Statewide mask mandate could mean immediate fines for violators

HONOLULU (KHON2) — As the state moves toward passing a statewide mask mandate, there’s also a push to change the law so that violators are issued a fine on the spot rather than having to appear in court.

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State Attorney General Clare Connors says that it would be easier to enforce the mask mandate if law enforcers can issue a fine to violators right away, similar to a parking violation. But that means the state legislature has to change the law, either through a special session or next year’s legislative session.

“We will propose something that the legislature, that the governor, the mayors can work through for better enforcement of things like mask wearing and other types of emergency measures,” said Connors.

She points out that the governor issued a statewide mask mandate in August, but the counties put in their own exemptions based on how they wanted to enforce it, which has led to the confusion. She says the mayors need to agree on one set of exemptions for the whole state for a new mask mandate and combine it with violators getting fined on the spot.

“The way that the fine system would handle the enforcement would make it clear, I think, in terms of what the scenarios are in each county that are acceptable,” said Connors.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says that the corporation counsel for the four counties has been working with the state attorney general on a proposal that would work statewide.

“We just had the discussion yesterday, we talked again today to see if we can get agreement between all the mayors. Of course, there’s different challenges and each island is different, so I can’t commit we’ll all agree to the same requirements but I’m hopeful,” said Mayor Caldwell.

He says he likes the idea of violators getting fined around $500. However, it will be up to state lawmakers to determine that. He would also prefer the legislature to go into a special session rather than waiting until next year.

“If that can happen quickly, that would take care of this problem. We’re also looking at trying to do it at the county level but it’s gonna take a while because, you know, the hearing process,” said Mayor Caldwell.

Senate President Ron Kouchi says that if the governor proposes a bill and asks the legislature to go into special session, then they will consider it. A spokeswoman for the governor says that no decision has been made on asking for a special session.

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