Hawaii HB 2502 – Control Handed to Department of Health

 In Politics

The Hawaii legislature has HB 2502 HD1 SD2 before it, but it appears that there may be some serious issues with the bill, and it has a large body of opposition. Many residents of the state are not happy with what it plans to do in relation to the actions against COVID-19. It is set for vote today, July 6.

The bill was originally introduced in January, but since has been “gutted and replaced” with new language and direction…a direction that is not making many Hawaiian citizens happy.

“When it comes to the future of our civil rights the people of Hawaii should be very very concerned.” Bud Stonebraker, Honolulu Mayoral Candidate

Its official purpose:

“Authorizes the Director of Health, upon consultation with and authorization from the Governor, to screen, test, and monitor travelers. Provides for penalties for noncompliance. Amends and adds definitions and procedural and administrative provisions in chapter 325, Hawaii Revised Statutes. Allocates funds appropriated to the Governor by Senate Bill No. 126, S.D. 1, H.D. 1, C.D. 1, to be used for health assurance and grants for hotels to conduct COVID-19 testing for employees. Establishes a travelers screening special fund. Allocates funds from the transient accommodations tax to the travelers screening special fund for a portion of fiscal year 2020-2021. Sunsets certain provisions on 6/30/2022.”

Hidden in the legal mumbo-jumbo is the decision to give the Department of Health the power to make decisions rather than the legislature. According to the Constitution, however, only the lawmakers have that power. Not any more.

“Constitutionally the role of the Department of Health is to advise the elected officials and they are supposed to be making these decisions but this bill would give the DOH the decision making power and that’s flat out wrong.” Mark White,  opponent of HB 2502 to KITV.

Of 1,077 public testimonies sent to the legislature, only 10 were in favor of the bill. In spite of such opposition, including some legislators, it has passed the committees so far by changing the language enough to push it through.

But what does HB 2502 actually do?

“For all travelers: Mandatory testing, tracking, quarantine, and leaves door open to “other actions deemed necessary” during declared public health emergency.  $5000 fine if you refuse.”

Part of the wording says,”confinement of individuals or groups believed to have been exposed to a communicable or dangerous disease, or who otherwise have or create a potential risk of transmitting a communicable or dangerous disease to others.” In other words the wording says that the Department of Health can remove a person who is only SUSPECTED of being a risk to others.

“According to the bill, an apparently healthy individual can be removed from their home and remanded to a quarantine facility, solely on suspicion, if they are “deemed by the department to be … at higher risk of infection, or at risk for spreading infection.” However, it is not defined how the department would determine if an individual or group of people would be at a “higher risk of spreading infection” and the Bill does not provide for any burden of proof by the State or Department of Health to demonstrate that a person is truly a threat before removing their personal freedoms.” Tori Daguio, opposition testimony

It mandates filing out health disclosure forms at arrival and departure points to Hawaii and the information is shared with the Health Department and private entities. From the bill:

“Collection, receipt, and use of the information may
include the sharing of the information between or among the department, other governmental agencies, and private entities under contract with the department.”

Whatever happened to protecting medical information with HIPAA?

“Makes DOH exempt from Chapter 91: This means they could mandate a C19vax for all school kids WITHOUT public input or going thru legislature, as long as emergency declared.”

Some citizens also objected to allocation of Health funds to other interests named in the bill, such as the Turtle Bay resort, a convention center enterprise, expansion of the VISA travel fund for tourists, etc.

One message received stated the following:

“Bill measure HB2502 is going to severely affect our healthcare and travel rights in Hawaii. I’ve never been politically active, but this one is huge. Now that HB2502 passed the Senate Ways & Means committee on Thursday, it will go to the Senate floor for their voting on Monday 7/6. It’s the last step before becoming law. With all the public oppositions it should have also gone to the House floor. But the House committees sneakily added amendments before it got to the Senate level. Thus it only needed to pass 2 Senate committees. Monday’s hearing will be the last step. If the Senate floor passes it on Monday and it goes to the Gov for signing into law, be on the lookout for a petition and lawsuit against them.” 

The bill literally takes away the ordinary legal process and hands it to the Department of Health. As we have clearly seen in the recent fights over rights on the mainland, Departments of Health are not always cognizant of “rights.”  The vote was set for this morning in Honolulu.

Hawaiian citizens are fighting for their rights, as we should be doing in the face of these draconian measures. HB 2502 is only a symptom of the egregious behavior of governments who wish to control every aspect of our lives by declaring a “health emergency.”

 

Featured photo: Turtle Bay, Hawaii photo by author

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