PROPOSAL PASSES HOUSE AND RETURNS TO SENATE “WITH AMENDMENTS”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 6, 2010) — An amendment to an existing Hawaii law regarding the public’s access to information from state agencies which was previously “deferred” is again being discussed in the Hawaii legislature. SB2937/SD1/HD1, the “vexatious requester” bill, has been passed by the House of Representatives with changes and sent back to the Senate for deliberation on those changes.
On March 16, 2010, the House Judiciary Committee recommended that the bill “be deferred” (see bottom of linked page). However, several other actions have been taken since then, despite the bill’s sponsor, Senator Will Espero, having stated that “deferred” usually means “dead” for the current legislative term.
On March 25, the House Judiciary Committee voted to pass the bill “with amendments,” with nine members voting “aye” and seven “excused.” On March 31, it passed the second reading and was placed on the calendar for a third reading with four members excused. One of member was excused from both the March 25 and March 31 votes.
The current version of the bill focuses on duplicate requests from a single individual and eliminates the term “vexatious requester” contained in the description of the original amendment. Also in the new version, the Office of Information Practices, the state agency which has oversight over the UIPA law, would not have the authority to refuse the release of information, but could be called upon to render an opinion as to whether or not a requester has made duplicate requests for information.
The new description of the proposed amendment reads as follows: “Exempts disclosure of government records in response to duplicate requests from a single requestor, provided that the agency to which the request was made satisfies specified requirements. Sunset date on July 1, 2013. (SB2937 HD1)” However, the Report Title is still listed as “Information Practices; Vexatious Requests”.
The House Judiciary Committee’s proposed amendments to the bill can be found here. It is interesting to note that a “sunset date of July 1, 2013” has been set when the original bill had stated that it would not take effect until 2050.
Malia Zimmerman, President and Founder of the Hawaii Reporter online newspaper, had written on March 22, 2010 that SB2937 was still alive even though on March 16, the bill had been recommended to be “deferred,” as noted above. An email exchange between Ms. Zimmerman and The Post & Email on March 23 reads:
Subject: “VEXATIOUS REQUESTER” LEGISLATION
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2010 09:17:58 -1000
I was told by the DOH two days ago that they are revising the bill and hope to pass it this session.
One thing I learned from the legislature is no bill is ever “dead” and that is the case even if the bill number is not active.
We have something called “gut and replace”, which means language can be gutted from one bill and added into the other bill if lawmakers want to keep it alive.
In addition, if the bill does not pass, the DOH already said they are considering not answering the emails of so called “vexatious requesters” so this issue certainly is not dead.
In terms of what Janice Okubo said, she did say there are other things being requested, but that was to her point that the requests are silly and a waste of time.
Dr. Chiyome Fukino, Director of the Hawaii Health Department, had testified to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Government Operations that her department had been receiving 40-50 requests each month for Barack Obama’s birth certificate, but The Post & Email is in possession of documentation which refutes her testimony.