As the state continues to receive e-mails seeking Obama's birth certificate, the House Judiciary Committee heard a bill Tuesday permitting government officials to ignore people who won't give up.
So-called "birthers" claim Obama is ineligible to be president because, they argue, he was actually born outside the United States, and therefore doesn't meet a constitutional requirement for being president.
Hawaii Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino issued statements last year and in October 2008 saying that she has seen vital records that prove Obama is a natural-born American citizen. Obama was born to a Kenyan father and an American mother.
But the state still gets between 10 and 20 e-mails seeking verification of Obama's birth each week, most of them from outside Hawaii, said Lorrin Kim, chief of the Hawaii Department of Health's Office of Planning, Policy and Program Development.
"Sometimes we may be dealing with a cohort of people who believe lack of evidence is evidence of a conspiracy," Kim said Tuesday.
Time after time
A few of these requesters continue to pepper the Health Department with the same letters seeking the same information, even after they're told state law bars release of a certified birth certificate to anyone who does not have a tangible interest. Responding wastes time and money, Kim said.
Both Fukino and the state registrar of vital statistics have verified that the Health Department holds Obama's original birth certificate.
The issue coincides with Sunshine Week, when news organizations promote open government and freedom of information.
"Do we really want to be known internationally as the Legislature that blocked any inquiries into where President Obama was born?" asked Republican Rep. Cynthia Thielen. "When people want to get more information, the way to fuel that fire is to say, 'We're now going to draw down a veil of secrecy.'"
Nobody at the hearing questioned the fact that the president was born in Hawaii.
Attorney Peter Fritz asked why the state would pass a law punishing repetitive requests for open records. Instead, the state could simply say it would only answer each person's question once.
If the measure passed, the state Office of Information Practices could declare an individual a "vexatious requester" and restrict rights to government records for two years.
The committee will schedule a vote on the measure, said Chairman Jon Riki Karamatsu, a Democrat.