Historic Hawaii House Coalition Delivers Promising Results

ImageBy Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson is House Minority Leader and Rep. Scott K. Saiki is House Majority Leader.05/14/2013

http://www.civilbeat.com/voices/2013/05/14/19052-historic-hawaii-house-coalition-delivers-promising-results/

Nathan Eagle/Honolulu Civil Beat

The 2013 legislative session has come to a close having made significant progress. A bipartisan coalition, the first in the history of the House of Representatives, committed to finding common ground and overcoming politics as usual to make investments in Hawaii’s future, improve the quality of life for our working families, and increase transparency and accountability in government.

The swift and unanimously supported repeal of the Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) was a direct response to public outcry concerning a closed government process that granted vast environmental exemptions to speed development. Repeal of this newly created entity quickly gained consensus across the aisle and was one of the first priorities of the House.

Recognizing the need to put the State in a sure and sound fiscal position and invest in the future, the Legislature took a momentous first step this session to address unfunded liabilities with a commitment of $217 million over the next two fiscal years. Additionally, the Hurricane Relief and Rainy Day Funds will be recapitalized with $160 million and $50 million, respectively. These actions will considerably secure Hawaii’s bond rating and place it in a much healthier position for future investments.

Serious discussions about broad-based tax relief first began in the House where lawmakers recognized the need to help alleviate the incredibly high cost of living that burdens middle class families. Although not realized this session, we remain fully committed to continuing these discussions next legislative session.

The House also focused on campaign reform by introducing legislation, approved by the Legislature, that requires super PACs to identify the top three donors funding political advertisements. The Legislature also changed the financial disclosure filing dates for lawmakers to account for more transparency in their financial interests.

Broader institutional reform of the House of Representatives also represented an important common goal. In order to hold government more accountable and make it more accessible and transparent, the House and Senate began conference committee meetings on the state budget a week earlier to allow more discussion and negotiation time. This enabled the public to better follow the work of the conference committee.

This session, the needs of our people prevailed over the needs of political parties. At a time when increasing polarization in Washington, D.C. has created an atmosphere that produces little help for everyday people, we in the House have tried to chart an encouraging new path and set a new tone by working across the aisle in a meaningful way.

There is still much work to be done in the years ahead. And on some issues, differences of opinion will always remain. But this session has proved that there is often more potential for collaboration than many might assume. The House of Representatives’ bipartisan coalition has succeeded in looking for common cause and achieving common ground.


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