Bill to limit governor’s emergency orders moves ahead as many want a return to normalcy

Updated: Apr. 14, 2021 at 6:52 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With the sweeping statewide COVID-19 emergency orders in effect for more than a year, some say it’s time to ask how long the threat will be an emergency.

Since March 2020, Gov. David Ige has issued 19 emergency proclamations -- and some lawmakers worry that there’s no end in sight for these orders.

“(Constituents) have concerns about the governor being able to roll over order after order -- really with no public input,” said state Rep. Scott Nishimoto.

Nishimoto is the author of a bill, which is headed to a House-Senate conference committee.

The measure would give lawmakers the authority to review the governor’s emergency orders after 60 days. It would also require the governor to justify any laws that are suspended by emergency orders.

“I think what the public really wants is some level of predictability -- whether it’s a metric -- or some kind of way the public can predict what are the next steps,” Nishimoto said.

Former Governor John Waihee said unlike disasters like hurricanes where the damage occurs over a relatively short period of time, the current emergency period is so prolonged because the threat to public health is ongoing.

In most disasters, political leaders want to see a return to normalcy before they start lifting emergency orders, he said.

“And that point is when people can go back to work, people are able to travel and people are able to go to school,” Waihee said.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said another key milestone is the number of people vaccinated.

“I think if we’re at 900,000 to 1 million people vaccinated out of let’s say 1.4 million in population. I think we’re going to be in really good shape,” he said.

Because of Hawaii’s high vaccination rate, Blangiardi believes there’s very little risk that the state’s healthcare system will be overwhelmed by new COVID cases.

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