A county proposal to add a new permitted interaction to the Sunshine Law allowing any number of council members to jointly attend any meeting or presentation open to the public was amended to add various restrictions and passed out of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs (“PSM”) on February 11, 2014. Although the Senate Draft of Senate Bill 2962 is not currently available, it is expected to track the attached language (SB2962 guest meeting OIP amendment)provided by OIP at PSM’s request, which creates a “guest meeting” as a type of limited meeting with additional restrictions under the Sunshine Law.
Because Maui county council members are elected at-large, they expressed the need to hear, understand, and respond to constituent concerns and participate in community meetings throughout the county. While OIP opposed the original language of SB 2962 as being too broad and is not advocating for the Sunshine Law to be amended, OIP believes that it is ultimately a policy decision for the Legislature to decide whether county council members should be permitted to attend community meetings in unlimited numbers without noticing those meetings as regular council meetings. The attached language would provide greater protections for the public than the bill as originally filed, including requirements to notice and keep minutes of “guest meetings” and videotape them unless the requirement is waived; a prohibition on making a decision at a “guest meeting;” a prohibition on holding such a meeting outside Hawaii; a restriction on how often a council can be the guest of the same group; and a general prohibition against using such meetings to circumvent the spirit of the Sunshine Law. If adopted, the bill would also sunset after four years, allowing an opportunity to assess how the “guest meeting” was used in practice.
The companion bill, House Bill 2139, in its original form will be heard for the first time tomorrow, February 13, at 2:00 p.m. by the House Judiciary Committee. OIP’s testimony on this bill is also attached (HB2139_LTG-OIP_02-13-14_JUD).
For the latest on open government news, check for these archived copies of What’s New articles that are posted here, or e-mailed upon request. To be added to OIP’s e-mail list, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.