Two bills supported by the state Office of Information Practices have been advanced during the legislative session that was reconvened on June 22, 2020.
Senate Bill 2038, S.D. 1, H.D. 1, Relating to Board Members, was passed by the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. The original bill would permit two or more board members to attend a State of the State or other ceremonial address without violating the Sunshine Law. While retaining these provisions, the Judiciary Committee amended the bill to include proposals by OIP, as well as Maui County Council members. To help reduce the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, the bill now makes changes to the interactive conference technology (ICT) provisions of the Sunshine Law at section 92-3.5, HRS, so that boards may continue to provide public access through virtual meetings. All testimony for yesterday’s hearing, including OIP’s testimony explaining its proposed amendments, is posted on the Legislature’s website at capitol.hawaii.gov. Although the temporary changes proposed by OIP would be repealed on June 30, 2021 under the bill’s sunset provision, the Judiciary Committee also accepted the permanent changes in section 92-3.5, HRS, proposed by Maui County Council members that would require a meeting held by ICT to be recessed, rather than terminated, when audio communication fails and until audio communication can be reestablished at all locations where the ICT meeting is being held.
OIP would like to allay fears that the bill would now require the disclosure of board members’ home addresses. The bill followed OIP’s proposal, which tracked the existing language of HRS 92-3.5(a) that OIP has consistently advised does not require non-public addresses, such as home addresses, to be listed on the meeting notice or even announced at the meeting. Regarding section 92-3.5(d), OIP has advised that it is sufficient to generally state, for example, that board members are participating from home or a hospital room with family members, which would provide some context for the public who might otherwise fear that the member could be remotely participating from a lobbyist’s office with the lobbyist present.
Another bill heard on June 24, 2020, was House Bill 285, H.D. 1, S.D. 2, Proposed C.D. 1, Relating to Public Safety. Among other things, the proposed Conference Draft of the bill would amend HRS section 92F-14(b) of the Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA) to no longer provide a special statutory privacy interest when a county police officer is suspended. Although the UIPA already makes public the disclosure of police misconduct information that results in discharge, the bill would also allow disclosure of such information resulting in suspension, and thus, would treat county police officers like all other government employees whose misconduct information becomes public if the misconduct resulted in suspension or termination. The Conference Draft that was passed by the Conference Committee should become available soon on the Legislature’s website at capitol.hawaii.gov.
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