With the Hawaii State Legislature three-fourths through the session, the state Office of Information Practices (OIP) is providing this highlight of legislative measures that have made the second crossover from the non-originating chamber (House or Senate) for consideration by the originating chamber. Of the 93 new legislative measures (not including those introduced last session) that OIP has been tracking this year, the most important issue for OIP is its supplemental budget request for $115,000 in H.B. 1900, which was included in Governor Ige’s budget request. Although the House Finance Committee did not agree to the request, the Senate Ways and Means Committee included it in the Senate Draft 1 that was passed by the Senate on April 10, 2018.
To date, OIP has testified on 37 bills and 4 resolutions and provided comments and advice on many other proposals to correct technical problems with their drafting. While there are other bills that OIP will continue to monitor, here is a short list of noteworthy bills regarding the UIPA, Sunshine Law, or OIP that met the filing deadline for the second crossover of bills to return to the chamber of their origin. Differences in the House and Senate versions of the bills will be discussed and decided by conference committees.
H.B. 1768, H.D. 2, S.D. 2: Relating to Information Practices. The original proposal permitted the disclosure of salary ranges, rather than the exact compensation, for legislative employees. For most public employees, only the salary range is public under current law; but for exempt employees the exact salary is public, and that category has grown over the years to include not only legislative staff but also many non-managerial executive branch employees. Consistent with the original intent of the Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA), OIP had recommended that the bill be amended to provide for disclosure using narrower salary bands and be applicable to all non-managerial public employees, not just those in the legislative branch, while excluding managerial employees and those positions that are appointed by the Governor or Legislature whose exact salaries would remain subject to disclosure. The H.D. 2 applies only to legislative employees, including high level managers, while the S.D. 2 appears to apply to most employees, but actually excludes many low-level employees. While OIP prefers the Senate version, it believes that amendments should be made in conference to bring the UIPA closer to its original intent and to have less confusing language.
H.B. 1849, H.D. 2, S.D. 1: Relating to Public Safety. The H.D. 2 version of this bill requires police departments in their annual reports to the Legislature to identify any police officer who was discharged or suspended for the second or subsequent time in a five-year period. Information about a police officer’s second or subsequent suspension would be public under the UIPA, in addition to the information about a discharge that is public under current law. The S.D. 1 removed the requirement that the suspension be the second or subsequent suspension, so that a police officer’s suspension or discharge would no longer be protected by a special statutory privacy interest. OIP prefers the Senate version of this bill because it would provide a greater level of transparency and accountability by treating police officers the same as other government employees, whose discharge or suspension records are already publicly disclosable under the UIPA.
S.B. 2691, S.D. 1: Relating to Board Meetings. Both the Senate and House versions of this bill essentially allow boards to use electronic mail to provide a copy of a notice of public meeting to the Lt. Governor’s Office or the appropriate county clerk’s office. Because this bill would clarify but not change what the Sunshine Law already allows, OIP did not oppose it and simply recommended a technical amendment that was incorporated into the Senate Draft 1.
Bills that were not timely decked and will die in the non-originating chamber are as follows:
S.B. 2735, S.D. 2: Relating to the Independence of the Office of Information Practices. This is an Administration proposal, supported by OIP, that would have enhanced the independence and stability of OIP by restricting the Governor’s currently unfettered appointment power and instead setting the term, salary, and appointment and removal provisions for the OIP Director to be similar to those for other good government agency heads.
H.B. 2582, H.D. 1: Relating to Public Safety. This bill establishes a task force to make recommendations for the Hawaii Disaster Preparedness Plan. OIP’s recommendations to delete an exemption from the Sunshine Law and to make technical amendments were incorporated into the House Draft 1.
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