With the executive branch of the federal government now firmly in the hands of a greasy, deranged former game show host bloated with both astonishing narcissism and embarrassing ignorance, and Congress run by craven right-wingers who will let President Baby Donald Trump do what he wants as long as it means they can slash the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, the Department of Education and who knows what else, it’s almost comforting to look at the Hawaii Legislature.
Here’s a brief digest of 10 important bills currently moving through the state Legislature that may impact your life in a profound way. If you want more information, go to Capitol.Hawaii.gov. If you’d like to voice your opinion to your local representative or senator, refer to our sidebar for their contact information (and yes, legislators definitely pay attention to constituent calls). It’s more important than ever that we get involved in the making of laws at all levels of government.
WHAT THEY DO: Regulates the use of body-worn video cameras by law enforcement officers and body-worn video camera footage, but allows a great deal of latitude to each county police department.
WHO SUPPORTS THEM: Hawaii County Police, Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest, Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii chapter. “The Hawaii Police Department supports a body-worn camera program and believes that like any other law enforcement tool, the four county police departments as nationally accredited law enforcement agencies are vested with the responsibilities to create policies and procedures which are in line with national standards,” said Hawaii Police Chief Paul Ferreira in Feb. 1 written testimony.
WHO OPPOSES THEM: ACLU of Hawaii. “While we support the use of police body-worn and vehicle cameras and generally support the footage disclosure provisions of this measure, we recommend that the Legislature set clear guidelines to protect individual privacy and ensure consistency in law enforcement practices,” said ACLU of Hawaii Advocacy Coordinator Mandy Finlay in Feb. 2 written testimony. “Police body-worn cameras are only as good as the policies governing them. As written, S.B. 331 fails to establish any guidance for the actual use of body cameras, leaving substantive policy decisions to departmental discretion. This discretion creates loopholes for abuse.”
STATUS: HB149 was re-referred to the House JUD and FIN Committees on Feb. 3. The Senate PSM Committee deferred SB331 for the rest of the session on Feb. 2.
WHAT THEY DO: Removes any discriminatory requirements for mandatory insurance coverage of in vitro fertilization procedures, which should create parity of coverage for same-sex couples, unmarried women and male-female couples.
WHO SUPPORTS THEM: Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, Planned Parenthood, Democratic Party of Hawaii, Democratic Party’s LGBT Caucus, Hawaii Women’s Coalition, ACLU Hawaii, National Infertility Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), among other organizations. “H.B. 664 is a reproductive justice measure in that it seeks to address the lack of access and/or unequal access to infertility treatment,” stated ACOG’s Feb. 2 written testimony. “In this case, insurance coverage discriminates against and essentially restricts a person’s reproduction based on their sex, sexual orientation and/or marital status. This kind of discrimination simply has no place in Hawaii law.”
WHO OPPOSES THEM: Kaiser Permanente Hawaii most prominently. “By passing this bill, health insurers will be responsible and potentially liable for all the risks and consequences relating to medical treatment provided to the third party egg donor and/or surrogate, which is especially problematic when the third party donors or surrogates are not insured by the health plan,” Kaiser lobbyist John Kirimitsu said in a Feb. 2 letter of testimony to the House Health Committee.
STATUS: The House Health Committee voted to defer HB664 on Feb. 9. Senate JDL Committee passed SB502 with amendments on Feb. 3.
WHAT THEY DO: Requires health insurance coverage for case management services by licensed mental health providers for victims of sexual violence.
WHO SUPPORTS THEM: Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, Planned Parenthood, Hawaii Psychological Association, Early Childhood Action Strategy and the Hawaii Women’s Coalition. “Trauma from sexual violence often produces profound, long-term mental health symptoms that interfere with the survivor’s interpersonal, vocational, and personal functioning,” Hawaii Psychological Association Executive Director Ray Folen said in his Feb. 9 written testimony. “Interference with vocational functioning and the need for medical and psychological care also entail a material cost to the state of Hawai’i’s health care system and economy. These costs can be reduced by coordinating assessment and treatment in the most efficacious and cost-effective manner, which requires case management. Case management is especially important for survivors of sexual trauma because functional impairments specifically due to trauma make it difficult if not impossible for them to advocate for their needs, research the services available to them, and arrange for their own treatment.
WHO OPPOSES THEM: HMSA, though it says it supports these bills’ intent. “We believe, however, that this bill may be unnecessary as there is no distinction made when a member has a mental health issue in regards to the suspected cause or reason for the condition being treated,” said HMSA lobbyist Mark Oto in his Feb. 9 written testimony. “We do however appreciate the intent of the Bill and the previous Committee’s work to address some of our initial concerns with regard to clarifying the scope and defining the providers that this would apply to.”
STATUS: The House CPC Committee passed HB665 with amendments on Feb. 13. SB503 referred to Senate WAM Committee on Feb. 13.
WHAT THEY DO: Requires the Attorney General to report statistical data pertaining to the testing of sexual assault evidence collection kits to the Legislature.
WHO SUPPORTS THEM: Kauai Office of Prosecuting Attorney, Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, American Association of University Women in Hawaii, County Alliance on Prisons, Hawaii Women’s Coalition, Planned Parenthood. “The testing and preservation of evidence is crucial in ensuring that we are protecting the innocent and pursuing the guilty,” states the CAP written testimony, submitted on Feb. 2. “We were shocked a few sessions ago when we learned that only certain people decide which kits to test. This “discretion” could lead to arbitrary and capricious decisions by these people and that is not justice.”
WHO OPPOSES THEM: There aren’t any individuals or organizations who have testified against either bill. However, the Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney and state Attorney General have all testified to having concerns about the bill, and suggested numerous amendments and changes to the bills’ timing, applicability of rights and so forth.
STATUS: SB506 SD1 passed second reading and referred to Senate JDL/WAM Committees on Feb. 13. House JUD Committee passed HB668 with amendments on Feb. 7.
WHAT THEY DO: Authorizes pharmacists to prescribe and administer the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to persons 11-18. They also specify requirements pharmacists must meet prior to administering the vaccine.
WHO SUPPORTS THEM: The state Department of Health, University of Hawaii Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, Planned Parenthood, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Walgreens, CVS Health, Hawaii Immunization Coalition, HMSA, Hawaii Public Health Institute and Jerris Hedges, MD, the Dean of University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine. “Pharmacists are vaccination certified via the ACPE approved program sponsored by the American Pharmacists Association (APHA),” said Hedges in written testimony submitted on Feb. 7. “Immunization administration is considered a basic skill of registered pharmacists. In addition, pharmacists continue to be the most accessible health professional to the public via their availability in community pharmacies and are also educators and immunization advocators. In the last 20 years, pharmacists have made the largest impact on vaccination uptake and are improving our overall access to healthcare providers in Hawaii.”
WHO OPPOSES THEM: A variety of individuals. “The decision to vaccinate or NOT to vaccinate against HPV is a private medical matter requiring adequate informed consent, accurate education on HPV and the vaccine side effects, benefit & risk information, counseling and follow-up,” said Cheryl Toyofuku in written testimony submitted on Feb. 7. “The busy retail setting of many pharmacies will not provide the care and attention during and after vaccine administration compared to a medical office or clinic and without appropriate personnel and equipment to monitor any subsequent vaccine emergency. Busy chains, like CVS can fill several hundreds of prescriptions daily, with potential vaccine administration errors endangering the health of a child, simply for the sake of convenience. This is not quality health care to any of our keiki.”
STATUS: HB676 passed second reading on Feb. 14, referred to House CPC Committee. SB514 has been stalled in the Senate CPH Committee since Jan. 23.
WHAT THEY DO: Requires any state or county agency to provide domestic abuse intervention training to any personnel whose job duties may require them intervening in a domestic abuse situation.
WHO SUPPORTS THEM: Kauai Prosecuting Attorney, Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney, Honolulu Police Department, Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Parents and Children Together, Hawaii Women’s Coalition, Domestic Violence Action Center, Hawaii Women’s Coalition, Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women. “During the 2015-2016 Fiscal year, the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, County of Kauai processed 354 domestic violence cases. Having proper training will enable, equip and enhance Hawaii’s first responders with the necessary tools and skills crucial to effectively deal with complex situations of domestic violence,” stated the Kauai Prosecuting Attorney’s office Feb. 3 written testimony. “Proper training would assist first responders in providing that crucial first step in the families of domestic violence to breaking the cycle of abuse.”
WHO OPPOSES THEM: Though a coalition of law enforcement agencies supports the measures, the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s office doesn’t. “[T]his bill would mandate a minimum of fifteen (15) hours of training regarding domestic abuse intervention without the proper allocation of funds to facilitate such training, thereby making it nearly impossible to implement,” states the Prosecuting Attorney’s Feb. 3 written testimony. “Although H.B. 679 has good intentions, requiring mandatory training creates a financial burden for large agencies to comply, without proper funding. In addition, the lack of specificity regarding when a job duty ‘requires or may require’ intervention may lead to a wide range of interpretations by various agencies, which could lead to unintended non-compliance.”
STATUS: HB679 HD1 passed second reading in House JUD Committee on Feb. 7. SB517 passed second reading on Feb. 13, referred to Senate JDL/WAM Committees.
WHAT THEY DO: Specifies that citizen complaints against a police officer that involve allegations of domestic abuse by the police officer against a family or household member shall not be required to be in writing or sworn to by the complainant.
WHO SUPPORTS THEM: Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Hawaii Women’s Coalition, Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, Domestic Violence Action Center.
WHO OPPOSES THEM: State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO). “This bill is contrary to the current SHOPO collective bargaining agreement with the four counties which requires all external complaints to be in writing and sworn to by the complainants,” states SHOPO President Tenari Ma‘afala’s Feb. 3 written testimony. “Further, we ask that you consider the testimony filed by the Department of the Attorney General on this bill on February 12, 2015, that a similar bill, HB 456, violates the Hawaii Constitution, article VIII, section 2. The Hawaii Constitution authorizes the counties to adopt charters, and the county charters have authorized the police commissions to adopt rules. The rules require complaints to be in writing and sworn to. Thus, not only would this bill be unconstitutional, it may hinder prosecution of a domestic violence case for lack of a writing [sic].”
STATUS: HB681 HD1 passed second reading in House JUD Committee on Feb. 7. SB519 passed second reading, referred to Senate JDL Committee on Feb. 13.
WHAT THEY DO: Amends the composition of the county police commissions to require that three commissioners on each police commission have backgrounds including equality for women, civil rights and law enforcement.
WHO SUPPORTS THEM: Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, American Association of University Women–Hawaii, Domestic Violence Action Center, Planned Parenthood. “I have taught at the University of Hawaii–Manoa for seven years, and have heard many horror stories from students about misunderstanding and lack of assistance from law enforcement,” said Susan J. Wurtzburg, Ph.D., of AAUW in her Feb. 1 written testimony. “This is inexcusable, and this situation will only change with appropriate monitoring by the Police Commission, along with education of both Commission members, and police, combined with police instruction from higher levels to deal appropriately with survivors of domestic violence.”
WHO OPPOSES THEM: Honolulu Mayor, Mary Kay Hertog (Chair of the Kauai Police Commission). “While commissioners with these backgrounds provide benefits to the Honolulu Police Commission, the City believes that this measure is not necessary,” states the Honolulu Mayor’s Feb. 2 written testimony. “When appointing members to the Honolulu Police Commission, the Mayor considers these factors, as well as many other factors. The Honolulu Police Commission currently has seven members. Adding an additional three members will make the Commission unwieldy and may impact the Commission’s ability for form a quorum.”
STATUS: HB682 has been stalled in the House JUD Committee since Jan. 25. SB520 passed the Senate PSM Committee on Feb. 2.
WHAT THEY DO: Establishes a six-week paid maternity and paternity leave policy for government employees to ensure that Hawaii’s working families are adequately supported when they need to care for a newborn or bond with a new child.
WHO SUPPORTS THEM: There is no testimony in support of the bills.
WHO OPPOSES THEM: There is no testimony in opposition to the bills.
STATUS: Both bills have been stalled in committee (LAB and FIN for HB683, JDL/CPH and WAM for SB521, respectively) since Jan. 23. Given that paid leave bills always seem to die in committee in Hawaii, this is hardly surprising.
WHAT THEY DO: Establishes a whole bunch of requirements for body-worn cameras and vehicle cameras for county police departments. Establishes policy guidelines for the use and discontinuance of use of body-worn cameras by police officers. Establishes certain restrictions on the use of body-worn cameras by on-duty police officers. Adds retention and deletion requirements for body-worn camera footage. Prohibits certain uses of body-worn camera video footage. Establishes violations of recording and retention requirements. Appropriates funds as a grant-in-aid to each county for the purchase of body-worn video cameras and law enforcement vehicle cameras; provided that no funds appropriated to a county shall be expended unless matched dollar-for-dollar by the county. Requires the county police departments to report costs of implementing and maintaining the body-worn camera and vehicle camera program to the legislature.
WHO SUPPORTS THEM: ACLU of Hawaii, Libertarian Party of Hawaii, Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii chapter. “Body-worn police officer cameras may reduce use-of-force and citizen complaints, and may deter bad behavior of both law enforcement officers and members of the public,” said ACLU of Hawaii Advocacy Coordinator Mandy Finlay in her Feb. 2 written testimony. “A study conducted from 2012 to 2013 found an overall 60% reduction in use-of-force incidents after the body cameras were deployed (thus improving safety both for the individual officers and for the general public), and an 88% reduction in citizen complaints between the year prior to and following deployment.”
WHO OPPOSES THEM: State Department of Public Safety, Hawaii County Police Department and Maui Police Department for reasons you can probably predict. “We cannot, however, support a bill that will limit the control of policy changes, use, and release of footage to the general public for viewing,” said MPD Chief Tivoli Faaumu in his Feb. 2 written testimony. “The use of Body Worn Cameras should be governed by Police policy rather than an enacted law.” But the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest also opposes the bill, saying that the bills’ provisions on public accessibility are a problem. “Body camera video would be far less accessible under S.B. 421 than under existing law,” said Executive Director Brian Black in his Feb. 2 written testimony. “As currently drafted, the only video that could possibly be disclosed by a law enforcement agency is video that involves use of force or felony conduct. All other video–regardless of the circumstances–would be confidential.”
STATUS: SB421 passed Senate PSM Committee with amendments on Feb. 10. HB1350 has been in the House JUD and FIN Committees since Jan. 30.
Interested in any of these bills? Then contact your legislators!
Sen. Roz Baker (South, West Maui)
Rep. Lynn DeCoite (Haiku, East Maui, Lanai, Molokai)
Sen. J. Kalani English (Upcountry, East Maui, Lanai, Molokai)
Rep. Kaniela Ing (South Kihei, Wailea, Makena)
Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran (Kahului, Waihee, Wailuku)
Rep. Angus McKelvey (West Maui, Ma‘alaea, North Kihei)
Rep. Joe Souki (Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Wailuku, Waikapu)
Rep. Justin Woodson (Kahului, Pu‘unene, Maui Lani)
Rep. Kyle Yamashita (Spreckelsville, Upcountry, Kahului)