Building a Bill
Citizens looking to get involved in the legislative process–but unsure how to do so–have some help this session from the Kanu Hawaii Capitol Workshops.
In the first workshop, Jan. 16, Kanu Fellow Joe Heaukulani recounted his experience in turning an idea into a bill that’s been introduced this session.
When Heaukulani began researching the political process, he came across a practice called “gut and replace.” This allows a bill’s content to be radically changed even after it has passed through committees or public hearings–then voted on without public input (“Gut and Replace,” Oct. 3, 2012).
Heaukulani began talking to politicians, and the result is SB837, which proposes a constitutional amendment requiring that a bill have the same intent from start to finish. Heaukulani encouraged attendees not to be intimidated at the thought of proposing an idea for a bill. “Just give [your representatives] a call and see how it works,” he advised.
The workshop provided concrete tips on how voters can support and propose legislation. The first step is to contact your district’s legislators (visit [capitol.hawaii.gov] and type your street name in the upper right-hand corner). Once a bill has been introduced, you can search for similar bills by keyword and sign up to be notified by email if a public hearing will be held. But if no bill on a topic has been drafted, your reps may be able to tell you if one is in the works or what committee would handle that topic, and may even draft and introduce the bill for you.
Rep. Chris Lee, who attended the session, emphasized the importance of letting committee chairs know if you’re in support of a bill, as they set the agendas. He also recommended organizing friends and family members who live in that politician’s district. “Find four or five other people . . . and become a conduit for them,” he said.
See “Civix,” for more information.