The Chamber View: Replace apathy with action to stop bills that harm businesses

The biggest plague on businesses is the regulatory burdens our state continues to heap on them, the weight and cost of which makes Hawaii one of the worst states in the nation to do business in. And it gets worse each year with more laws.

It begins with draft legislation that does not adequately consider the impact on businesses and the economy, and that elected officials move forward for political reasons without understanding the potential negative harm it could cause.

While we live in a nation where we are innocent until proven guilty, state legislation routinely assumes that businesses are guilty and makes them prove the unreasonableness of the arguments waged against them, whether or not they even know a case is being levied against them.

But, knowing about harmful legislation and educating lawmakers and the community on the negative impacts is often not enough to dissuade state legislators from passing bad bills. Despite statewide Chambers of Commerce, industry groups and business alliances ringing in against detrimental bills, some get through each year.

Often a bill’s passage is just the tip of the iceberg. Awful bills can become worse when bureaucrats, far removed from the bill’s impact on businesses and the economy, write the rules and regulations that go along with them.

What we need now is action, not apathy. By apathy I mean a lack of interest due to a distaste with politics, not a lack of concern. There is plenty of concern to go around.

Recently, I was at a meeting where a number of people thanked me for “The Chamber View” article (April 13) on HB634 – a bill that would require a purchaser of a business with 100 or more employees to retain all incumbent nonsupervisory employees. They were not aware of the bill and could not believe our Maui and state elected officials would entertain such a measure, much less move it forward. They appreciated being informed about it, which is always wonderful to hear.

However, what happens next is most important. If we learn something that concerns us but do not take action, then the effort was in vain. Bills such as these move forward because lawmakers are not expecting any repercussions on their actions. They are counting on informed people being too busy and letting things slide. Let us not let that happen. The time for action is now.

Here are a few ways to part of the solution and help create a business-friendly Hawaii.

* Join the chamber because the business community is stronger when we stand together. Membership begins at just $302.40 per year.

* Not currently in business? Make an annual donation to the chamber to support our legislative advocacy effort and ask to be added to our email list to receive legislative alerts. The chamber has over a 100-year history of supporting Maui businesses. Just imagine what can be accomplished if past leaders, retired business owners and interested parties were to each contribute $100 per year.

* Set aside 10 minutes per week to make calls or send emails to lawmakers to discuss your concerns and ask how they plan to vote on bills that concern you. This is a just conversation, not a debate, so they can hear your point of view.

* Have more time? Retired? Please call lawmakers; write letters to them and the press; help review bills and do research; or volunteer with the chamber because we and the business community need you.

Please join with us and get more active on legislative matters today.

* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.