PRAISE THE SPEAKER AND PASS THE COMPAZINE: As we enter our fifth year of "daily" whatever-the-heck-it-is-we-do in this space (changing the definition of "daily" on the fly, first to "week"days and later to whenever-the-heck we feel like it), we noticed that, while some years we tend to bang our head against the wall of the annual state legislative session more than others, this year?.. not so much.
Now don't get us wrong- we usually have little or no trouble getting our boxers in a bunch for the next big fight. The trouble is we're so damn tired of fighting the last one again and again.
Our legislative system has to be one of the most "corrupt" in the country. By that we mean that it's essentially based on a politically-motivated, mutual hand-washing type of cronyism and legalized bribery. This year there was a bill floating around that would have literally legalized "gifts" meant to influence legislators.
It's like a bento that comes with a heaping portion of our absurd "committee-chair-as-God" bill-referral system and two scoops of an "it's-always-this-way-unless-it's-not" rules and procedures, all slathered in the gravy of a hurry-up-and-wait, fake-you-out-of-your-Nikes slew of often-unannounced hearings culminating in a series of conference committees at session's end that make the previous four months of kabuki a bad and expensive joke on those picking up the check.
So the past week or so, as yet another effort to remove all environmental protections from the Hawai`i Environmental Protection Act (HRS 343) moved forward- this time in a measure to arbitrarily allow the governor and/or mayors to exempt anything their black little hearts desire from, not just environmental protection, but from any and all permitting that might trigger public hearings or even add conditions- we just couldn't whip up the outrage of past years' efforts at similar mahttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.giflfeasance.
Thankfully this morning we awoke to a Facebook posting from former Kaua`i State Senator and current state Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control, Gary Hooser. Fortunately Hooser is now in a position where it is his job to read through stacks of bills, many of which the environmental watchdogs might miss because of course they're not titled "Related to Rape of the Environment" but rather, as in this case, "Relating To Economic Revitalization."
After sending out an alarm last week as to the scheduling of a hearing yesterday, today Hooser wrote that:
HB1893 was "deferred" in the House Finance Committee which means it is most likely dead for this session! This of course is great news for those who care about the environment and preserving public participation in the development process.
Of course another bill, HB2324, which would exempt "the upgrading and new construction of broadband facilities on state and county property from state and county permitting processes" did pass with still-unknown amendments which, the ever optimistic Hooser hopes, "will result in a Bill that is far better than the version that arrived in Finance."
Every year there's another attack. We'd seen them come and go over the year with the worst of the worst, like "automatic approvals," creating havoc and leaving communities with monstrous projects and developments that no one wants because, in the case of automatic approvals, some bureaucrat was asleep at the wheel.
But a special place in the legislative Hall of Shame has to go to these outright HRS 343 exemptions for certain department or division projects.
We became aware of these relatively recently when the SuperFerry was triggering pre barf-o-meter nausea.
As word of the Linda Lingle Administration's corrupt little exemption from 343 began to be challenged, we noticed the absence of any county permitting- even a Shoreline Management Area (SMA) permit which always accompanies any project on or near the shore and is required under the federal Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Act.
But after our usual runaround at the planning department (PD)- which, as with all county departments, usually consists of a "click" on the phone whenever we identify ourselves- we finally received a semi-anonymous email from a lower echelon PD cog from sector "R," referring us to an HRS provision that, like one of those pockets in your colon that contain five year old potato skins, contained a particularly disgusting little turd of a law that exempted the entire Harbor Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) from any and all county permitting.
Upon further review we learned from then-Kaua`i Representative Mina Morita that, though this provision pre-dated her tenure and had little chance of repeal, she had spent a decade or more fighting the same battle, year after year, to defeat bills that would make others, like the Airports Division, similarly exempted.
Of course now people are becoming more aware of these measures and sometimes, miraculously, as with today's "defeat" of HB1893, the bill is at least temporarily squelched until it rears its ugly head at next year's session.
We have no idea whether we'll be able to stomach much coverage of the legislature this year. Oh we may re-rant about the idiotic Council on Revenues (COR) system where they have to prepare the budget not once, not twice but three times as the economic projections change from one pulled from the COR's sleeve to another pulled from their butts at various points before, during or after the session.
Or maybe we'll get our hackles raised by some last minute "plate-lunch" bill with a heaping portion of gut-and-replace and a side order of conference-committee-shenanigans that yields a final day vote on bill that, although it never even got a hearing and was declared dead in January, has now been slipped into a stack of 20 bills that are passed in a matter of 25 seconds.
But don't expect much. We're nauseous enough from the vog blowing though these days, and food is too expensive to lose our lunch over an entrenched legislative process which stands zero chance of getting a gut-and replace treatment of its own.