Rooted in Reason: Nurturing the Seeds of Liberty


A Victory for Voters (But Not Here, Unfortunately) by maliab
September 2, 2011, 4:34 am
Filed under: HawaiiVotes | Tags: , , ,

Ballotpedia (and it really exists, though one should not–as I initially did–accidentally go looking for Ballet-pedia, as that will not remotely answer your questions about referendums) tells us that pretty much the last time the initiative and referendum process got any support from the major parties in Hawaii was in 1907.  That’s when the Democratic Territorial Convention passed a resolution in favor of Initiative and Referendum.  The sentiment didn’t last.  Since then, both parties have been hostile to the notion, and multiple efforts (including one at the 1978 constitutional convention) to include a referendum process in the state constitution have come to naught.  Of course, we, the public, still occasionally get to vote on things that the legislature refers to us, but our ability to generate ballot initiatives is limited and controlled by the legislature, and ergo, the major parties.

Other states have all sorts of referendum rights, and are working to expand the influence of voter initiatives.  Perhaps we can take some inspiration from the recent federal court victory that knocked down yet another obstacle to petitions, which are one of the best checks that the People can hold over government excesses:

Paul Jacob, president of Citizens in Charge, a national voter rights group focused on the ballot initiative and referendum process, applauded yesterday’s federal court ruling striking down Nebraska’s restriction on non-resident petition circulators in the case Citizens in Charge v. Gale.

In his ruling, Judge Joseph Bataillon found that prohibiting non-residents from collecting signatures harmed the ability of citizens to use the state’s initiative, referendum, recall, and minor political party ballot access systems by substantially increasing the cost. The judge noted that no measure had made the state ballot “since the restriction had been put in place.”

“Nebraska is unique in that the people, through the initiative, make up the second chamber of the legislature,” Jacob pointed out. “For one chamber to so restrict and hamper the other that it can’t even function is unprecedented. Judge Bataillon’s ruling is a big victory for Nebraska voters.”

Jacob was disappointed that Judge Bataillon did not strike down the “scarlet letter” provision that requires petition forms to have printed in bold red type whether the petition is being circulated by a paid person or a volunteer. Ruling in a separate case, Bernbeck v. Gale, Judge Bataillon upheld a provision of state election law banning pay based on the number of signatures gathered, citing a prior ruling in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Unfortunately, the ban on productivity pay remains a substantial barrier to any Nebraskan petitioning her or his government, dramatically increasing the cost and difficulty,” Jacob added. “A similar law in Colorado has been enjoined by a federal judge as likely to be found unconstitutional.”



Scoring the Hawaii Delegation by maliab
August 26, 2011, 7:14 am
Filed under: HawaiiVotes | Tags: , , , , , , ,

How conservative are Hawaii’s Senators and Congresswomen?

Hey!  Stop laughing!  I mean it.

Ok, I’ll just give you a moment to get a hold of yourselves.

So obviously, the answer to that question is “not very.”  But even if you think of your Congressional delegation as slightly to the Left of Che Guevara, it still helps to know the particulars.  So no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, you may be interested in Heritage Action’s new legislative scorecard, which calculates how each Senator and Congressman/woman scores compared to their preferred stance on specific legislation.  And while it’s no surprise that Senators Inouye and Akaka each scored a big fat 0%, it may interest you to know that Congresswomen Hanabusa and Hirono are exponentially more conservative than the Senators, with each coming in at an anemic (but comparatively huge) 10%.  Moreover, Hirono’s and Hanabusa’s slight toe-dip into the waters of the right came primarily on fiscal issues:

  • Both voted “No” on the Temporary “Kick the Can”  Spending Measure (Legislation provided for the continuing appropriations for the federal government through April 8, 2011 – a short-term funding measure that “kicked the can down the road.”)
  • Hirono voted against the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (which would overhaul the U.S. patent system, changing how patents are awarded, reviewed and challenged.)
  • Hanabusa voted against reducing funding for missile defense (as part of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 that would reduce authorization for ground-based midcourse missile defense systems by $100 million.)
  • Both voted against an effort to increase the debt limit with minimal cuts ( Budget Control Act of 2011 – would provide for a two-step debt limit increase of $900 billion and $1.6 trillion, in exchange for various “cuts” and statutory spending caps.)  (Alas, however, they did vote the wrong way on the final debt limit legislation, so the promising start was for naught.)
So there we are.  We’re 10% of the way towards a perfect conservative record on spending, family issues, and national defense.  Or 5%, if you average in the Senators.  We have almost nowhere to go but up.


Our Annual Report by grassroothawaii
June 20, 2011, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Hawaii Sunshine, HawaiiVotes, Limited Government | Tags: , ,

Consider it the curse of being active–by the time you finish describing all the accomplishments and activities of your previous year, you’re already well into a busy and productive new year.  And yet, it would be a shame not to draw attention to the recently published Grassroot Institute of Hawaii Annual Report for 2010.  We’re proud of what we’ve done to champion liberty and accountability in Hawaii over 2010, and we’re continuing that work now (and with your help and support) into the future.

From the Pork Report to our transparency efforts to our investigation into Special Funds, Grassroot Hawaii is doing work that no one else in the Islands has.  Please, check out our Annual Report and consider becoming a member of the Grassroot Institute today!  Joining is as little as $25-$50 and marks you as one of the few and proud defenders of liberty in Hawaii.  (Click here to go to our Join/Donation page.)



In just one bill, legislators authorize raid of more than $17 million in special funds by grassroothawaii
May 6, 2011, 12:30 pm
Filed under: HawaiiVotes | Tags: , ,

by HawaiiVotes

With the close of the 2011 Regular Legislative Session yesterday, lawmakers have finalized how they plan to achieve a balanced budget for the next 2 years. Included in this balancing act are tax increases, repealed tax credits and exemptions, and special funds authorized to be raided. 

In Senate Bill 120, it states that there are many special funds “in excess of the requirements” of those funds. The director of finance has up until June 30, 2011, to raid all of that “excess” money, amounting to more than $17 million, and put it into the general fund.

Why is there so much extra money in these funds? Is the state overcharging taxpayers or has the original need that called for the collection of this money changed so dramatically that perhaps these special funds are unnecessary? Even though the Legislature has adjourned, citizens can contact lawmakers at anytime to get answers to these and any other questions. (See contact information below.)

Here is a list of the special fund amounts authorized in Senate Bill 120 for transfer to the general fund:

1 – state risk management revolving fund – $1,000,000

2 – medicaid investigations recovery fund –   $500,000

3 – compliance resolution fund – $4,200,000

4 – mental health and substance abuse special fund – $2,000,000

5 – drug demand reduction assessments special fund – $700,000

6 – neurotrauma special fund – $250,000

7 – environmental management special fund – $750,000

8 – deposit beverage container deposit special fund – $300,000

9 – employment and training fund – $44,000

10 – Waialua loan subsidy program balance, contained in the rental assistance revolving fund – $1,174

11 – University of Hawaii faculty housing project series 1995 bond proceed special fund – $520,780

12 – stadium special fund – $500,000

13 – Kikala-Keokea housing revolving fund – $428,924

14 – community use of school facilities special fund – $1,000,000

15 – federal grants search, development, and application revolving fund – $500,000

16 – trauma system special fund – $1,000,000

17 – captive insurance administrative fund – $2,500,000

18 – health care revolving fund – $916,284

Total amount earmarked for raiding from these special funds = $17,111,162

To see the status of SB120, click here:

Here’s the final version of the bill.

To send an email to all legislators, go to:

sens@capitol.hawaii.gov

reps@capitol.hawaii.gov

Or find your individual Senator or Representative at:

Senators

Representatives

To contact the governor, go here.



Whirlwind Legislative Session Draws to a Close by grassroothawaii
April 29, 2011, 1:11 pm
Filed under: HawaiiVotes

by Hawaii Votes

The fate of the final 146 legislative fiscal bills will have been decided after the last conference committee meeting today, which is currently scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

So far 80 bills have passed the Legislature for the 2011 session. See them here. Of those, 30 have become law – see here – and the rest are shown as having passed final reading or having been sent to the governor, where he can sign them into law, veto them or have them pass into law without his signature.

At 6:30 p.m., the Senate and House are each slated to go into session, and by the time they adjourn for today, the final fiscal bills that passed their conference committees most likely will have until 11 p.m. or midnight for the clerk to receive them into the journal. Then, on Tuesday, May 3, the legislators will vote on the bills that will pass as is, and give 48 hours to vote on any bills that they want to amend. On Thursday, May 5, the last votes will be taken and the regular 2011 session will come to a close.

Traditionally, about 10 percent of the bills introduced at the beginning of a session pass into law. By the time the Legislature adjourns, the public will know the final percentage of the 3,224 bills introduced this year that passed into law.

The public is invited to a potluck at the Public Access Room, on Wednesday, May 4, 2011, at 4 p.m. in Room 401 at the state Capitol to celebrate the (almost) end of session. For more information, go to page 4 of the Public Access Room’s April 2011 newsletter here.



Creative Accounting 101 by Hawaii State Legislature to Balance Budget by grassroothawaii
April 15, 2011, 1:18 pm
Filed under: Economy, HawaiiVotes

by HawaiiVotes

After the second crossover this week, 393 bills are still alive at the Legislature as lawmakers are trying to find every means possible to come up with a balanced budget, even ways that stand a good chance of being challenged in court.

By “temporarily” dismissing the requirements set by law regarding the use of public money and by repealing considerations and promises — including tax exemptions and credits, and special funds for specific purposes — made to businesses and taxpayers, lawmakers continue to play with fire when it comes to their balanced budget mission.

Case in point is Senate Bill 120, which is among the biggest money grabs this session. The bill continues to move along, albeit in a much different form then when it was first introduced.

The bill started out with the purpose of repealing 148 out of an existing 186 special funds, and now wants to go after a lot less of these funds, including “temporarily” repealing requirements that have to do with the Compliance Resolution Fund.

The Compliance Resolution Fund is funded by business, banking and insurance fees. Certain fees for the insurance division were raised last year (2010 Act 22 and Act 59) and now it seems there is a surplus in the fund that is being raided this year.

To see the 2010 Annual Compliance Resolution Fund Report from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, click here.

In SB120, the bill “temporarily repeals requirement that $2,000,000 of tax revenues from banks and other financial corporations be deposited into the Compliance Resolution Fund” and instead go into the general fund. And also, it wants the director of finance “to annually collect funds from the Compliance Resolution Fund to pay the interest payments on the General Obligation Bonds beginning on June 1, 2011.”

Included in other special funds this bill wants to raid or repeal is the transfer of $30 million from the Hawaii Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund into the general fund by taking $15 million in each of the fiscal year’s 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.

Sometimes when lawmakers grab money out of a fund, it is required that money be returned, like in the Hurricane Relief Fund that is again up for being raided this session. For those kinds of raids, will it mean raising the fees to businesses and consumers in order to repay that money?

While the intent of Hawaii lawmakers is to create a balanced budget, aren’t they simply taking money from areas that currently have funds legally set aside for specific purposes and obligating the return of those funds in future budgets?

To see the status of SB120, click here.

Although the bills that remain alive will have no more public hearings, citizens may still voice their opinions on these measures by calling or emailing legislators or the governor.

Here is a list of all bills still alive this session.

To send an email to all legislators, go to:

sens@capitol.hawaiigov

reps@capitol.hawaii.gov

Or find your individual Senator or Representative at:

http://www.capitol.hawaii..gov/session2011/members/senate/senatemembers.aspx

http://www.capitol.hawaii..gov/session2011/members/house/housemembers.aspx

To contact the governor, go to:

http://hawaii.gov/gov/contact/




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