With less than one month left in the legislative session, here is an update of the open government bills that have passed or remain alive for legislative consideration. To see the actual proposals, testimony, and legislative status, go to the Legislature website at capitol.hawaii.gov.
H.B. 2, H.D. 1, S.D. 1, C.D. 1: Relating to the State Budget. OIP appreciates the $70,000 added to its operating budget for the upcoming fiscal biennium, which brings its total budget to $769,837 each year. The bill was adopted by the Legislature and is under consideration by Governor Ige. A number of other budget bills remain alive.
S.B. 335, S.D. 2, H.D. 1 – Relating to Public Meetings. This bill amends the Sunshine Law to require the meeting notice to include instructions for requesting an accommodation of disabled individuals, and to also require boards to retain proof of filing with the Lieutenant Governor or County Clerk. The H.D. 1 version of the bill added a requirement for electronically posted Sunshine Law meeting notices to be in an “accessible” format. Although OIP had previously supported the bill and is already advising agencies to include accommodation language on their meeting notices, OIP has serious concerns with the H.D. 1 version because it could essentially make compliance with accessibility standards under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) a state Sunshine Law requirement. As a result, the H.D. 1 could allow persons, whether or not they are disabled, to use the Sunshine Law’s enforcement mechanisms to cancel meetings or to void board decisions that they substantively oppose, on the procedural basis that the meeting notices, including any necessary attachments, were not electronically posted in an “accessible” format. This change could also create potential conflicts between the Sunshine Law administered by OIP, and other laws and enforcement mechanisms already being administered by the Disability Communications and Access Board (DCAB), the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, and other agencies. Moreover, OIP has not been provided additional staffing or funding to add ADA enforcement to the laws that it currently administers.
H.B. 285, H.D. 1, S.D. 2 – Relating to Public Safety. The bill requires county police departments to disclose to Legislature the identity of an officer upon an officer’s suspension or discharge and amends the UIPA to allow for disclosure of employment misconduct information of county police officer after suspension (current law requires this only after termination). The S.D. 2 version of the bill allows public access to information about suspended officers only for suspensions occurring after March 1, 2020, and has a March 1, 2020 effective date for the bill as a whole. The S.D. 2 also requires county police departments’ annual reports, beginning in 2021, to disclose the identity of suspended or discharged officers.
H.B. 362, H.D. 1, S.D. 1 – Relating to Information Practices. This bill would have amended the UIPA to require disclosure only of salary ranges, not exact salaries, for legislative staff, excluding attorneys or individuals who are paid more than $100,000. It was not heard by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means before the deadline for doing so and thus appears dead for this session.
S.B. 748, S.D. 1 – Relating to Board Members. This bill, which would have permitted one or more board members to attend ceremonial addresses for the State of the City, State of the County, State or the State, or State of the Judiciary, was passed by the Senate but was not heard by the House before the deadline for doing so and thus also appears dead for this session.
The House has passed the following resolution and concurrent resolution requesting that OIP experiment with an experimental appeal resolution process to see if it would decrease the appeals resolution time:
H.R. 104/ H.C.R. 111 – Requesting That the Office of Information Practices Conduct an Alternative Appeal Resolution Pilot Project.
The Senate also is still considering the following resolution requesting that OIP experiment with a different experimental appeal resolution process, although the companion concurrent resolution appears dead for this session:
S.R. 81 – Requesting the Office of Information Practices to Explore a Trial Preliminary Inclination Process for Incoming Public Appeals.
To properly assess the effects of the proposed approach without skewing the results by mixing different methodologies, however, OIP will not be able to continue its own current form of selective mediation efforts while doing the experimental process and could only abide by one of the two legislative proposals.