OPINION: Hidden Gems – Hawaii’s Little-Known New Laws

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With most of the media world transfixed over the birth of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s child, we here at Big Island Now are insisting on “keeping it local” with our news coverage.

Although not as cute and cuddly as a future monarch, this year’s legislative session did manage to give birth to some unique new laws that haven’t gotten much coverage, and unlike the 8 pound, 6 ounce future inhabitant of Buckingham Palace, we already know their names.

Hopefully, they’ll all grow up to be strong and sensible. But for now let’s take a moment to unwrap these little-known bundles of jargon, before their newly printed smell fades.

House Bill 17 – “Timmy, Put the Sand Down”

Before you leave, make sure that bucket's empty. New legislation this year prohibits removing sand from beaches.

Before you leave, make sure that bucket’s empty. New legislation this year prohibits removing sand from beaches.

Once upon a time (a few weeks ago), Hawaii beach-goers were allowed the privilege of removing up to one gallon per day of sand, shells or other marine-related material from our shores for the purposes of… who knows.

This meant that a single human being could legally score around 33,000 gallons of sand over the length his or her lifetime, which is roughly enough to fill a 40 foot by 20 foot swimming pool.


In case you hadn’t noticed, Hawaii beaches aren’t exactly crawling with sand-enforcement officers keeping track of shoreline pilfering. Hence, HB17 reduces the amount of stuff allowed to leave our shores to zero.

But don’t worry, the law makes exceptions for cultural practices (which aren’t defined), as well as loose sand hitching a ride out in shoes, clothing, and places we’d rather not mention.

Senate Bill 1197: Tax Cops are Here to Stay

Despite its staff getting harassed and cajoled at island farmers markets, the controversial new “Special Enforcement Section” of the Department of Taxation is officially here to stay.

Tasked with squeezing the proper tax dollars out of cash-based businesses, the “SES” will apparently continue to roam the islands in search of operators who would dare not to furnish a receipt for $1 papayas (and other cash transactions).


Assuming they get enough funding to venture out of their offices on weekends, that is.

But don’t worry, even if they’re not around, you can always tattle anonymously on neighborhood entrepreneurs via the agency’s 24-hour telephone hotline.

Senate Bill 88: No Drinking in the Fire Escape

SB 88 prohibits possessing open liquor containers in the common areas of state and federal public housing projects. The bill’s authors were sure to be very specific over what places qualify as “common areas,” which makes us wonder how many drunks have fallen out of fire escapes recently.

Senate Bill 328 allows landlords to charge tenants pet deposits. Image courtesy Liu Yan Photography.

Senate Bill 328 allows landlords to charge pet deposits. Image courtesy Liu Yan Photography.

Senate Bill 328: The Kitties Will Cost Ya


If you’re a renter in Hawaii, you were previously hard pressed to find landlords willing to house anything other than credit-worthy humans.

SB 328 may change that, as it amends the residential landlord-tenant code to allow landlords to charge security deposits that include additional amounts to guard against pet-related damages.

The new law goes into effect for rental agreements made after Nov. 1, 2013.

SB 454 – Wash Your Hair, Water Your Lawn

At least we’re taking “sustainability” seriously.

SB 454 allows homeowners to utilize “gray water” for the purposes of irrigation and grounds maintenance.

What is gray water, you ask? Why, any untreated wastewater from bathtubs, showers, and bathroom sinks. Also allowed is the stuff leftover from clothes washers and laundry tubs.

This sounds just fine, so long as “brown water” stays out of the equation.

Senate Bill 2: Watch Where You Point that Banana!

"Simulated firearms" have a broad definition under Senate Bill 2.

“Simulated firearms” have a broad definition under Senate Bill 2.

Terroristic threatening is no joke, but the state’s earnest attempts to add the use of “simulated firearms” into the definition of a first degree robbery proved amusing nonetheless.

Per SB 2, a “simulated firearm” includes anything that:

(i) Substantially resembles a firearm
(ii) Can reasonably be perceived to be a firearm; or
(iii) Is used or brandished as a firearm

“Brandished as a firearm” is pretty broad, and seeing as the authors opted out of exemptions for fruits, vegetables, and human fingers, SB 2 leaves some generous wiggle room for what constitutes a threatening object.

Until Next Time…

That’s it for this session folks, but stay tuned to Big Island Now for updates on how some of the 280+ laws born this session fare as they leave the safety of the Capitol, and get put to the test in the real world.

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