With the Hawaii State Legislature halfway through the session, the state Office of Information Practices (OIP) is providing this highlight of legislative measures that have crossed over from the originating chamber (House or Senate) for consideration by the other chamber. Of the 64 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 but has not been agreed to by the House Finance Committee in the House Draft 1 that was passed by the House on March 8, 2018.
OIP has testified on 26 bills, and provided comments and advice on many other proposals to correct technical problems with their drafting. While there are many other bills that OIP will continue to monitor, here is a short list of noteworthy bills regarding the UIPA, Sunshine Law, or OIP that have survived the First Crossover:
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 enhance 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. 1768, H.D. 2: Relating to Information Practices. This proposal would permit the public inspection and duplication 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. OIP’s recommendation was not included in the House Draft that will be considered next by the Senate.
H.B. 1849, H.D. 2: Relating to Public Safety. 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. OIP supports this bill because it would provide a greater level of transparency and accountability by treating police officers more like 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. This bill allows 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 allows, OIP did not oppose it and simply recommended a technical amendment that was incorporated into the Senate Draft 1.
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.
OIP notes that there are still a couple of bills carried over from last year that did not make it out of conference committees but technically remain alive, so OIP continues to monitor the following:
H.B. 1518, H.D. 1, S.D. 2: Relating to Public Records. This bill would allow agencies to seek a declaratory judgment by the circuit court that a person is a vexatious record requester and provide for appropriate relief. Because the Senate Draft 2 addressed OIP’s previous concerns, OIP supports this version.
S.B. 478, S.D. 1, H.D. 1: Relating to Government Records. This bill would allow a county council member to provide other members with government records that are open to public inspection. Because the House Draft 1 incorporated amendments recommended by OIP with input from other stakeholders that protected against potential abuses, such as serial communications, OIP supported the House version of the bill.
Whenever people propose legislation or amendments that would affect agencies’ duties under the UIPA or Sunshine Law, they are encouraged to check with OIP for review of potential technical problems and suggestions for appropriate statutory language. As a neutral state agency charged with uniformly interpreting and administering the UIPA and Sunshine Law, OIP usually defers to the Legislature on policy decisions but is more than happy to help prevent problems that may arise from faulty or ambiguous language in legislative proposals. If you propose any legislation or amendments affecting boards’ Sunshine Law duties or agencies’ UIPA responsibilities, such as requiring matters to be either strictly confidential or publicly disclosable, please feel free to ask for OIP’s assistance in reviewing proposed statutory provisions.