Hawaiʻi House of Representatives passes 11 ethics reform bills; next stop the Senate
The Hawaiʻi House of Representatives on Tuesday passed 11 remaining bills relating to ethics reform that were introduced based on recommendations made in the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct Final Report.
The measures now crossover to the Hawaiʻi Senate for consideration.
In a 2022 pledge to increase transparency and accountability in state and county government, the House formed a blue ribbon commission to propose legislative reform recommendations to the legislature.
The pledge came in response to several incidents that occurred involving misconduct of government workers and officials.
The executive summary of the nearly 400-page report said: “On Feb. 8, 2022, Hawai’i grabbed national headlines when the U.S. Department of Justice charged a former State Senator and a sitting State Representative with the offense of honest services wire fraud — an offense punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine. The former Senator and sitting Representative pled guilty to the charges shortly thereafter. … Hawaii has recently endured other high-profile acts of criminal conduct on each island of the State.”
The report cited one of those high-profile acts as “fraud by a former housing specialist at the Hawai’i County Office of Housing and Community Development, along with conspiracy by three other private individuals.”
Alan Scott Rudo, while an employee of the county’s housing office, accepted nearly $2 million in kickbacks and bribes to influence affordable housing projects in West Hawai’i. In July 2022 he pled guilty in federal court to a felony offense of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.
The commission came up with 31 recommendations on ethics laws, campaign finance laws, transparency and government reform. Thirty proposals were intended for the House and introduced by Speaker Scott K. Saiki during the 2023 legislative session.
As of the first crossover deadline, 23 out of the 28 bills proposed by the Commission passed third reading in the House and will crossover to the Senate. The two resolutions proposed by the commission also have been incorporated into the House Rules for the 2023-2024 biennium.
“These bills combined with the amendments to the House Rules that have already been advised demonstrates the House’s commitment to the public to take ethics reform and the [Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct] recommendations seriously,” Saiki said.
With the legislative session underway, the House Committee on Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs has heard each ethics reform bill and received testimony from members of the public.
“After reviewing our existing laws and discussing measures that have been introduced this session, the House reaffirms that ethics reform legislation sets the tone in ensuring the highest standards of integrity among our elected officials. It reinforces our commitment to transparency, accountability, and improving public trust,” said Big Island Rep. David A. Tarnas (D-8, North and South Kohala), chair of the Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs committee.
The following measures passed third reading on March 7 and will crossover to the Senate:
- HB 92 – Relating to Violations of Campaign Finance Law (Hawaiʻi Campaign Spending Commission Package)
- HB 95 HD2 – Relating to Partial Public Financing of Elections (Hawaiʻi Campaign Spending Commission Package)
- HB 707 HD1 – Relating to False Claims (Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct – CISC)
- HB 710 HD1 – Relating to Government (CISC)
- HB 711 HD1 – Relating to Fraud (CISC)
- HB 712 HD1 – Relating to Recordings of Public Meetings (CISC)
- HB 717 HD1 – Relating to Nepotism (CISC)
- HB 719 HD1 – Relating to Public Records (CISC)
- HB 723 HD1 – Relating to the Sunshine Law (CISC)
- HB 727 HD1 – Relating to Campaign Funds (CISC)
- HB 732 HD1 – Relating to Complaints Alleging Violations of Campaign Spending Laws (CISC)