Ige limits independent power of county mayors in latest proclamation

Published: Apr. 26, 2020 at 1:35 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Part of Gov. Ige’s sixth supplementary proclamation changes the ability of the counties to independently form emergency response policies going forward.

Under the “Statewide Coordination” section of his proclamation issued Saturday, it says:

“I hereby invoke section 127A-13(a)(5), Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS), as it is my opinion that it is necessary to coordinate emergency management functions. Accordingly, I direct all counties to obtain my approval, or the approval of the Director of Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HIEMA), prior to issuing any emergency order, rule, or proclamation. I further suspend sections 127A-14(b) and 127A-25, HRS, to the limited extent necessary to ensure statewide coordination.”

This ultimately limits the power of the four county majors in making independent decisions for their counties going forward in response to the pandemic.

“The new supplemental proclamation does require that they provide us copies of different rules or different activities that they would want to put in place, and it does require my approval,” Gov. Ige said in a news conference Saturday.

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency chief Kenneth Hara also has the authority to approve mayors’ pending policies.

“I also recognize that the counties need the flexibility to implement measures that take into consideration the unique needs of their respective communities," Ige added.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami understands Gov. Ige’s push to limit confusion among county and state policies.

“The people of Kauai should not be worried about this. I want to reassure them that they are safe with us, and we’re going to make sure that they are safe,” Mayor Kawakami said.

He added the state has promised a quick 24-hour turnaround on issues when they arise.

“We feel confident that this can work out,” Kawakami added. “Kauai’s in a good position.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell sent an email to the governor expressing some concerns.

Caldwell worries the added step to obtain state approval will “hamstring each county’s ability to react swiftly and nimbly to changing conditions." He also said it undermines the mayors’ ability to lead.

“The state may simply reject and never approve the county proposal, no matter how important the county has deemed it to be,” Caldwell’s letter added.

Meanwhile, other lawmakers, like Hawaii Senate President Ron Kouchi who represents Kauai and Niihau, expressed faith in local leaders, particularly Mayor Kawakami, saying he has responded appropriately in issuing policies for the Garden Isle to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I’ve been incredibly proud of the way Mayor Kawakami has handled the global pandemic for the County of Kauai. He has been fantastic, he has been clear — I hope this does not impede his ability to make sure he can do the best for the people of Kauai and Niihau," Kouchi said.

Ige’s order mandating his approval does not apply to previously announced policies and practices already set in place, such as Kauai’s island-wide nightly curfew.

When asked if this change was initiated because of a recent miscommunication between the state and Honolulu Mayor Caldwell over a testing initiative, Ige simply said, “No it wasn’t.”

To read the full text of his sixth proclamation, click here.

This story will be updated.

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