January 24, 2009

Two peculiar speech nuggets

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug @ 12:58 pm

On Opening Day I did not follow the entertainment very closely, but I did listen to most of the speeches. I was struck by a few comments. First, this passage from House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro’s remarks:

For example, our laws have a ‘preference” for local products. Agencies are supposed to give local vendors a break and purchase preference. It’s like the federal “Buy America act.”

In 2006, we’ve even passed a small business set-aside so that our small businesses are supposed to be given state contracts.

Yet despite what’s in the law, nothing is happening. Local farmers are not enjoying the benefit of this policy. But do you know why? Because the “rules” that are supposed to implement the laws, exempt fresh produce, meats and foods! I know, “How can?!?”

I sent an email to Representative Blake Oshiro a few days ago asking him to expand or clarify his remarks. Oshiro has yet to reply. So, today I did my own research. Part X of the Procurement Code contains the folowing definition:

“Hawaii products” means products that are mined, excavated, produced, manufactured, raised, or grown in the State where the input constitutes no less than twenty-five per cent of the manufactured cost;

Clearly, that definition would include the fresh produce, meats and foods of Hawaii. Then I went looking for the alleged part of the State Procurement Office Administrative Rules (PDF) that excludes those items from the preference. I did not find any such exclusion. Should I be looking somewhere else? I looked in the small business preference Rules, too. Again, nothing there seems to support Oshiro’s claim.

Oh, and I also asked Oshiro if it were the case that the HRS trumps any Administrative Rule that is inconsistent with the authorizing legislation. I am not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that is true.

UPDATE: Well, Blake Oshiro never answered my email, but he did introduce HB 988 as part of the Majority Package. In that bill is a reference to the Administrative Rule where Hawaii fresh produce, meats, and foods are excluded from the preference. See Exhibit A at the end of this link.

Looking at the other chamber, I took note of this “silent majority” line from Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom’s remarks:

[The] Republican minority may be just two of 25 state senators, but we actually represent more than 40 percent of the votes cast, many thousands more of the “silent majority,” and we have a strong and consistent philosophy, an unwavering voice, and a [sic] vote.

Actually, in reviewing the general election results for 2006 and 2008 (since Senators serve staggered, 4-year terms) I find that the total votes cast for sitting senators is 211072; of the total votes cast Democrats received 136131 (64%), while the Republicans received 74941 (36%)—including the votes cast for Gabbard, who has since [cough] “wavered” and changed his party affiliation. Thus, I have no idea from where Slom’s “over 40%” claim arises. Perhaps Slom was including uncontested contests (like his own) in his tally, or perhaps he pulled the claim out of thin air. I dunno. I sent Senator Slom an email asking for comment, but he, like Oshiro, has yet to reply.

Anyway, Slom’s could be a much more compelling argument if our Senate had “at large” districts or if our Senate had a proportional representation system. It has neither. Instead, in almost every Senate district, the Republicans have either failed to even field a candidate or have lost at the polls in our winner-take-all system of voting.

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