While our 76-member state Legislature (25 senators and 51 representatives) reviews 2,291 bills this session, we realize that they are operating at an extreme loss, without even half of the information they need to make appropriate decisions on the bills before them.
As parents with two or more children and any sibling certainly knows (what all should know) is that there are always at least two sides to every story that must be listened to, not just heard.
Hearing is simply the perception of sound by the ear and happens without one necessarily being aware of it. Listening, however, is a conscious choice that involves focus and processing and leads to understanding and learning. It is essential to fair and reasonable decision-making.
Yet, hundreds of bills facing our elected officials will hurt businesses, and the rationale for these bills (found at the beginning of each), which lawmakers rely on when voting, does not detail the harmful impacts to businesses. They are missing a critical half of the account.
Often drafted to benefit labor and lawyers, many bills being considered by legislators will sufficiently wound businesses struggling to recover by increasing their costs and adding mandates that will divert time and energy from vital tasks. For some, the wounds will be fatal. For others, they may contribute to a slow and painful death and, at a minimum, they will hamper the overall creation of new jobs in Hawaii for all.
It can be tricky to determine which bills will increase the cost of doing business or create new requirements for businesses unless you thoroughly read through each (remember, 2,291 were introduced).
We asked employees in the Legislative Reference Bureau for the number of bills that will "increase the cost of doing business" or equate to a new "workplace mandate" and they could not tell us; which means this information is not readily available to representatives and senators either. They suggested those words/phrases be typed into the keyword search to see what comes up. Unfortunately, most bills do not include such language and are benignly titled things like "Relating to Labor" or "Relating to Health," making it hard for one unfamiliar with the process and language used to identify all of the bills that may impact them.
So why would lawmakers continue to move bills onward that will be devastating to businesses who employ people and generate the lion's share of the revenue to run our state, especially during this time? We hope it is because they do not have needed information and tools and do not know what they are unfamiliar with and do not know (like the rest of us).
We believe that with improved understanding they will: recognize that we do business in Maui, not Wall Street; that we need to protect every small business so each can grow and thrive; and will create a "business-friendly" environment.
Therefore, we recommend a business impact statement as a solution. The bills that have been drafted do not adequately reflect their weight on businesses. This must and can be changed now. Ask legislators to call for a business impact statement on all bills that addresses labor, health, taxes, the workplace and the economy before advancing these drafts. The statement should detail the effect the bill would have on businesses of varying sizes, industry groups, Hawaii's economy and whether it would add or detract from job creation if the legislation were to pass.
Let's ensure both sides of the story are told as too much time is being spent on measures that hurt and not enough time on those that will help.
* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.