Hawaii’s new Sunshine Law proposal means the public will have more access to governmental functions.
A new bill set to be introduced by the Office of Information Practices allows Zoom conferences to continue even when the COVID-19 is no longer a threat. Many board members have already been using video conferencing software like Zoom since the pandemic began in March.
According to OIP Director Cheryl Kakazu Park, the current law prohibits remote meetings in the manner they are conducted now.
“Now the public will be given the opportunity to sit in on Sunshine Law meetings. This is something that has never happened before. We are getting a great deal of positive feedback.”
There are three different scenarios for the OIP proposal:
- A regular meeting where all parties meet in person
- A meeting with board members in one area and others watching from a remote location
- Board members and the public meet remotely
Aside from the scenarios, another option would not allow testimony from the public via remote live streams.
Park also said that offering board members a choice of meetings is essential because the availability is based on the current technology.
“It is important to note that not everyone has the tools and equipment necessary to participate in remote meetings.”
The guidelines for how all meetings should be conducted are clearly laid out in the bill. All participants are required to be seen on camera, and all roll-call votes are visible to the public.
The reason for the Sunshine Law is to keep everything between board members and the public transparent. Publication of the agendas and meetings is also a new requirement.
Most board members agree that the system in place now is archaic and confusing. The current technology guidelines require problematic steps like immediate link terminations after meetings and a requirement that board members open their homes for meetings — which is unrealistic.
When the initial Sunshine Law was first amended in 1994 to address videoconferencing, many issues were not addressed. Over the years the law has fallen behind from a technological standpoint and never touched again.
New provisions now address protocols for outages and lost connection signals.
The new law has also had its share of detractors. Hawaii Governor David Ige nearly derailed the law with an anti-transparency measure.
For now, the new Sunshine Law is on track and all board members are looking forward to a better line of communication between them and the public.