "have a clue". I spent several years as a registered lobbyist. I still know many full time lobbyist who will support my statements in private. Perhaps it's you that has no clue.
on April 9,2014 | 08:02PM
copperwire9 wrote:
Nope. If you think that *all* politicians are corrupt, you're too jaded to see. It's like realizing that one doctor you went to was a quack, so all the others must be as well. That's limiting your thinking. It's easy, too easy, to paint any group that way. Some of our legislators are dweebs. Others are people I definitely don't want to be around. A few are slimy. But most of them? No. Most of the state's legislators are just hardworking people used to having abuse heaped on them for the sins that their lesser compatriots have committed. Enlarge your thinking a bit and it will help you.
on April 9,2014 | 11:16PM
AhiPoke wrote:
Sorry, I agree that "all" is a slight overstatement. I should have said "most". You can call me names and suggest I'm an idiot or at least ignorant but I know enough on my own and from people with many more years than I had observing the legislature. I don't think we're all wrong. You're welcome to your opinion. I'll hold on to mine.
on April 10,2014 | 07:35AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Senator Donovan Dela cruz most certainly is a crook. It looks like Dole Foods had bought and paid for him already. Just sickening to see these life long politicians get away with corruption year after year. The voters just keep re-electing the same crooks, which in this state all seem to be members of the democratic party. 60 years of non stop control of state government would make any party corrupt, time to retire these crooks. I wish there were a way to impose term limits on senators and representatives in the state house.
on April 9,2014 | 08:03PM
Solara wrote:
Very sneaky and unethical in my book. SHAME on those who practice this!!!
on April 9,2014 | 03:21PM
Barefootie wrote:
Yep, very sneaky! Gut and Replace is just another name for "Bait and Switch' which it seems that the State legislature has become quite adept at! Bait and Switch plans are considered illegal and yet our State legislature see's no conflict of interest, when they do such to legislative bills, before and after the fact! Well, guess what? Election time is coming around once again, how about the voting public get in on it and 'Gut and Switch' out incompetent, incumbent members of our State legislature and replace them with new faces in November!
on April 9,2014 | 04:11PM
mcc wrote:
I never heard of an honest politician.
on April 9,2014 | 03:51PM
eastside808 wrote:
This sounds like a violation of ethical conduct in this case the legislators that allowed this to happen. Solution? Business as usual for politicians in general because what the public doesnt know wont hurt them and besides we know better mentality.
on April 9,2014 | 03:56PM
realist3463 wrote:
The best legislature money can buy. Vote them all out.
on April 9,2014 | 04:07PM
holumuahawaii wrote:
The legislative process is just that, a process. There is nothing unethical or sneaky or underhanded about using an appropriately titled vehicle to keep an important issue alive. The people who fulminate about this either know very little about the legislative process, or are like Senator Ihara, and are attempting to prevent a perfectly legitimate bill amending process, for reasons other than getting legislative work done. What is being described as Frankensteinian is just amending language. And by the way, just in case it never occurred to you, when something , anything, is described as "Frankensteinian" you can bet that whomever did that is trying to frighten you.
on April 9,2014 | 04:14PM
copperwire9 wrote:
I'm glad to hear a reasonable and well-informed comment on this issue. Thanks.
on April 9,2014 | 04:29PM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
Holumuahawaii, what you say is generally correct with one important exception, if the replacement language never had a public hearing then it violates the legislative rule which requires that the substance of the bill has to have at least one public hearing on the exact subject matter of the bill. But in a way you are right Holumuahawaii, if the legislators want to pass a specific law there is no rule which requires a legislator to listen what is said at the hearing. Case in point, remember when Republican U.S. Senator John McCain was caught on camera playing a computer game during a public U.S. Senate hearing? He sure wasn't listening to what the public had to say in tht public hearing.
on April 9,2014 | 05:03PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
The practice is corrosive to the work of many people who try to be involved in the system and actively track, testify and work on the bills. Gut and replace does just what it says - takes the content out of a bill and replaces it with largely unrelated material all with a public hearing. It is corrosive to public participation and trust.
on April 9,2014 | 05:14PM
BluesBreaker wrote:
In many cases the language that replaces the original language comes from bills that have already had a hearing and passed one house, only to die in the other. Gut and replace forces a reconsideration of the original bill in those cases and a possible resolution in conference committee.
on April 9,2014 | 05:27PM
XML808 wrote:
Well, when it's done to a rather innocuous bill and the replacing language had little to do with the original bill, then it's a problem. Stakeholders need time to study the language of a bill and draft testimony, which can sometimes take several days. It's interesting that public meetings of boards are required by the Sunshine Law to post their agenda a week prior to the board meeting. No change to the agenda can be done without a majority vote to change the agenda. This rule does not apply to the Legislature.
on April 9,2014 | 06:53PM
soundofreason wrote:
"SB 451 was about including air carriers in the definition of a public utility. It became a bill about increasing the compensation of the chairman and commissioners of Public Utilities Commission and changing the way they appoint and hire personnel."

Gut and replace by definition is ""Frankensteinian", that's WHY that term applies.

on April 9,2014 | 07:18PM
soundofreason wrote:
Applying something foreign to the ORIGINAL body.
on April 9,2014 | 07:49PM
false wrote:
Wishy washy Ihara who voted yes with reservations. Doesn't have the guts to vote yes or no. Makes him look like a fool.
on April 9,2014 | 04:35PM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
false, you misunderstand what a vote "with reservations" means in legislative "newspeak." It means that the legislator is giving the public notice that he may change his mind about voting yea about the bill in a later vote, say the vote in the floor session of the full particular body of the legislature in which he is a member.
on April 9,2014 | 05:07PM
false wrote:
To most of us ignorant citizens, a "with reservations" means the legislator is trying to win both sides and particularly doesn't want his name tarnished. Again, I say wishy washy or no guts Ihara.
on April 9,2014 | 05:28PM
HOSSANA wrote:
You get what you sow so why are all you critics of these politicos criticizing them when every year you or the public keep voting the same ding-bat legislators into office. These legislators are making a mockery of you and the legislative process. DON'T VOTE FOR ANY INCUMBENT INCL. THOSE RUNNING FOR FEDERAL OFFICES e.g. KIM, HANABUSA, et. co.
on April 9,2014 | 05:14PM
localguy wrote:
This is what dysfunctional bureaucrats do in forth world countries. Fail to do their job to standard, on time. More concerned about taking care of #1 then the people who elected them. In their own words, they have far more important bureaucratic work to do than take care of citizen's time wasting needs. Gut and replace is what bureaucrats do to show they haven't got a clue how to do their job. Basically some of the most acutely clueless people on earth, barely able to breath and walk at the same time. Fools like this is why the Nei continually rates 45-50 out of the 50 states. Gutter bound, we do what we do best, little to nothing. Our standard.
on April 9,2014 | 05:28PM
Waterman2 wrote:
If these bills are worth passing, they are worth showing the public. I know little about any of them, but am totally opposed just on the principle of open government. Shame on these scoff laws !
on April 9,2014 | 07:10PM
Nala007 wrote:
Les Ihara is always pontificating and tries to come off as "Mr. Good Government." Just how long has he been in office? And what has he actually accomplished in terms of reforming the way business is done at the Capitol? He's full of it and full of himself.
on April 9,2014 | 07:19PM
entrkn wrote:
Hawaii's legislators makes Republican congressmen look like choir boys...
on April 9,2014 | 07:41PM
krusha wrote:
Unlike the do-nothing Republican controlled US House of Representatives...
on April 9,2014 | 09:04PM
krusha wrote:
Seems like these guys just want to pass these bills and attach their names to them just so they can say they passed a bill and not just taking up space in the legislature...
on April 9,2014 | 09:02PM
Eradication wrote:
And no one wonders why 13% of the registered voters actually make it to the voting booth? There is a total mistrust of the folks who run this state/country. I vote at every election because I feel an obligation to those who paid with their lives for me to do so. It is getting more and more difficult to continue to do that based on stuff like this. I don't get all the so called "legislative newspeak" and neither does the average tax paying citizen. I wish folks could speak plain English so that the rest of us (the majority) could understand all of this.
on April 9,2014 | 11:28PM
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