No Conflict: Lawmaker by Day, Lobbyist by Night06/02/2011
Editor's note: This is part of a Civil Beat series exploring conflicts of interest in the Hawaii Legislature.
A state legislator says his vote against a fee for all single-use checkout bags is unrelated to his side job as a lobbyist for plastic companies.
House leadership decided it wasn't a conflict of interest. When two other lawmakers stood up and said their families owned retail stores, they too were told to vote.
So what does rise to the level of a conflict of interest in the Hawaii Legislature? To find the answer, Civil Beat is examining the dozens of times lawmakers asked for a ruling from the speaker of the House and Senate president this session.
Our research showed that the bag bill created particularly stark examples of the conflicts lawmakers might face.
Rep. Joe Souki, a Wailuku Democrat and speaker of the Hawaii House from 1993 to 1998, has for at least the last 18 months worked for the American Chemistry Council, an industry association that speaks for chemical companies. He's represented the organization before the Maui County Council, specifically regarding a bill that would have prohibited the use of disposable polystyrene food service containers by food providers in the County of Maui.