Smart looks to bring Sunshine Laws into digital age


Updating state Sunshine Laws to reflect the current digital age is one area Brittany Smart hopes to address if elected to the state House District 3 seat.

The laws, which establish rules requiring certain proceedings of government agencies to be open or available to the public, need to be updated to reflect social media trends, Smart said.

“We need to update the Sunshine Law to include permitted interactions in terms of social media,” she said. “I support the Sunshine Law, however, I believe the intent of the law, to increase government transparency is being hindered, because when the law was drafted it couldn’t take into account the current technologies and Internet.”

In some cases, especially with the use of Facebook and Twitter, Smart explained it could be considered a conflict of interest if one government member posts an item that is then picked up in a feed that other members of the government body may read.

For instance, say a Hawaii County Council member posts information on his Facebook page, which is then picked up by a news feed and another council member reads it, it could be considered a serial communication, a violation of Hawaii’s Sunshine laws as written in the 1970s prior to the advent of the Web.

“I would like to put measures forward that outline allowable interactions,” Smart said.

Smart will face Richard Onishi for the Democratic nomination in the Aug. 11 primary election. The district, which spans upper Puna and east Ka‘u, features no incumbent following the state’s reapportionment process.

Smart, a one-term Hawaii County Council member, said she would like to say no to voting for a tax increase but cannot commit to it.

She added that rather than looking to tax increases first, the government needs to look at ways to cut expenses, such as using more technology to reduce paper costs.

“If I have to choose between schools only operating half-time and raising taxes, I may,” she said. “No, but that is not a firm no.”

As for fees, Smart said she would look at the issue on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration whether the fees collected stay with the collecting entity.

On education, Smart said she does not support student furloughs. She, however, does want to see more local produce being used by schools as well as a change in the way students are taught.

“Teaching students how to take tests just to have a good performance number is not an appropriate way to teach students,” she said, noting she was part of an initial group of students that underwent standardized testing. “I don’t remember anything from the test, what I remember is the hands-on learning experiences.”

Smart did not have a clear answer on how to best handle issues concerning student busing to public schools. She noted the county and state might have to work together.

Addressing the state’s reliance on fossil fuels for energy would be best served by instituting a food-then-fuel model rather than just an energy production model, Smart said. As an example, Smart said rather than a producer using one crop solely to create biofuel, it should consider what other products can be made prior to fuel.

“We can’t just say it’s good because it’s not oil,” she said.

She also emphasized that she has not taken a position on geothermal energy production or its funding, adding that whether it is a public or private venture, the public needs to be involved throughout the process. She said she also does not support environmental requirement exemptions.

“I don’t think geothermal, as a whole, with the knowledge I have, is a bad thing because it’s important we do provide ourselves with a firm power source,” she said. “I haven’t decided on that issue.”