HONOLULU (KHON2) — An outdated law with legacy language was how some lawmakers described a section of powers for Hawaii’s governors and mayors to suspend electronic transmissions during an emergency.
A new bill could change that in 2023, however.
Hawaii law allows the governor or County mayors to pause certain services during an emergency.
Under Hawaii Revised Statutes 127A-13, they may:
“(6) Shut off water mains, gas mains, electric power connections, or suspend other services, and, to the extent permitted by or under federal law, suspend electronic media transmission;”
The Hawaii Association of Broadcasters pointed out the language was crafted in 1951 — just after World War II.
“With concerns about blackouts, turning off the lights and turning off RAF emitting transmitters so our enemies couldn’t triangulate an on attacking run to us,” said Hawaii Association of Broadcasters president Chris Leonard.
State Sen. Lorraine Inouye shared Leonard’s concern and recently introduced Senate Bill 103.
“What we’re doing is removing the language that’s in current statute, to allow electronic media transmission in any type of emergency in the state of Hawaii,” Sen. Inouye said.
“If you look at 1951, electronic media was basically radio and television. Electronic media means something different in 2023,” Leonard said. “That’s radio, that’s television, that’s potentially your cell service, your internet connection from your cable company or your phone company, or any of the social media platforms that you use.”
Sen. Inouye agreed and said transparency should not be trumped by an emergency. She also pointed out that Hawaii is like no other state in the U.S.
“Where you can, you can have access to another state to relocate in case of emergencies,” Sen. Inouye said. “We can’t!”
Leonard and Sen. Inouye said services like gas and electricity sometimes do need to be cut off during emergencies.
“But I’m not sure what the practical application would be for suspending all electronic media under a state of emergency,” Leonard said. “In fact, during a state of emergency, I think it’s more important that we have more communication with the public, not less.”
“It’s an outdated law, it’s a legacy language and it’s just past its time,” Sen. Inouye said.
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The administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said the following in a statement:
“The emergency powers granted to the Governor and mayors are intended to be broad and flexible so they can be applied to any type of hazard that may threaten the community, even if it wasn’t contemplated when the law was enacted.
“While there is a risk that changes to the emergency powers law could restrict that flexibility, HI-EMA recognizes the concerns raised by the broadcasters association, and will review the proposal.”Luke Meyers, HI-EMA administrator