Lawmakers request changes to House Speaker’s committee shuffle

News Report
Travis Quezon
A letter signed by 16 Hawai'i state representatives was issued to House Speaker Calvin Say today to address proposed changes in the way House committees are organized. The proposal, lawmakers argue, will make it difficult for the public to stay in touch with bills that have often dealt with both the Hawaiian Affairs Committee (HA) and the Water, Land & Ocean Resources Committee (WLO)—a move that will also require the Native Hawaiian constituents to testify for bills under separate committee brackets. The joint letter is a follow-up to lawmakers' previous concerns about the committee reorganization last week. On Nov. 13, Rep. Calvin Say removed HA from the Natural Resources bracket—renamed to be the Physical Resources bracket—and placed the committee in the Human Services bracket. Say's proposal also removes the Housing Committee (HUS) from the Human Services bracket and places it in the Physical Resources bracket. In a statement, Say said the decision to move HA into the Human Services bracket was "because the Hawaiian community faces many problems with health and other human services issues." However, Rep. Mele Carroll, who was selected to serve as HA chair, argues that the proposed changes to the brackets are counter-intuitive to the way committees were organized in the past. Previously, both housing and human service issues, as well as Native Hawaiian and natural resource issues, were each respectively addressed under one bracket. The letter to Say asks him to "consider changing your proposed placement of [HA] in the 'Human Services bracket, and [HUS] in the 'Physical Resources' bracket." The lawmakers pointed to the fact that both the Public Housing Authority and the Housing Finance Development Corporation fall under the Department of Human Services; making it effective to have the Human Services Committee and HUS together in the same bracket. They also recognized that Native Hawaiian issues such as ceded lands, gathering and water rights, fishing, and Hawaiian Homelands have consistently dealt with both WLO and HA. Carroll questions the implication behind renaming the Natural Resources bracket as the Physical Resources bracket after Native Hawaiian concerns have been separated from natural resource issues. "I basically believe the Hawaiian issues are being shafted," Carroll told Maui News. Carroll said that communication with Say has been difficult and that concerns could have been resolved before the proposals were made official if the House Speaker's office would have allowed for her to speak with him. Prior to the House committee seating, Say did not respond to Carroll's telephone calls or appointment requests. Lawmakers who signed the letter in support of Carroll's concerns were Rep. Della Au Belatti; Rep. Lyla Berg; Rep. Joe Bertram, III; Rep. Faye Hanohano; Rep. Chris Lee; Rep. Sylvia Luke; Rep. Mina Morita; Rep. Mark Nakashima; Rep. Scott Nishimoto; Rep. Blake Oshiro; Rep. Maile Shimabukuro; Rep. Mark Takai; Rep. Roy Takumi; Rep. Glenn Wakai; and Rep. Jessica Wooley. ----