Blast 'em

This Blast 'em blog is going to shine a much needed bright light on legislative shanigans. We will provide details of the wrong doing, give names of the doer, and describe the ramifications to the public. Initially we will focus primarily on consumer issues.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Consumer Protection? NOT!

I know that when we closed the previous posting we said that this posting would discuss the Death with Dignity situation here in Hawaii. However, that is a long-term problem and we are in the closing days of this legislative session and things are heating up. So we’re going to shine a Blast ‘em light on some of the shenanigans going on at the Capitol. Does the word corrupt come to mind? Don’t answer that until you get to the end of the posting.

There is a situation in the legislature that has been getting attention in a few blogs and also in the media, finally. This situation has been going on for years but has finally gotten out of control, hence the media attention. Below you will find a copy of a letter sent yesterday to the Speaker of the House. It is self-explanatory and therefore needs no explaining. However we will add comments at the end.

April 17, 2006

Honorable Calvin K.Y. Say,
Speaker of the House
Hawaii State Capitol
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Dear Speaker Say:

After the demise of Common Cause there was a lapse in citizen
oversight of the legislature. This lack of oversight has led to
blatant disregard for ethical behavior by the legislature, especially
the House which is under your purview.

Now comes Citizen Voice, organized to step up and fill the gap left
by Common Cause as the watchdog organization reporting on ethical
lapses of the legislature. We do not intend to simply report, we fully
intend to shout long and loud when your House ignores ethical
standards and/or the law.

A case in point is Representative Herkes who has become the poster-
child for what is wrong in your House. According to the Pacific
Business News article of April 14, 2006, Representative Herkes
allowed an industry representative to draft amendments to a bill
regulating that industry’s activities. "Kaiser Permanente Hawaii
lobbyist Chris Pablo acknowledged that he drafted the amendments to
the bill and circulated them among other health plans, like the Hawaii
Medical Service Association, to enlist their support." Even worse,
he doesn’t have the faintest idea what that bill means although it was
heard by his committee. While we are on the subject of his Consumer
Protection and Commerce Committee, again by his own words, (please
see Richards Borreca’s article in Sunday’s April 16th Star Bulletin) (this link was not in the original letter and is added for reader convenience).

Herkes apparently believes “consumer protection” means protect his special interest industries by allowing their employees to write amendments that he then slips into legislation without public hearings. The resulting amendment, which Rep. Herkes
sprung on the committee for passage, was no longer a simple bill to cancel the
sunset provision of the rate regulation law--all the new language was highly
favorable to the health insurers. One section in particular practically assures
that any attempt at rate regulation would be tied up in litigation virtually forever.
Without your indulgence this blatant disregard of ethical practices would not be happening and MUST STOP IMMEDIATELY!

Citizen Voice expects you, as speaker, to remove the Healthcare
Insurance Industry representatives from Chairman Herkes office and
put Bill SB2917 back to its original wording and pass it in order to
reinstate rate regulation of the healthcare insurance industry.
Moreover, if you want to be seen as a true leader of an ethical
organization you would remove Rep. Herkes of his Chairmanship of the
CPC Committee as a warning to all Chairs that unethical conduct will
not be tolerated. As my mother once told me “it’s not what they say,
but how they act that tells you who they are.”

George Fox,
Executive Director

How about that? Again, does the word corrupt come to mind? Is this a third world country or a state in this great nation? As we said above, this has been going on for a number of years, but when anyone gets away with unethical or criminal acts for a length of time they get more and more blatant in their actions. This is where we are at now. We don’t know if Representative Herkes is just plain dumb or thinks rules and laws do not apply to him since he was named Chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee. What’s in a name? Everything, Mr. Herkes. The name consumer protection says it all. Your committee isn’t named the Healthcare Insurance Provider Protection Committee, its Consumer Protection! We wanted to add two more words to the end of that last sentence but some folks might think that’s over the top.

This is the time in the session when we go to conference committee where the Senate and House attempt to arrive at compromises on Bills where they have differences. What really happens is most business is done behind closed doors with the public locked out. One improved made a few years ago is that conferees now at least speak up, or are supposed to. Previously the mumbled so even those sitting in the first row and leaning as far forward as they could without falling on the floor, couldn’t hear what was being said.

The forthcoming postings should be interesting so stay tuned.


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