Questions raised on how much longer Hawaii Gov. Ige can invoke emergency powers


HONOLULU (KHON2) — More questions are being raised about Hawaii’s current restrictions as the pandemic wears on.

Then there are the governor’s emergency powers. Just how long does he hold on to them?

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Every Hawaii governor has had to invoke their emergency powers during their tenure and it is usually from a natural disaster. The strategy is the same for all of them.

“The governor has to make decisions get the best advice and counsel that he or she can get at any given moment and make decisions probably almost on a daily basis,” said former Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

It has been going on for over a year with COVID-19 and it is affecting nearly every aspect of everyone’s lives. It is a unique situation that has put Gov. David Ige in a position to make decisions practically unchecked.

Abercrombie says Ige’s decisions with keeping the mask mandate and other restrictions may not be popular with everyone. As the current head of the state, however, Ige has every right to make them.

“You have to make the decision. Other people can talk about what they think the decision should be, but they don’t have the responsibility, they don’t have to take that kind of responsibility. You do if you’re the governor,” said Abercrombie.

State lawmakers tried to limit the governor’s powers during the session but could not agree. They could also do it with a special session, but they say coming to an agreement is just too difficult.

“A pandemic is a very different type of emergency animal than we’ve ever seen before. And so really, the changing conditions make it difficult to have consensus,” said Rep. Della Au Belatti, the majority leader.

Another way to challenge the restrictions is by filing a lawsuit, and some have tried. Most of the challenges have been unsuccessful around the country, however.

“I don’t know exactly what the scorecard is, but I’d say more than 90 percent of the challenges have failed with some prominent exceptions,” said attorney Jeff Portnoy.

As more residents get vaccinated and closer to herd immunity, many say Ige will have fewer reasons to keep his emergency powers. It will ultimately be his decision when to give them up.

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