GIVE THAT MAN AN EXPLODING CIGAR: Sometime you've gotta wonder what happens when people start breathing the air around the state capitol when the legislature is in session.
While it seems to imbue many reps and sens with a tone-deafness that often yields bills like this year's slew of anti-ethics measures, such as the one that would have literally legalized bribery, we're talking about the tendency of public interest lobbying groups- the ones supporting things like good governance and environmental protection- to look at a difficult route for good legislation and decide to take the path of least resistance.
So it was bad enough when, as we wrote late last month:
we heard that rather than ban those one-time-use, white, plastic grocery bags like Kaua`i and Maui have done, the bill streaking through the legislature aims to simply put a 10 cent fee on them- to go to 25 cents if it doesn't decrease the use significantly.
At that time we were kvetching about how
the corporate media is framing any controversy over the bill as whether in fact to institute a fee and if so how much it should be, is that our own people have sold us down the river once again.
But to our surprise soon thereafter we received a "Capitol Watch" email from the state Sierra Club (SC) asking us to get behind the effort rather than pushing the type of legislative ban many of us worked hard to institute on Kaua`i, Maui and the Big Island and has now been introduced in Honolulu.
What no one has reported is the behind-the-scenes controversy it caused, not just among SC members but among other organization cited as supporting the bill such as the Surfrider Foundation.
Apparently one of those problems of bi and tri-level organizations hit the fan and the press wasn't interested in making it clear that it was Surfrider's Honolulu chapter that was supporting the fee while others, like the Kaua`i chapter, were holding out for a total ban.
They weren't the only ones who felt like the SC was screwing up. Email overflowed the in-boxes of those who worked for a year or more to pass the bans on the neighbor islands. They were worried that, despite the fact that the original bill would have allowed the county bans to stand, their efforts may have been usurped by one of those all-too-common, last-minute, conference committee switcheroos.
But despite all the buzz, apparently the word hadn't reached the SC's desk as they announced that "A Bill’s Death Leaves Citizens Stunned"
The piece said that:
in a surprising and astonishing move, HB 2260 was recommitted, and in a casual vocal floor vote, the single-use bag and watershed initiative fund bill experienced a swift death on the House floor, rendering it impossible for the bill to pass the First Lateral deadline. We’re not sure why this occurred, but the move was completely unexpected and came as a shock to its ample and optimistic supporters.
Astonishing? Surprising? Stunned?
How about Tone-deaf. Out of Touch. Oblivious.
While the death of the "fee" bill has been characterized as "a mistake" by some there is evidence it may have been anything but.
Maybe no one at SC noticed that Honolulu City Council Chair Ernie Martin has introduced and a bill that would ban single use plastic bags which, if it passes, would create a de facto state-wide ban by virtue of having bans in all four counties. If they had surly it would have alerted them that their piddly little fee-instituting bill was hopelessly out-stripped by current events.
But even without the Honolulu measure how far did they think they would get without the support of those who on the three neighbor islands?
These citizens prevailed in the face of big money being poured into the state by the national chemical industry which air-lift in lobbyists to unsuccessfully try to convince three sets of councilmembers that it was an issue of "choice"... that people should be free to "choose" to create visual land blights, turn the ocean into a death trap for aquatic life and further contribute to the ever-growing Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Did they think we were now going to give up and support a half-assed "fee" bill?
The Sierra Club does great work and without their lobbying efforts we probably wouldn't even have a Hawai`i Environmental Protection Act any more- something they are trying to again prevent from happening this year again.
But when they do things like this by deciding to start off supporting a weak bill- not to mention one that many of their members view as wholly inadequate and possibly destructive of activists' previous efforts- it might be wise to examine, not why the "fee" bill was voted down but exactly why they shocked in the first place when it happened.
As you can probably tell from the above we're still in need of a new editor. If you have some experience- or even if you are just literate and can tell when it's its and when it's it's- and can determine if that phrase is "clear as mud" or "clear like mud"- and can spare a spell to check our spelling and such sometime around noon on weekdays, email us at gotwindmills(at)gmail.com. It would also help if you're familiar with local names, places and political machinations.
We can't offer recompense beyond the satisfaction of dealing with an impossibly demanding crazy person but we're still hopeful that there's someone equally insane out there somewhere.