Hawaiʻi's Technology Community

I've been wanting to write this particular blog posting for quite some time, but just got too busy at times to write it. When I wasn't too busy, I was often just too tired. Now, thanks to some "lifestyle" changes, I'm still busy but I feel motivated to finally sit down and write this blog entry.

As a law school graduate I subscribe to a number of American Bar Association magazines. One of my favorites is Business Law Today. The March edition of the magazine I thought would be useful for this particular post. Although the magazine is intended for lawyers, there was some information in there that could benefit tech companies in Hawai'i. The focus of this particular edition is lobbying. James R. Daughton Jr. wrote, "You Must Be Present To Win: What Business Lawyers Need to Know About Legislative Advocacy." I highly recommend reading the article in its entirety.

The article reads in part, "[B]usiness lawyers may not think about actively seeking a legislative solution for their clients that involves the use of a lobbyist. Yet, any business lawyer is doing his or her client a disservice if that lawyer does not consider the importance of governmental affairs to any business operation." The article continues to provide that, "representation by a lobbyist before the legislature can provide a business with an opportunity to accomplish what it may not be able to do in another forum such as a court of law. The legislative arena provides a business with the opportunity to create new law or change existing law."

One low-cost idea that Daughton posits is, "a business creating an in-house position dedicated to governmental affairs. .... an in-house governmental affairs professional may work on internal business issues such as creating, soliciting, and maintaining an employee political action committee (PAC) and coordinating voter registration initiatives."

When we consider how important this may be to Hawai'i, we need only look as far as the SuperFerry. How might the SuperFerry have fared had there been a "pre-court room litigation" effort to introduce and pass legislation that may have benefitted a large vessel industry? Legislation benefitting a large vessel industry, as opposed to only benefitting the SuperFerry might have made a significant difference. But, what happened with the SuperFerry legislation was an re-active attempt to over-ride a Hawai'i Supreme Court decision. Then, when the constitutionality of the that re-active piece of legislation was challenged, the SuperFerry lost.

It seems obvious, but I think the idea is often forgotten about. Litigation is re-active as opposed to being pro-active. Businesses can reduce their costs by taking a more pro-active role in the legal process. Even if you may not have a retained lawyer, it cannot be too difficult to find out what laws apply to your tech business and what laws need to either be changed or introduced.

**Disclaimer: I am not a licensed attorney and the above blog post is not (and should not be considered as) legal advice. Anything I post here is done so in my personal capacity and not in any other capacity as an employee, fellow, member, etc., of any other organization, institution or entity.

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Comment by Laurence A. Lee on May 8, 2009 at 5:25pm
So, with Rep. X and Sen. Y, and HBX12 going through Committees JKL, MNO, PQR, and STU, and neither of my legislators on any of those committes, anything I suggest to my legislators is just BBQ. ... As in, "WTFOMGBBQ". :-p

It's Friday, time for a beer. :o)
Comment by Derek on May 8, 2009 at 4:44pm
Aloha Dan. As constituents we can definitely engage our state government officials. I have heard from friends who work at the legislature that form letters do indeed get little attention. However, I am inclined to think that if there is a successfully massive effort with literally tens-of-thousands of people using form letters, with follow-up phone calls, those form letters cannot be easily ignored. I am confident that lawmakers do not want thousands of people stopping by their office asking for the same thing. It is much easier to get a general idea of individual peoples' opinions.

From my experience, it is simply not enough to speak with your own elected official. For the bills we advocate for, it is important to understand the structure and inner-workings of the legislature.

For example, let's say my State Representative is Rep. X and my State Senator is Sen. Y. Rep. X is on House Committees A and B. Sen. Y is on Senate Committees C and D. The Bill I'm hoping will pass is known as HBX12 (Bill to start in the House of Representatives then will go to the Senate). HBX12 is referred to House Committees JKL and MNO and when it goes to the Senate will be referred to Senate Committees PQR and STU. Unfortunately for me and my bill, neither my Representative nor my Senator are on a committee that will move HBX12 to either the House or Senate floor for a vote.

Although both my elected officials will have an opportunity to vote for the Bill's passage on the floor, it will only get to the floor if it passes all the committees.

I am a firm believer that being pro-active rather than re-active is much better. Some businesses however, may have difficulty in wanting to allocate company resources for such an effort.
Comment by Daniel Leuck on May 8, 2009 at 9:20am
Interesting post. The tech sector in Hawaii clearly needs to be more proactive!

As I mentioned on the Veto SB199 post, it is surprising how easy it is to engage lawmakers with personalized emails and in-person visits to their offices. You can engage your state government and participate in the legislative process. Clearly professional lobbyists can have a high level of efficacy, but nothing beats real stories from real people about how the law affects, or will affect, them.


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