The Pitch: Government Participation Made Easy

January, 2009

Company:

Hawaii Policy Portal

Owner:

Kory Payne

Website:

hawaiipolicyportal.org

HAWAII POLICY PORTAL FACILITATES LEGISLATIVE TESTIMONY FOR ORGANIZATIONS AND THEIR CONSTITUENTS. Through the portal, the general public can easily submit testimony to the appropriate government committee by filling out an online form and hitting ‘send.’

We feel people have become cynical, disenchanted and distrustful of government operations. Our goal is to make information and government functions more transparent. If we can make participation easy and simple, then we feel we can get people re-engaged in the political process and help organizations educate their members on legislative issues.

Organizations sign up at hawaiipolicyportal.org and pay $1,000 for one year of service. The fees are Hawaii Policy Portal’s only source of revenue. Organizations must adhere to the Earth Charter (found at earthcharter.org), which provides guidelines and principles for a “sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace.”Once organizations sign up, they create an advocacy page and add legislative bills they want to track. Organizations follow the status of the bills themselves and send their members e-mails with links to their advocacy pages. Members fill out an online form to submit official testimony.

We are currently looking at tools used at MAPlight.org, a public database linking politicians’ voting records and campaign contributions. We would like to have a similar online tool for Hawaii politicians and plan to launch it in September 2009.

Expert Feedback:

Richard Botti,
president, Legislative Information Service of Hawaii
Nonprofits will be challenged to get this project funded. It’s too negative about what’s wrong with government. Government is transparent, with meetings seen on TV. Requiring participants to subscribe to the Earth Charter creates the perception that the group is primarily environmentalists. While there is nothing wrong with this, nonprofit organizations come in all sizes and shapes, with different missions. Success will require a broad-brush approach. Remember, nothing happens until something is sold, and credibility is hard to come by.

Valerie Koenig, 
founder, Business Plans Hawaii 
Well-done pitch. My only criticism is that the owners state the main reason people are not currently engaged is because they have become disenchanted. If so, even making the system more transparent will not help. On a practical note, I am not sure how many groups have $1,000 to organize their lobbying efforts. And many groups with money, especially business interests, prefer that their “advocacy” remain on the down-low.

Lei Ahu Isa,
assistant professor of management, Hawaii Pacific University
A very creative and necessary idea, through which the public can submit testimony expeditiously. The major advantage is the “Quick Links” section, which combines all other links on one site. As a former legislator, I suggest the following: (1) Include a notification next to 48-hour committee hearings so that organizations know the turnaround time is short. (2) Donate $3 from each signed-up organization to start a fund to advocate campaign finance reform in Hawaii. (3) Provide testimonials from those successful with their bills as a result of this site.

 

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