Want to Voice Your Opinion on Potential New Laws? Here’s How
Hawai‘i state lawmakers are in the House (and Senate). Tell ’em what’s on your mind.
Right now, the Hawai‘i state Legislature is three months into its 2015 session. But bills are still being hammered out, which means there’s still a chance for you to weigh in.
First step: Find out what’s happening. The lawmaking process can sometimes seem opaque and complicated, but, in fact, it’s easier than ever to see what’s happening, thanks to the Legislature’s website, capitol.hawaii.gov. If you’ve got a specific issue in mind (rail transit, taxes, marijuana, prisons), punch those into the keyword search for a quick start. Otherwise, check out the site’s FAQs and guides.
You can even sign up for automatic email updates, either for specific bills or broader subjects such as health or education, so you don’t have to keep checking the site. If you’re not a computer person (or even if you are), the Hawai‘i Public Access Room, room 401 at the Capitol, is your friend. The staff there can explain just about anything about the legislative process, either one-on-one or with workshops, and will even help you draft and improve your testimony. (lrbhawaii.org/par)
Next: Get your voice heard. By March, most bills have already had their initial public hearings, but they’re far from finished. Written and oral testimony from the public is still welcome and effective throughout the process.
The easiest way to give testimony these days is directly through the capitol.hawaii.gov site, by finding the bill you’re interested in and clicking the “submit testimony” button. You can also mail or drop off a printed copy of your testimony to the Capitol, at least 24 hours before a scheduled hearing. If you’re doing it in person, you don’t even have to find parking: There’s a handy curbside drop-off in the underground turnaround area, just outside the main doors to the Capitol auditorium.
Got friends and family who agree with you? Great! There’s strength in numbers, but don’t just carbon-copy one piece of testimony 50 times. It’s more effective for each person to submit in his or her own words, or to consolidate all the testimony into one submission.
Finally: Enjoy the process. This might sound wonky, but if you’ve got a free weekday, attending one of the daily House or Senate floor sessions can be interesting, especially when there’s a lively debate going on. Sessions generally take place at 11:30 a.m. or noon, on the street level of the Capitol. See democracy in action!