Remote Legislative Access Bill Heads to Senate Floor

February 11, 2020, 5:32 PM HST (Updated February 11, 2020, 5:32 PM)
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Rep. David Tarnas. PC: Hawai‘i Legislature

A top priority since he resumed office this term, Big Island Rep. David Tarnas has introduced a bill to provide remote access for members of the public who wish to testify and otherwise participate in the state legislative process.

Tarnas announced the measure has cleared all relevant committees, including the Senate Committee on Ways and Means Tuesday, and is on its way to the floor for a full Senate vote.

The measure, HB1153 HD1 SD2, would improve public access to the legislative process by allowing oral testimony at committee hearings through remote testimony.

“Remote legislative access will help neighbor island residents actively participate in the legislative process without incurring the significant, and often prohibitive, costs of air travel, lodging and time off work, just to have their voices heard at the Capitol,” Tarnas said.

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“This bill would not only increase engagement by allowing people who experience economic or physical obstacles to participate in the state legislative process, but will also reduce carbon emissions from air travel, supporting the state’s climate change mitigation goals,” he continued.

A long sought after measure by those on the neighbor islands, this is the first time a remote access bill has carried through all committees in both legislative chambers.

If passed, Hawai‘i’s new remote legislative access program will place the state alongside just two others, Alaska and Nevada, which have instituted remote testimony programs, a release from Tarnas’ office said.

The measure now goes to the entire Senate for a vote, and then to a joint House-Senate Conference Committee, in which the House and Senate conferees negotiate to agree on an identical version of the bill. That version would then return to the House and Senate for a final vote.

Assuming it clears all those steps, the measure would move on finally to Gov. David Ige for his signature into law.

The legislation has received broad public support, including from Hawai‘i Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations, Common Cause Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Government Employees Association, Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce and Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim.

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