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.

Friday, May 05, 2006

OVER? NOT QUITE!

Yesterday was the final day of the 2006 Legislative session, a very exciting day as Bills were passed or killed and strategies were played out. Deals and double deals were rumored. For instance, why did the House pass the Senate Gas Cap Amendment after all the Conferees testify at length against passage? Then virtually the entire House rose one at a time to express their reservations. At that point in time no-one in the House is for passage. Then came the vote: Majority Party votes YES! Minority Party votes Yes! It is unanimous, every Representative voted YES! How could this be? It’s like I have written before, something was going on out of our sight commonly referred to as a “backroom deal” We’ll never really know. The bottom line is that the Gas Cap is technically dead but the calculation continues with the inclusion of Singapore prices in the mix along with the three original regional prices. Then the highest price of the four dropped and the remaining three averaged. Senator Menor said that this would reduce prices by $0.27/gal. if the Cap was still in effect. At any time the Governor believes that consumers are being gouged, she can re-institute the Cap for a period of four weeks. However, the Gov. is adamantly opposed to the Cap and will be very reluctant to play this card. The public will have to raise hell the get her to do so. By next session we will have amassed enough data to make it obvious to everyone except hard liners as to whether or not the Gas Cap is necessary. The numbers will be published weekly and we can all play the game. One number to remember is that Chevron just reported that their quarterly profit was $4.5 BILLION and they previously testified, under oath, that Hawaii represents 32% of their national profit while being just 3% of their market. We’ll have to watch this one play out.

Another surprise was SB 2922, the Campaign Spending Reform Bill that was supposed to retroactively kill the $1,000 limit on corporate donations. SB 2922 was killed in the House! The Senate sent a group to the House to negotiate a strategy and apparently was locked out. SB 2922 was killed and the law stands. This is another one that will bear watching.

As I traveled around the Capitol, little birdies whispered in my ear about legislative office managers -- and no one else – being invited by Representative Corinne Ching’s office manager for free lunches and a VIP tour of the capitol district, restricted to the first 10 office managers signing up. This after an April 11th Ethics Commission memo to legislative staff stated, "attendance at appreciation or 'thank you' receptions, dinners, lunches, meals, and parties, etc., would be prohibited for legislators or legislative staff to attend". This special offer was exclusively for the first ten office managers who took the morning off during the work day, since the tour was for 9:00-11:00 am yesterday, and cashed in on the free lunch at Liliha Pho. This perk is not available for any other government workers. I assume Rep. Ching knew about this offer of perks, so she should own up to this breach of public trust. You'd think these lawmakers would know the law, especially when the Ethics Commission goes out of its way to point it out. I should say “shame on you” but I won’t because there is no shame amongst this group, in my humble opinion.

I’ll follow these stories as they develop and get back to you. Aloha, George

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