‘Gut and replace’ bill would give emergency powers to health director

The following news release was issued by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii on June 24, 2020.

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii implores state legislators to hold back the measure until there can be broader public input

HONOLULU, June 24, 2020 >> Hawaii legislators should hold off on making any rash decisions about a bill that would give the state director of health broad powers to declare a statewide public health emergency.

That’s the message of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii in testimony submitted today to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health, which will be meeting at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday, to consider HB2502, Proposed SD1.

According to Joe Kent, institute executive vice president, “The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has grave concerns about the content of the proposed bill, which would give the state director of health broad powers to declare a public health emergency; screen, test, isolate and monitor individuals; close schools and businesses; release confidential information; and take other, unspecified actions if the director deems it necessary for the public health.”

The powers contemplated in this bill are so sweeping and broad, Kent said, as to raise significant questions about privacy, civil liberties and constitutionality. Moreover, as a “gut and replace” bill, the proposed language “should not be contemplated without full opportunity for public testimony and comment — something that is not possible during this truncated legislative session.”

Kent strongly urged the committee members to defer this measure, on the grounds that “Hawaii’s citizens and policymakers need more time to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state response before enacting legislation that addresses the state’s police powers during a future crises.”

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