A proposal to sell copies of President Barack Obama’s birth records to anyone for $100 is going nowhere in the Hawaii Legislature.
The bill died when it didn’t get a hearing before a Friday deadline for bills to advance to their final committees.
House Health Committee Chairman Ryan Yamane said Thursday he won’t consider the legislation because he doesn’t think it’s appropriate to sell private information to the public – even if it’s the president’s birth documentation.
"We shouldn’t take knee-jerk reactions. Just because there are these people who want this information, that doesn’t mean we should change our state statute so a private, personal record could be accessible for $100," said Yamane, a Democrat.
Hawaii’s privacy laws bar the release of birth records unless the requester is someone with a tangible interest, such as a close family member.
So-called "birthers" claim there’s no proof Obama was born in the United States, and he is therefore ineligible to be president. Many of the skeptics question whether he was actually born in Kenya, his father’s home country.
Republican Rep. Kymberly Pine said efforts to reveal Obama’s birth information fuel unfounded suspicions that he wasn’t born in Honolulu.
"It’s just opening a whole new can of worms again," said Pine, the minority floor leader. "We should just let this die. People have presented as many facts as we can."
Hawaii’s former health director said in 2008 and 2009 she verified Obama’s original records. Public notices were published in two local newspapers within days of Obama’s birth at a Honolulu hospital.
The Obama campaign issued a certification of live birth in 2008, an official document from the state showing the president’s Aug. 4, 1961, birth date, his birth city and name, and his parents’ names and races.
Bill introducer Rep. Rida Cabanilla said she’ll drop the issue after she learned that requests to the state for Obama’s birth documents have declined to just a few per week.
"The demand is dying down," said Cabanilla, a Democrat. "If they still got a lot of requests, I could have pushed it more."
Only a handful of people contacted Yamane about the bill, he said. Three or four people from the mainland United States wrote they were skeptical that Obama was born in the United States, and two people from Hawaii said the government should focus on the economy rather than birthers.
Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who was a friend of Obama’s parents and knew him as a child, revived the issue in December when he said he wanted to release more of the state’s birth information about Obama. But he ended the effort in January when the state attorney general told him that privacy laws bar disclosure of an individual’s birth documentation without the person’s consent.
The bill failed because it had to reach its final committee – the House Finance Committee – by a Friday deadline for all bills requiring more than one public hearing to advance. But it wasn’t given a hearing in the House Health Committee, a required step before it could move forward.
It would have run into many obstacles from lawmakers even if it had cleared the House and moved to the Senate.
"Any plan to sell copies of the president’s or anyone else’s birth records is a non-starter," said Senate Health Committee Chairman Josh Green, a Democrat. "Rights to privacy issues like this are too important to be taken lightly."
Lawmakers in several other states have introduced legislation aimed at making Obama prove his U.S. nationality by birth before he could be placed on those states’ ballots. Those states include Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, Nebraska, Connecticut, Oklahoma and Texas.