Today, the House voted on over 200 measures, including a few that are important to the social conservative community. One of those measures is House Bill 459, Comprehensive Sex Education. Many of you emailed me about this measure, and I agree with you that there are very serious issues with any bill that mandates sex education in elementary school. If the bill remains as it is, I will vote NO. Today's vote was not the final vote in the House.
Today, I voted yes with reservations for one reason: to protect your parental rights. We scored a victory when this bill was amended from an opt-out bill to an opt-in bill, but with many stages of the process left to go, it can still revert to its original version.
The bill is troubling because it includes elementary school, but there is still time to change it. This early in the process, a NO vote would mean that I would lose my opportunity to continue working to fix the problems and that only proponents of the bill would have a seat at the table moving forward. That would only make it harder to protect the interests of Hawaii's families.
We took a few other contentious votes today, and I'll be sending a full report soon. But, please know that I am always looking out for you and your families. If you have a question about a vote that I take, please ask me about it, and I'll be happy to share why I thought it was the right thing to do.
If you have more questions about House Bill 459, please see below for a brief explanation on what the bill does and where it is in the process. Below I also explain more about a certain legislative process called conference committee where many changes to bills are made. Members who vote NO are excluded from conference committee.
House Bill 459
What is the purpose of House Bill 459, Comprehensive Sex Education?
House Bill 459 was originally introduced as a bill to change the process for sex education in schools from an opt-in process, which requires parents to permit their students to take part, to an opt-out process, which requires parents to ask for their children to be excused. The bill also expanded the scope of sexual health education in Hawaii’s public elementary schools.
What does the current draft of House Bill 459 do?
Following advocacy from the public and concerned legislators, the House committees on Health and Education made changes to the bill based on public testimony so that it protected the opt-in process and reinforced the importance of monogamy. It also requires the Department of Education to list the curriculum online.
However, the bill still expands the scope of sexual health education to require it in grades K-5, which is a major concern for many members of the community. The bill also allows any teacher, regardless of training, to convey information on sexual health to students.
Currently, the bill would not be effective until July 1, 2050. This kind of date is called a “defective” date because it is so far into the future that the House of Representatives will need to revisit the bill to fix the date before it passes. “Defective” dates are used as a mechanism to make sure that legislators have another chance to review the bill before they take their final vote.
Where is House Bill 459 in the 2015 Legislative Session? How can you get involved?
House Bill 459 was heard in the House Committees on Health and Education. It passed all three floor votes, and it will now move to the Senate.
In order to pass House Bill 459, the Senate will need to hold public hearings where members of the public can submit testimony. If the Senate passes the bill, the House will need to vote once more to accept the Senate’s version or send the bill to Conference Committee.
In Conference Committee, the House and Senate meet to discuss and vote on changes to the bill. Public testimony is not accepted, and no legislator who previously voted no on the bill will be allowed to sit on the committee. It’s a common strategy for representatives to vote yes with reservations to ensure that they will have the opportunity to influence discussions during Conference Committee.