Cochran Candid on Lack of Transparency and Behind-Closed-Door Deals in the Hawaii State Legislature | News, Sports, Jobs

Now that session is over, Rep. Elle Cochran is back in her district to “reconnect” with her constituents.

Sporting a deep purple hair rinse and a colorful flower arrangement, state House Rep. Elle Cochran (D) sat down with the Lahaina News in early May to discuss events in the recently concluded state legislative session. She criticized how decisions are made there and the lack of transparency and accountability.

Cochran, 58, represents District 14 of the State House of Representatives, which includes Maalaea, West Maui, Kahakuloa and Waiehu. Although she is just completing the first year of her first two-year term as a member of the House of Representatives, she is no stranger to Maui politics: she was previously an eight-year member of the Maui County Council and an unsuccessful candidate for Maui mayor. in 2018.

Cochran told him “biggest complaint” about life in the Capitol was the “total lack of transparency, lack of sun and decisions made behind closed doors”.

The end of the session was widely reported by local media as “chaos.”

Civil Beat headlined its May 10 story “The Legislature is Broken” noting that even the most important bill of the session, funding the state budget for the next two years to the tune of $38 billion, was not resolved until the very last day.

In an unprecedented move, there were six “No” votes and nine who voted “Yes, with reservations.”

Cochran was one of six House members who led the rebellion. Other “No” the votes came from Representatives Jeanne Kapela, Sonny Ganaden, Natalia Hussey-Burdick, Amy Perruso and Della Au Belatti. This inability to show unanimous support for the budget and criticize the process and leadership is something that hasn’t happened before.

Cochran also noted that legislators must review thousands of bills in a very short period of time. she found there “It just wasn’t the time for proper consideration.” He noted that while the session start date is set for the third Wednesday in January, there is no hard and fast rule that it must end at a specific time. She objected to the process, to the lack of details.

“We never saw any worksheets; We only saw the grand totals, not where those numbers came from.” Cochran explained.

The budget and other legislative measures now go to the governor’s table where he has 45 days to veto.

Cochran said his crowning achievement for his district was the authorization of $20 million in special purpose revenue bonds (SPRBs) for the long-proposed new West Maui Hospital. These bonds will allow for more aggressive fundraising efforts by the hospital’s patrons. Cochran said he worked with hospital board member Jo Anne Johnson-Winer to advocate for the authorization.

SPRBs are a type of municipal revenue bond authorized by the Hawaii Legislature that can be issued by the state to provide loan financing to assist qualified private equity improvement projects, such as public interest hospitals. Bonds are not state money. SPRBs are sold to private investors, who provide the actual funds and invest their funds in exchange for taxable or tax-exempt interest payments. For the state, selling SPRBs is a way to facilitate loans for certain types of projects without spending taxpayer dollars or putting the state’s credit at risk.

Cochran also commented on House Bill 955, which would have allowed unlicensed midwives to continue to provide services on an ongoing basis, which failed to move forward when it failed to win a hearing in the House Finance Committee, chaired by Kyle Yamashita (D)-Maui, though he clarified two other committees.

She was appalled at how women who wanted to advocate for changes to that bill were treated. She said the amendment to that measure had more than 2,000 individual testimonies in support, the most of any bill in session. In addition to rescinding the changes, he said Yamashita also refused to meet with those hoping for amendments to the licensing bill that would have allowed long-established cultural practitioners, many of whom help with home births in remote or rural parts of the state. , to continue offering assistance. She was annoyed that Yamashita not only refused to schedule a hearing, but also “He didn’t even go to talk to them. They just wanted to be heard.” she said, but he refused to see them.

He also had a strong reaction to HB676, introduced by Rep. Troy Hashimoto (D)-Maui, which would have substantially changed the minimum parcel size that is filed with the State Land Use Commission (LUC). Parcels larger than 15 acres wishing to change uses are currently reviewed by the LUC; Change requests of less than 15 acres, often from agricultural to urban use, are handled at the county level.

The initial proposal was to raise that number to 30 acres and eventually the language specified 100 acres. Cochran said the proposed legislation raised a “shout” because “lack of vigilance and environmental and cultural protection. Those things would be removed. she said. “It would be a green light for developers.” The measure met with strong opposition and was struck down on the side of the state Senate.

Cochran briefly touched on the state’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR), a part of the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) that oversees small boat harbors, including the Maalaea and Lahaina harbors and the ramp for Mala boats.

He has criticized DOBOR’s operations, not just on Maui but across the state. The extent of him calling from a management and financial audit of the division. “it never happen”.

The good news, he said, is that there are $3 million each in funds earmarked for Mala and Lahaina respectively (subject to final budget reconciliation and governor approval and release).

She said she will continue to look for improvements at DOBOR and urged her constituents who are concerned about Maui’s small boat facilities to “put pressure on people who aren’t doing their job.”

Cochran said her Honolulu office remains open and members of the public can call or email her there to let her know of their concerns.

Contact Representative Cochran at the State Capitol, Room 315, 415 S. Beretania St., Honolulu HI 96813; call his office at (808) 596-6160; or email [email protected].