WAILUKU, MAUI, HAWAII – The Hawaii State Association of Counties Executive Committee met Friday, July 26 to consider the hiring of a legislative liaison to lobby for county initiatives during the 2014 Hawaii State Legislative Session.
The hiring of the legislative liaison is one part of a lobbying plan proposed by Councilmember Michael Victorino, the HSAC Treasurer, and Council Chair Gladys Baisa, and approved by the HSAC Executive Committee at a meeting in May. The purpose of the lobbying plan is to encourage the counties, including the legislative and executive branches, to find common ground and present a united front before the Legislature on important county issues.
“We all agree that a united group is more beneficial,” Victorino said after listening to the discussion. Victorino noted that the council members and mayors are busy with day-to-day operations and are not always able to get to the State Capitol during the Legislative Session. “We all have our regular lives and are focused on other things. We need an effective person who can handle a coordinated effort,” said Victorino.
Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa testified in support of hiring a legislative liaison and stated that county leaders “should agree and combine efforts to become one of the strongest forces in the State Legislature.”
HSAC Vice-President, Hawaii County Councilmember Dennis “Fresh” Onishi, noted that in previous years, the four mayors have organized as the Hawaii Council of Mayors and presented legislative proposals separately from HSAC. He suggested that the Hawaii Council of Mayors and HSAC collaborate and submit legislative proposals in the HSAC Legislative Package.
Mayor Arakawa responded that the mayors plan to continue submitting their own legislative proposals, but suggested that HSAC and the mayors work together to establish similar legislative priorities for the counties.
HSAC President, Kauai Councilmember Mel Rapozo noted that it is easy for the Hawaii Council of Mayors to agree on issues and make quick decisions because they only have four members. “With HSAC, we have to consider the other members of the council in our respective counties – and this takes some time,” Rapozo explained. Rapozo noted that legislative proposals in the HSAC Package must be approved by all four councils. Therefore, the proposals carry more weight because legislators know the measures are part of a statewide effort.
“Mayors are ex-officio members of HSAC according to our by-laws, and we haven’t had a mayor take advantage of an opportunity to participate in any of our discussions,” Rapozo added.
Mayor Arakawa was the first mayor to attend an HSAC Executive meeting this year. Arakawa admitted that HSAC meetings were “not on his radar” and he did not see the benefit of attending.
“I think we should all play an active role in working together with our lobbying efforts,” said Maui County Council Chair Gladys Baisa. “On my end, I will do my best to mobilize the other county council chairpersons. Everybody is wanting to do the same thing and if we get behind an effort, we have power.”
The HSAC Executive Committee deferred the discussion until its next meeting at 10:00 a.m. on August 23, 2013, at Honolulu Hale.
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