Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Speaker's Response to Hon SB editorial on pay raises

Raise is needed to attract good legislators

Your Dec. 1 editorial "Ban conflicts of interest for full-time legislators" leaves out an important point.

In 2008, the House took a tremendous step forward and updated its rules so that Hawaii representatives are required to publicly disclose and request a determination on all potential conflicts of interest prior to voting. A conflict is defined as legislation that "affects the member's direct personal, familial, or financial interest, except if the member or member's relative is part of a class of people affected by the legislation."

In meeting these standards of conduct, it is also the legislator's right and responsibility to cast votes to address the needs of their community and constituents. The voters should then hold members accountable for how well these factors are ultimately balanced.

In Hawaii, the Legislature is considered part-time because it officially meets for only part of the year, but the duties of responding to constituents, attending community events and meetings, and representing all of the people in the district are not limited to the legislative session. They take place throughout the year. Therefore, when I stated that a legislator's position is "full-time," I did not mean to equate that to a standard 40-hour/week job. Rather, I meant that the duties and time required of a Hawaii lawmaker are definitely a full-time, year-round obligation.

The 2008 election clearly demonstrated that we have a challenge recruiting qualified candidates to run for office. The process already addresses potential conflicts. The salary commission has determined that the raise is to a pay level that is appropriate given that lawmakers have not received a significant increase in more than 15 years. Let's not make it even more burdensome for those who aspire to public service.

Rep. Calvin K.Y. Say
Speaker of the House

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