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Bill That Would Limit Future Governors’ Emergency Powers Hits Ige’s Desk

May 31, 2022, 6:54 AM HST
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A bill that would limit a Hawai‘i governor’s emergency powers after 60 days has reached Gov. David Ige’s desk for signature.

The legislation was spurred on by Ige’s prolonged emergency proclamation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor issued his first emergency proclamation on March 4, 2020, for 60 days. He went on to extend the time period 14 times over a two-year period.

“During the heat of the COVID pandemic, there was a lot of frustration out there in the community,” state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, D-Wahiawa, told Hawai‘i News Now. “If people feel the administration has gone too far and maybe has too heavy of a hand on the situation, the Legislature can put a check on it.”

Civil rights attorney Jim Hochberg, who has filed a legal challenge to the governor’s emergency powers, told HNN the bill doesn’t go far enough.

Hochberg’s suit argued that Hawai‘i law only allows the governor’s emergency powers to remain in place for 60 days. He added that the Legislature could have stepped in to end the emergency period — but didn’t.

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“Well, it was pretty clear from the massive continuing protests that people didn’t agree. But because it was a governor using executive power, they had no voice,” Hochberg told HNN.

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However, a state judge disagreed with the lawsuit, upholding the governor’s extensions.

The Ige administration’s Adjutant Gen. Kenneth Hara testified against giving the Legislature the power to end the governor’s emergency powers, arguing it would reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of an ongoing emergency response.

Ige has until June 27 to inform the Legislature if he plans to veto the bill.

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