The Hawaii state Legislature is back into session, and for the next few months, will be working furiously to pass (or kill) all sorts of new bills, a few of which may actually make life better for us. A comprehensive look at all this proposed legislation is out of the question, but I was able to discover a few new (and old) bills of note. Oh, and if some of these seem silly, or covered a matter you thought was decided a century ago, it’s just because law-making–especially when dealing with a part-time Legislature that’s long been dominated by a single political party–is somewhat imperfect. Enjoy!
• SB 868: RELATING TO LIQUOR COMMISSIONS. Also known as the “dancing bill,” this piece of legislation would finally codify some kind of definition of dancing, so all the county’s over-worked liquor control enforcement officers can have an easier time deciding who’s dancing and who’s not during their nightclub and bar inspections. Because as things stand now, there’s nothing in the rules or statutes to define dancing, though that hasn’t stopped LC inspectors from busting establishments for allowing “illegal” dancing. Don’t hold out much hope, though: this bill has been around before, and went nowhere. Introduced by 14 senators, including Maui’s own J. Kalani English and Gil Keith-Agaran.
• SB 715: RELATING TO RENEWABLE STANDARDS. According to the Blue Planet Foundation, which sent out a news release on Feb. 2 about them, these bills require that 100 percent–yes, all–of the state’s electricity comes from renewable resources by the year 2040. “Hawaii’s legislature has long declared it ‘critical’ to reduce the state’s fossil fuel dependence, eliminate our vulnerability to the price volatility of imported fuels, and attain energy security,” states the Blue Planet Foundation. “These critical goals require long-term planning inspired by a vision of Hawaii energy independence.”
• SB 903: RELATING TO EMPLOYEE LEAVE. This one seems simple enough: It “Requires government employers to provide employees paid leave to attend parent-teacher, parent-caregiver, or early intervention services conferences,” according to the bill summary. It also “Adds early intervention services conferences to the list of conferences for which government employees shall be eligible to receive paid leave to attend.” Cool, huh? Except that local activist Shay Chan Hodges, who writes a great deal about, told U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez during a Jan. 22 Google Hangout on working families this is the third time that the supposedly “progressive” Hawaii Legislature has considered paid leave.
• SB 1025: RELATING TO MANDATORY SICK LEAVE. This is another of those bills you probably thought Hawaii would have passed a long time ago, but didn’t. According to the bill text, it “Requires employers to provide a minimum amount of paid sick leave to employees to care for themselves or a family member who is ill, needs medical care, or is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.” You know, if you’re going to have the Democratic Party run things for more than half a century, you’d at least think they could get around at some point to mandating this. Right? Right?
• SB 690: RELATING TO FORFEITURE. Ahh, asset forfeiture, that long-loved but utterly unjust “tool” of law enforcement. In theory, it’s when government seizes someone’s property, usually in regards to some sort of criminal investigation. But in practice, it’s usually a civil rights disaster. “Every year, federal and state law enforcement agents seize millions of dollars from civilians during traffic stops, simply by asserting that they believe the money is connected to some illegal activity and without ever pursuing criminal charges,” states the ACLU’s website. “Under federal law and the laws of most states, they are entitled to keep most (and sometimes all) of the money and property they seize.” Outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder finally, long belatedly, denounced the practice, but this bill calls on the state AG’s office “to establish a working group to review and discuss Hawaii’s forfeiture laws and make recommendations to improve these laws.”
Photo of Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire dancing: Wikimedia Commons