Government by volume

“Thank God we don’t get all the government we pay for.”

– Milton Friedman, economist

An Associated Press story in The Maui News yesterday revealed that in the next three days, the Hawaii state Senate will vote on around 300 bills.

Why the rush? Well, Thursday is what is called the “first crossover deadline.” That simply means that any bill the Senate or the House wants the other chamber to consider must pass by Thursday or it is finished for this legislative session.

The story said the House has already transferred 140 bills to the Senate for consideration – and will vote on another 200 this week!

Now, even the hardest working legislator cannot possibly know everything that is in those 300 bills the Senate will vote on, much less the 340 or so the House has on its plate. Not to sound too skeptical, but how many special interest favors do you think are hidden in 600 pieces of legislation?

It is too bad this shotgun-type approach to governing seems to dominate what should be a selective, deliberative process. Yesterday’s story mentioned a couple of high-priority items that will be considered (the possible development of public school lands, reforming the state university and doing something about the state’s unfunded liabilities).

But those very important items are overshadowed by the sheer volume of bills.

In the future, the Senate and House should take a physician’s approach to legislating. Follow the Hippocratic Oath and “Do No Harm.” A good doctor makes sure there is a malady before he attempts to treat it.

A good question for all legislators to ask themselves:

Are there really 600 problems in Hawaii that require legislation this year?

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.