Have you got a ton of bills that you would like to get rid of? Well, just imagine those our lawmakers are going through, although we are talking a different kind of bill - draft legislation.
Each year, state legislators review thousands of proposed bills. This session, 2,291 bills have been introduced (1,072 from the Senate and 1,219 from the House). From a business perspective, this is ludicrous. Here's why:
* Sheer volume. Can you imagine any business in Hawaii (trying to run a successful business as lawmakers work toward improving our state) looking at 2,291 new actions in less than half a year? Many have been defeated in the past but are being recirculated for additional consideration. Consider what it takes to read, comprehend and keep up with all of these measures.
* A lack of focus. Businesses set priorities to ensure that the most pressing matters are attended to first so progress can be made to keep the business alive and moving forward. Unlike draft legislation, all ideas are not given the same weight for review. Ideas are evaluated against the business's main concerns and ranked accordingly. Those that do not make the cut are left for another time, with bad ideas scrapped entirely so as not to waste time on them in the future. With so many pressing matters in our state (improving the economy, creating an environment where businesses can grow, encouraging job creation, fixing our broken educational system, addressing the approximately $22 billion debt liability, providing and maintaining needed infrastructure), one has to ask how many of these 2,291 bills directly impact and make a positive difference on these critical issues. It is not known. Determining this would be the first step in a business process. Then, each concept would be evaluated based on its potential impact toward achieving the company's goals, with those that net better returns, change a process to improve results, cut expenses to help the business survive, fix a significant problem, take advantage of a new opportunity, and so on, making the top of the list.
* Wasted resources. None of us has unlimited resources. Therefore, we need laser focus to direct resources to the best possible use. Imagine the time and expense to research, draft and hear all of these different bills, volumes of which are referred to multiple committees and will be addressed throughout the session from January through May. It requires a lot of time and energy. In business, when a meeting is held, the company foots the bill. The business owner or organization pays the employees to attend the meeting and covers all associated expenses such as space, electricity, audio/visual and materials. With costs coming out of the owner's pocket and operation, the number of meetings held is reduced. However, in government, when our lawmakers hold meetings, we (you and I, the taxpaying public) pay this expense. Think about all of the meetings that are held around 2,291 pieces of draft legislation, with large numbers of bills heard over and over.
* Courtesy. Elected officials often support bills in committee that they do not agree with and ultimately intend to vote against as a courtesy to the introducers or committee leadership. It is part of politics and can keep bad bills alive longer. This costs us all more and wastes the public's time testifying against such bills. Clear priorities for the state should be set, with bills ranked and heard based on their alignment with those priorities to avoid distractions and solve our challenges. It will take change. Help by asking lawmakers to vote down nonpriority bills, support small businesses and concentrate on our economic recovery.
* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.