Although praised for passing HB 2971, HB 2557, HB 1755, SB 2292, SB 2400, and SB 2425, many lawmakers scored low for voting yes on several other bills deemed bad for taxpayers by the Institute. After reviewing the scorecard, it was apparent that the scores lacked reflection of some of the positive benefits of passing certain bills. Legislators were ranked based on subjective and stringent rules and categories that do not take into consideration the bigger picture.
Scores were based on whether lawmakers made the "smart vote" on matters regarding personal freedom, taxes, business regulations, government and justice. A "smart vote," according to the Institute, is a vote in support of personal freedom, against higher taxes and fees, against the burdensome regulation of business, in favor of smaller government, and for appropriate penalties for harmful activity.
Many of the bills selected cannot be determined good or bad for taxpayer based on cut-and-dried observations. Several of these bills did not fit the ideals of the Institute, but a lot of them are obviously good for our state.
For example, SB 2373, a bill that closes a loophole in a previous law of maintaining written records of sales of pseudoephedrine products by requiring all pharmacies to use electronic logs that can be sent immediately to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) was considered a bad law for taxpayers. Pseudoephedrine products contain the chemicals that are needed to make crystal meth. Drug dealers and drug addicts are known to frequent drug stores to purchase these products in order to make and sell crystal meth. The Institute criticized the bill for being a gross invasion of privacy, however this new law is necessary to make the old law effective. Electronic logs will allow DPS to take real-time action in identifying habitual buyers rather than waiting months for written logs. This bill will help the department to make strides in preventing the production and sale of illegal drugs.
Another bill considered bad for residents is HB 2843, which expands inspection fees to any freight brought to the islands. The Institute reports that taxpayers may absorb the cost of fees through higher prices, but fails to mention that the fee is an "invasive species" inspection fee that will be collected by the Department of Agriculture in an effort to control the spread of invasive species that may hitch a ride on foreign cargo. In written testimony, the Department of Land and Natural Resources states, "Preventing new invasive species from establishing in Hawaii provides the greatest long term protection for Hawaii and the Department supports strong import quarantine measures." Failing to address the threat of invasive species today will prove to be even more costly to Hawaii residents in the future.
Check out the Grassroot Institute's website where it provides you with a summary of the results, a description of the bills and its reasons for opposing or agreeing with the passage of a bill. You can also find bills in their entirety and public testimony in support or against a bill at the Legislature's website to make your own decision on the effectiveness of a certain bill.
Commentary by Thelma Dreyer