Nearly 90% of all bills introduced in Hawai'i fail

Nearly 90% of all bills introduced in Hawai'i fail

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii has one of the lowest percentages of bills that pass in the Nation. Of all the bills introduced in both the House and Senate, nearly 90% of them fail.

"Very, very few of the bills that are introduced ever make it into law," said Colin Moore, a Political Science professor at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.

During the 2012 legislative session: 1,219 bills were introduced in the House. 179 passed, but of those only 172 became acts. 6 were vetoed by the Governor. In the Senate, 1,072 bills were introduced. 166 passed and after 8 vetoes, 157 became acts.

"This is a very complicated process and I think really this kind of adversarial, difficult -- talking about it endlessly -- really does produce better public policy at the end of the day," said Prof. Moore.

So why then do so many recurring proposals show up on the legislative docket year after year? Political experts say it's part of the ongoing process.

"Sometimes it's because maybe they're just not very good laws, but other times it's because the legislators are slowly working to build coalitions to modify the bill slightly so they become more appealing to other legislators—to demonstrate that there's real need in the community for these laws," said Prof. Moore.

One proposal that comes up every legislative session is gambling. House Bill 1425 to establish lottery gaming here in Hawaii was introduced by Representative John Mizuno (District 28). He believes it will keep hundreds of millions of dollars residents spend in places, like Vegas, here instead. If passed, lottery bill funds would go toward education—a way to increase revenue without raising taxes.

"People have open minds-- you just never know. Perhaps this year will be the year we pass -- finally pass one gaming bill," said Rep. Mizuno. "This is a lot easier to take than a casino-- and that's why I think this bill has a better chance, but we'll see."

National trends, like restricting gun sales or taxing sugary drinks, are another contributing factor lawmakers consider when introducing bills.

"Those are the issues that they want to talk about because that's what the public wants to talk about and so that's why you see the same issues occurring in all 50 states," said Prof. Moore.

It's one of the reasons why Lois Perrin, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai'i, thinks same sex marriage will pass during this legislative session. She believes Senate Bill 1369 has strong momentum to push through, especially after President Obama's inaugural speech.

"We just came off a landslide victory in four different states over in the mainland. There is this emerging trend nationally that this is the right thing," said Perrin. "More importantly here in Hawaii we know that the majority of Hawaii residents now support same sex marriage, and this is the time."

More than 2,800 bills have already been introduced in both the House and Senate since opening day for this legislative session last week.

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