Hawaii open government under attack

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All is not well in the Aloha state. “Sunshine” advocates including Rep. Barbara Marumoto are rising up to oppose a recent attack on Hawaii’s open government. A new bill that was introduced earlier this year is set to intentionally delay responses to public records requests. SB2858 “Creates a process for an agency to obtain judicial review of a decision made by the Office of Information Practices relating to the Sunshine Law or the Uniform Information Practices Act, and clarifies standard of review.” In other words the bill ironically referred to as “relating to open government” instead takes a jab at everything open and has been likened to a closed government bill.

In summary, SB2858 will make it more difficult for the public and media to find out what is going on in state government by:

  • Delaying the release of information under the Uniform Information Practices Act.
  • Forcing the public to spend money on legal fees in order to access data which should be made available in the first place.
  • Giving agencies the freedom to challenge an Office of Information Practices (OIP) ruling in court.
  • Setting state agencies in opposition against each other in a bid to comply with practices within the Uniform Information Practices Act.

It goes without say that if this bill is approved, Hawaii’s history of maintaining a decent record in keeping an open government will be tainted. Worse, we will have no idea what the government is doing and when it is doing what it’s doing — unless of course if we are willing to go to court to find out. Effective July 1, 2030, the anti transparency bill sadly has the support of Gov. Neil Ambercrombie who is already said to be a secretive governor.

Allowing government agencies such as Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (a supporter of the bill) to appeal unfavorable Office of Information Practices rulings — as this bill proposes to do — shows that government is clearly putting their own first and the public second. Hawaii’s legislature has a Submit Online Testimony where the public can send in their testimonies and hopefully convince everyone involved that this bill is bad for transparency — just as Common Cause Hawaii did.

 

Common Cause Hawaii Testimony on SB2858

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