Stopping unhealthy payments, passing good ones: A successful legislative technique

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By Keli‘i Akina

Legendary soccer coach Bear Bryant is credited with saying: “Offense wins video games … protection wins championships.” 


If that’s the case, then the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is the Metal Curtain, the ’85 Bears and the 2000 Ravens of legislative advocacy. What you see won’t all the time be flashy, however it’s formidable.

Yearly, there are literally thousands of payments launched on the Hawaii State Legislature. Of these, lots of get heard and transfer by means of the committee course of, requiring monitoring and testimony.

Keli’i Akina

Within the 2023 session, the Grassroot Institute submitted 142 written testimonies on roughly 82 payments. We tracked lots of extra. Since unhealthy payments are inclined to outnumber good ones, which means we performed lots of protection.

A few of these payments had been riddled with sensible and constitutional points. Others proposed extra laws on companies or tax hikes and different measures certain to extend the price of residing in Hawaii. 

However like an incredible defensive crew, my Grassroot Institute colleagues had been there to dam many of those proposals earlier than they reached the top zone. 

Contemplate the truth that not a single main tax hike handed this yr — not the wealth asset tax, the capital beneficial properties hike nor the carbon tax. That’s what good protection seems to be like.

Because the session progressed, the Grassroot crew grew to become the main critic of utilizing state funds to advertise tourism — a view that’s beginning to resonate on the Capitol. Finally, the Legislature refused to allocate any cash in any respect to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which now’s searching for a discretionary handout from the governor.

We additionally had been the one group to level out the various issues with the governor’s proposed “customer influence charge,” and it, too, failed to achieve the top zone.

One other invoice we helped block would have allowed a “deliberative course of” exception to the state’s open data legislation. If enacted, it could have created a serious loophole within the state’s transparency necessities. That invoice went down.

One invoice that we failed to dam has the potential to just about kill the cryptocurrency enterprise in Hawaii. However the sport isn’t over but, so now we’re encouraging individuals to ask Gov. Josh Inexperienced to veto that measure.

By way of offense, I wish to have seen extra good payments handed, however our crew is getting higher on that rely too. We supported a variety of excellent payments, a few of which made it fairly far, if to not the governor’s desk. 

We even crafted 15 mannequin payments of our personal that had been launched by completely different legislators. One among them is ready for the governor’s signature: SB674, which might authorize Hawaii to hitch 37 different states within the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact and make it simpler for docs from these states to apply right here and assist alleviate our acute physician scarcity.

However it’s the nature of legislative advocacy that we’ll all the time should play extra protection than offense, particularly contemplating what number of payments are launched and the way typically these payments would enhance taxes or add extra laws.

Victories just like the passage of SB674 are thrilling, and I can’t wait to see extra of them. However I’m completely satisfied that we now have a powerful defensive crew too. Simply think about how a lot larger the worth of paradise can be with out it.


Keli‘i Akina is president and CEO of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.