Conflict of Interest
Prohibits legislators from working as lobbyists, or representatives of special interests.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TWENTY-FIRST LEGISLATURE, 2001
STATE OF HAWAII
A BILL FOR AN ACT
RELATING TO CONFLICTS OF INTERESTS.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:
SECTION 1. The legislature finds that public office is a public trust. This trust may be subject to abuse and violation. Despite the prohibition against conflicts of interest, there is some confusion in the legislature about what constitutes a conflict.
Although the rules of the house of representatives do not specifically address conflicts of interest, Rule 52.5 does excuse a member who has a monetary interest in the question, or whose right to a seat in the house of representatives will be affected by the question, or whose official conduct is involved in the question. Rule 52.5 further states, "If a member thinks he or she may have such a personal interest in the question, the member shall rise and disclose the interest to the Speaker. The Speaker then shall rule whether the member has such a personal interest in the question to be excused from voting. This rule has allowed legislators to work and vote for measures even when there is a declared conflict.
Generally, conflict of interest is the use of one's official position to influence governmental decisions in which he or she knows or has reason to know that he or she has a financial interest. For example, under California law, any vote in committee or any roll call vote on the senate or assembly floor on an item which the member knows is nongeneral legislation, that is, legislation that will have a direct and significant financial impact on one or more identifiable persons or one or more identifiable pieces of real property, and will not have a similar impact on the public generally or on a significant segment of the public, is prohibited as a conflict of interest.
Unfortunately in Hawaii, legislators are able to work for companies, trade associations, union governmental affairs, political action committees, or lobbying committees and vote on legislation that directly benefit their employers. Such arrangements breach the public trust of public office by allowing legislators to place personal and financial interest before the public good. Even the appearance of impropriety cannot be tolerated.
The purpose of this Act is to clarify the conflict of interest law and prohibit legislators from working as lobbyists, governmental affairs representatives, or political action committee representatives while serving as state legislators.
SECTION 2. Section 84-14, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:
"§84-14 Conflicts of interests. (a) No legislator or employee shall take any official action directly affecting:
(1) A business or other undertaking in which he has a substantial financial interest; or
(2) A private undertaking in which he is engaged as legal counsel, advisor, consultant, representative, or other agency capacity.
A department head who is unable to disqualify himself on any matter described in items (1) and (2) above will not be in violation of this subsection if he has complied with the disclosure requirements of section 84-17; and
A person whose position on a board, commission, or committee is mandated by statute, resolution, or executive order to have particular qualifications shall only be prohibited from taking official action that directly and specifically affects a business or undertaking in which he has a substantial financial interest; provided that the substantial financial interest is related to the member's particular qualifications.
(b) No legislator or employee shall acquire financial interests in any business or other undertaking which [
he] the legislator or employee has reason to believe may be directly involved in official action to be taken by [ him.] the legislator or employee.
(c) No legislator or employee shall assist any person or business or act in a representative capacity before any State or county agency for a contingent compensation in any transaction involving the State.
(d) No legislator or employee shall assist any person or business or act in a representative capacity for a fee or other compensation to secure passage of a bill or to obtain a contract, claim, or other transaction or proposal in which [
he] the legislator or employee has participated or will participate as a legislator or employee, nor shall [ he] the legislator or employee assist any person or business or act in a representative capacity for a fee or other compensation on such bill, contract, claim, or other transaction or proposal before the legislature or agency of which [ he] the legislator or employee is an employee or legislator.
(e) No legislator or employee shall assist any person or business or act in a representative capacity before a state or county agency for a fee or other consideration on any bill, contract, claim, or other transaction or proposal involving official action by the agency if [
he] the legislator or employee has official authority over that state or county agency unless [ he] the legislator or employee has complied with the disclosure requirements of section 84-17.
(f) No legislator shall assist any person or business or act in a representative capacity for a company, trade association, union governmental affairs organization, political action committee, or lobbying committee, group or organization on any issue, matter, or concern directly affecting that entity at any time during the legislator's term of office; provided that where no conflict of interest is found to exist, nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit a legislator from introducing bills and resolutions, serving on committees, or from making statements or taking action in the exercise of the legislator's legislative functions. Every legislator shall file a full and complete public disclosure of the nature and extent of the interest or transaction which the legislator believes may be affected by legislative action."
SECTION 3. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.
SECTION 4. This Act shall take effect upon approval.