Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Let's 'gong' our legislators"

Hallelujah!  I have been looking for an old newspaper column, a satire piece on the legislature, for several years, and I think I'm finally close.  I had narrowed down the time frame, sometime between 1988 and 1992, and I was pretty sure I read it in The Honolulu Advertiser.  I reached out to several writers who I thought may have written it, and to other old timers who may remember the piece too, with no luck.

So, this morning, I went down to the Legislative Reference Bureau Library, and the helpful staff there immediately pulled out a file of clippings on the legislature from that time period.  What a great resource they are - and the stories immediately brought me back to the news of the day.  Speaker Joe talking about his office being bugged, former Senator Richard Matsuura and the wiretapping investigation, Pat Mau Shimizu was hired as Chief Clerk, and more!  But, I digress.

I came across three pieces that look like they are part of a wonderful series of columns by William Kresnak, then Capitol Bureau Chief for the Advertiser.  I am almost positive that the piece I'm looking for is part of his series.  They have the same humor and tone of the piece I am still trying to find.  Bill is now living on the mainland and is the Government Affairs Editor of "American Motorcyclist" magazine.  I'll be posting the ones I have found periodically and others if I find more.  It sure seems like not much has really changed in the past 22 years.  According to Bill, this was a popular one, dated 3-12-90:

The transcript:

Someone once said that there are two things you don't want to watch being made -- laws and sausages.

That may be true.

But observers of Hawaii's Legislature don't know, because when a sticky issue comes up on the floor the action comes to a screeching halt.  Legislators then retreat behind closed doors to do their explaining, cajoling, yelling or whatever.

Then, sometimes hours later, they come back on the floor, make speeches and vote.  Or they "recommit" the bill without debate, yanking it off the floor before a vote because they learned in the caucus meeting that the proposal doesn't have support.

THAT LEAVES observers scratching their heads.

The Advertiser Capitol Bureau think tank got to work on this "delay of game" problem -- and came up with a solution -- last week when the House Republicans proposed floor amendments to a couple of tax bills, forcing the majority Democrats to call a "recess" and go into the majority caucus room.

They returned what seemed like days later.

Instead of keeping the public stuck to their seats in the gallery waiting for the floor action to resume, we propose a few changes in the House and Senate rules.  After all, there are no commercials to watch for entertainment, no halftime show, not even cheerleaders or team mascots.

AND THE public, not to mention the always-hungry press corps, can't rush out to grab a quick bite because nobody knows when the lawmakers might return to their seats and say something profound.

Of course, nobody knows when the lawmakers might say something profound, period.

We propose that Democrats and Republicans each should be allowed five 15-minute timeouts per daily floor session.  If the Democrats exceed their time limit they should be assessed a "delay-of-game" penalty and the Republicans should be allowed to pass a free law.

Also, there should be a 45-second "shot clock" on the floor to limit speeches.  That way there would be more exciting action, the sessions wouldn't drag out, and legislators would talk in perfect "sound bites" for television.

And there should be a big gong on each floor with guest gongers who would bang the thing when lawmakers stray from the subject of the bill under discussion in their floor speeches.

Get gonged three times and you sit in the penalty box for the rest of the day.

THESE CHANGES would save a lot of time.

Or, as an alternative, maybe lawmakers should just discuss the measures in the open on the floor when the bills come up for a vote.

No comments: