HB1339 isn’t grabbing any headlines. It’s merely one of thousands of bills being considered on Oahu. Yet it’s still alive, and if it passes it’ll represent the culmination of a long, at times frustrating struggle.
We first told you about Maui Dance Advocates (MDA) in 2007, when the group petitioned the Liquor Commission to change section 08-101-23 of its rules, which prohibit dancing in alcohol-selling establishments except on specially marked dance floors. At the time, MDA was told by Commissioner Blackie Gadarian, “If you feel you’re being persecuted, find another island.”
Instead, MDA took the matter to court but was rebuffed there, too, as Judge Joseph Cardoza ruled dancing is not a constitutionally protected right. In 2009 South Maui Rep. Joe Bertram introduced a bill on the group’s behalf that would have forced county liquor commissions to define “dancing.” That bill died in committee, but an almost-identical one—HB1339—was introduced this session by Upcountry Rep. Kyle Yamashita—and last week it passed the House unanimously.
The only vocal opposition to the bill is coming, not surprisingly, from the Maui County Department of Liquor Control. In testimony provided to the House Judiciary Committee, department head Frank Silva said the LC “is not overzealous” in its enforcement of dancing restrictions. In fact, Silva claimed, “in at least the last 28 years the department has not filed a complaint against a licensee regarding this rule.” That this fact might actually bolster the bill’s case apparently didn’t occur to him.
HB1339 is scheduled for a public hearing this week, meaning the Senate could vote on it soon. If it passes, it’ll be interesting to see whether the LC digs in its heels or finally relinquishes. It won’t make headlines either way, but you can read all about it right here.