It was our hope that House Bill 1376 would pass substantively unamended by the 2011 Legislature. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Instead of removing the sunset date altogether from the existing law, instead the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor (JDL) felt the state needed to move just a bit slower. The Committee Report states:
Your Committee finds that further information is necessary to determine whether to remove the sunset date and make Act 210, Session Laws of Hawaii 2008, permanent or otherwise make amendments to that Act.
In this age of runaway corporate power and arguable government overreaching and personal intrusion, its more important than ever to have a law protecting journalists from being compelled to reveal their sources. To support the decision made JDL, it refers to a statement in testimony submitted by the State Judiciary:
The Standing Committee on Rules of Evidence was established by the Chief Justice on 15 July 1993 "to study and evaluate proposed evidence law measures referred by the Hawaii Legislature, and to consider and propose appropriate amendments to the Hawaii Rules of Evidence." Whether or not to retain a journalists' privilege is a question that should be addressed, in the first instance, to the Supreme Court's Standing Committee on Rules of Evidence. Accordingly, the committee requests that the Legislature, recognizing the principle of shared governance of the Hawaii Rules of Evidence, refer this matter to the evidence rules committee for interim study and a full report in advance of the convening of the 2012 Legislature.
What seems interesting, and maybe a bit troubling, is that if a committee has been in existence since 1993, how it is, especially given this law wasn't passed until 2008, that the State Judiciary hasn't already "studied and evaluated" Act 210.
Given all this, instead of simply removing the sunset date from the law, the amended bill simply extends two years the sunset date from 2011 to 2013. While Media Council Hawaii is glad the law was extended, we of course would have preferred the original bill. We'll also be interested in seeing the report from the State Judiciary and will make our case again when the Legislature takes up this matter in the future.
For your reference, you can find our testimony here.