Extra push needed to enact emergency powers reform

With Gov. David Ige declaring his intent to veto SB3089, which would reform Hawaii’s emergency powers law, it is now up to the public and the many legislators who supported the bill to convince the governor otherwise.

Both the governor and our legislators need to hear from as many people as possible that states of emergency that lack checks and balances, and can seemingly go on forever, are just not acceptable.

This is your last opportunity for at least another year to help rein in the governor’s emergency powers. Write an email to your legislators today by going to the institute’s “Take Action” page here and sharing why you think the veto should not stand.

Now is not the time for the Legislature to shy away from standing up for itself. The whole point of SB3089 is to restore the state’s constitutional balance of powers, which means keeping our state legislators — and the public — in the loop during times of crisis.

As mentioned in a news release issued Tuesday by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, the bill was approved by the 2022 Legislature after much negotiating to ensure maximum flexibility for the governor during periods of crisis while yet restoring political checks and balances and input from the public.

Nevertheless, Ige said he intends to veto the 2022 measure because “a premature termination of a state of emergency may significantly impede counties’ emergency-management capabilities,” as well as threaten the state’s ability to obtain federal emergency funding.

Nice of him to bring that up now. But in any case, that bird doesn’t fly.

Keli‘i Akina, institute president and CEO, said SB3089 “does not require the Legislature to end this or any other emergency; it just empowers them to do so. What’s more, if the legislators do want to end the emergency, they can do it ‘in part,’ thereby reserving whatever is necessary to keep the federal funds.”

The overarching importance of the bill, Akina said, is that it would “restore the state’s constitutional balance of powers during an emergency by creating a meaningful check on the executive’s ability to declare endless emergencies and suspend laws that seem to have little bearing on health and welfare.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, SB3089 resembles measures passed in nearly 30 other states, such as New York and Connecticut, over the past two years. A similar bill was nearly approved by the 2021 state Legislature, but died at the last moment in conference committee.

Said Akina: “We hope the governor reconsiders his intent to veto SB3089 and instead allows it to become law. If he doesn’t, we hope the Legislature will rise to the occasion and override his veto.”

Make your views known to help SB3089 become law. If you need help, go to the institute’s “Take Action” page here.

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