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Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Dead in Conference Ctte: HB220 would expand Department of Health emergency powers
By Rep Gene Ward @ 10:26 PM :: 704 Views :: COVID-19


News Release from Office of Rep Gene Ward, R-Hawaii Kai, June 23, 2020

HONOLULU—Today HB 220, a controversial measure that would expand the Department of Health's emergency powers during a pandemic, was deferred in conference committee. Rep. Gene Ward (R-17) warned his colleagues in a five-page memo (attached) about the potential economic and public health impacts of passing the bill.

"First, this bill is a ‘gut and replace’ that has never had a public hearing. Therefore, the questions I am asking now would have been obviated (i.e. I would have had a chance to seriously question Drs. Anderson and Park and the DOH in whom this bill gives ALL the power, and huge sums of money, to re-open our economy); this is serious business than demands questioning," Rep. Ward stated in the memo.  

He continued, "The public is not pleased with these maneuvers by us in the Legislature with no public hearings on millions and millions of dollars, without a word from anybody except sitting legislators.  This is not good policy or procedure. We can do better than this."

Ward has been particularly critical of the Ige administration's approach to the pandemic and has strongly advocated for testing measures in order to allow for Hawaii's visitor industry to restart. This effort has been spearheaded by him and fellow Republican House member Rep. Bob McDermott (R-40), who serves as a member of the House Select Committee on COVID-19.

Their joint work culminated in a submission of "Making Hawaii Safe for Travel," a 23-page framework to reopen Hawaii's visitor industry that was submitted to the committee on May 18.

While much of the early debate on a COVID-19 testing requirement for transpacific travel centered on constitutional and legal concerns, Ward received word from the Trump administration on May 20 that FAA and federal DOT regulations did not prohibit implementing such a policy.

"Bottom line, what is at risk without testing is the possible killing of our economy and our elders. May this committee decide wisely by amending this bill with more specificity demanding that pre-arrival COVID-19 testing be required before departing for Hawaii, otherwise a 14-day quarantine is imposed.  The Alaska model is the Gold Standard we need to follow," Ward concluded.

HB 220 now waits a replacement bill from the State Senate later this week.


HB220: Text, Status

PDF: Ward Memo (5pgs)


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