HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Senate has deferred action on a bill that opponents say unfairly targets the homeless, and could also be aimed at protesters on state land, including the summit of Mauna Kea.
Senate Bill 2816 would make it illegal to trespass on state land when it's closed or restricted. All it would take is a sign, specifying that trespassing is prohibited during certain hours.
"The original framework of the bill was to address homelessness," said Marti Townsend, executive director of the Hawaii Chapter of the Sierra Club. "I guess the administration felt they needed more authority to arrest people who were sleeping under highways and on other public lands."
"We are very concerned about this Senate Bill 2816, not only for the houseless people that we have here, but also for kia'i at are Mauna Kea," said Kaukaohu Wahilani of Waianae. He and a handful of Native Hawaiians and opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope went to the State Capitol to watch the vote.
Opponents of the TMT believe the state could post signs at the Mauna Kea summit, which could be used to arrest protesters if the project ever starts up again.
Even though it's not explicitly in the bill, lawmakers are concerned.
"I think people have the right to protest," said state Sen. Josh Green (D-Kona, Kau). "And that's part of the fiber of our democracy and our people, in Hawaii especially."
That may have led to the senate action to defer the bill until Tuesday. Lawmakers aren't saying exactly why the bill was deferred, but TMT opponents plan to be at the capitol in much greater numbers when it's taken up again.