New Ethics and Lobbyists Laws Provide Stronger Penalties and Greater Clarity
On June 22, 2017, Governor Ige signed into law three bills that strengthen and clarify Hawaii’s ethics and lobbyists laws. The State Ethics Commission strongly advocated for the passage of all three bills, which were part of the Commission’s legislative package for 2017 and were introduced by Representative Scott Nishimoto.
Here are some of the important changes made by the new laws.
Act 50 (HB 508, HD1, SD1, CD1). Doubles the maximum administrative fine that the Commission may impose for violations of the State Ethics Code — from $500 to $1,000 per violation — and clarifies that the Commission may assess an administrative fine and/or require restitution in a settlement agreement with a respondent to resolve an ethics
Act 51 (HB 511, HD1, SD1, CD1). Doubles the maximum administrative fine that the Commission may impose for violations of the Lobbyists Law, from $500 to $1,000 per violation; clarifies the statutory definitions of “expenditure,” “lobbying,” and “lobbyist”; excludes from the definition of “lobbying” the preparation of grant-in-aid applications by nonprofit organizations; allows a former employer of a lobbyist to file a notice of termination with the Commission when the lobbyist fails to do so; clarifies the reporting requirements for lobbying activities during special sessions of the legislature; and requires that lobbyist registration statements be posted on the Commission’s website.
Act 52 (HB 852, HD2, SD1, CD1). Increases the administrative fines for state officials and candidates who fail to file financial disclosure statements when due; allows the Commission to use e-mail or first-class mail to notify state officials who fail to file financial disclosure statements when due; and allows the Commission to post on its website a list of all persons who have failed to file financial disclosure statements by the statutory deadline.
Commission Chair Rey Graulty explained, “The Commission applauds the Legislature and the Governor for their strong support of governmental ethics in this past legislative session. These bills send a clear message that the people of Hawaii – and their elected representatives – expect Hawaii’s public officials to act with the utmost integrity.”