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Hawaiʻi House of Representatives takes action in response to recent bribery charges

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File image of House floor. PC: file (pre-COVID) Hawaiʻi House Democrats.

The House of Representatives is taking the several actions to address the recent bribery charges brought against two former Hawaiʻi lawmakers.

Former State Senator J. Kalani English and former State Representative Ty Cullen both pleaded guilty to a single count each of honest services wire fraud on Tuesday. Both are accused of taking bribes and receiving payment for actions involving cesspool legislation. Sentencing for each is set for July 5, 2022.

Speaker Scott K. Saiki made the announcement today saying the House will continue to consider and propose additional initiatives during the legislative session.

He announced the following initiatives:

1.         Reopening the State Capitol building on March 7, 2022

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The House is reopening the State Capitol to the public beginning March 7, 2022. House members, House staff, and the public will be required to adhere to the state vaccination policy to enter the State Capitol. The state vaccination policy requires proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 72 hours old.

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House members will be physically present at the State Capitol for floor sessions and committee hearings unless they receive an ADA exemption. House committee hearings will be conducted in a hybrid manner. Oral public testimony may be provided in person or by video conference.

The House gallery will be open during floor sessions to members of the public who are in compliance with the state vaccination policy. Reopening protocols are subject to change. Additional details regarding re-opening protocols will be provided as they are finalized.

2.         Strengthening ethics training

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The State Ethics Commission will conduct an ethics training refresher for House members on March 9, 2022. House members last completed the biennial ethics training on Jan. 22, 2021. Further, the House has requested that the Ethics Commission offer ethics trainings for lobbyists and government contractors.

3.         Creating a Commission to improve standards of conduct

The House is introducing House Resolution 9, which creates a Commission to Increase Standards of Conduct to recommend ways to improve current ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance laws and standard of conduct regulations.

The Commission members include: 

  • Judge Daniel R. Foley (Ret.), who will serve as Chair 
  • Robert D. Harris, Executive Director of the State Ethics Commission 
  • Kristin E. Izumi-Nitao, Executive Director of the Campaign Spending Commission
  • Sandy Ma, Executive Director of Common Cause Hawaiʻi 
  • Barbara C. Marumoto, Former State Representative
  • Janet Mason, League of Women Voters 
  • Florence T. Nakakuni, Former United States Attorney for the District of Hawaiʻi

The Commission is requested to provide interim recommendations prior to March 31, 2022, and final recommendations prior to Dec. 1, 2022.

“These preliminary actions reflect the House of Representatives’ resolve to be more transparent and to increase public participation in the legislative process,” said Speaker Saiki. “The House also recognizes the need for much more to be done to build back the public’s trust.”

Senate President Kouchi responds to House announcement to reopen Capitol Building

Senate President Ron Kouchi issued a statement today in regard to House Speaker Scott Saiki’s announcement to reopen the State Capitol building on March 7, 2022, saying the Senate was not consulted prior to Speaker Saiki’s media release.

“In a memorandum sent in response to Speaker Saiki’s media release, I informed all Senators that we have been working with Comptroller Curt Otaguro of the Department of Accounting and General Services regarding policies and procedures for reopening the State Capitol, including a firm reopening date,” said Senate President Kouchi.

“The Senate will await official word from Mr. Otaguro as to a firm reopening date and the policies and procedures for reopening the State Capitol to the public,” said Kouchi.

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