April 10, 2011
by Representative Barbara Marumoto
I am opposing to the passage of SB 2858. This bill has the wrong title. It should be called Relating to Closed Government. Passage of SB 2858 will roll back more than 20 years of openness and sunshine in the manner in which the State of Hawaii handles access to records and ensures its meetings are open and transparent to the public.
SB 2858 would allow state agencies to delay the release of publically requested records under the Uniform Information Practices Act and make it more difficult for the public to ensure agencies meet the sunshine law requirements. This is because the law would now allow agencies to challenge an OIP decision in the courts.
A recent analysis done by a noted professor at the University of Hawaii Law School makes it clear the original legislative intent in passing Chapter 92 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes was to not permit OIP decisions to be adjudicated and to clearly promote promptness and uniformity in the manner in which UIPA requests were handled.
SB 2858 would turn the Legislative intent 180 degrees around and destroy the hard earned reputation our State has earned for openness, fairness, and transparency in its dealings with the public.
I have read the legalize arguments of the current head of OIP and I do not believe they hold legal water. Further, it is disturbing that this bill is part of the Governor’s legislative package, the same Governor who summarily dismissed the former head of OIP when she did not rule the way he wanted her to.
This is is part of a larger issue we as legislators have a responsibility to address. Will we permit actions by the part of the executive branch to hide what they are doing from both us and the public – actions such as the issuance of executive orders, or the dismissal of staff, or the whereabouts of our own governor on a daily basis? Will we stand up for regular citizens and the media that have a duty to inform the public and allow them to the thwarted in their efforts to know what their own government is doing — the government they pay for and support?
These are disturbing developments and SB 2858 will only make it harder for the public and members of the media to find out what is really happening in our State Government. For a more open and transparent government, I urge my colleagues to vote no.
I am standing up to protect openness, transparency and fairness in our government. It is wrong to delay releasing information under a Freedom of Information Request from the public and force people to go to court to get access to data they should have.
The bill will mean the public has to be prepared to pay legal fees to get information. It also means we will be pitting state agency against state agency—something our predecessor legislators clearly wanted to avoid.
Hawaii used to be one of the States that took pride in our open records laws. Now the sunshine is dimming in our State. I oppose this cloak of darkness and urge my colleagues in the House to do the same.