Attorney general: Cargo inspections targeting illegal fireworks could pass legal scrutiny

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A proposal to inspect shipping containers for illegal fireworks is gaining momentum. The state attorney general has just issued a legal opinion on the bill.

State Sen. Will Espero, who introduced the bill, told us that one of the biggest obstacles is whether it is legal for the state to do random inspections without a search warrant.

The attorney general says the bill may survive constitutional challenge, if some changes are made. So what are those changes, and what other obstacles lie ahead?

Espero says he’s encouraged by the state attorney general’s opinion, and that changes can be made to overcome any legal hurdles.

“The rule-making and the process needs to be precise and very detailed and very specific, and if we do all that, then we should be okay,” he said.

There are concerns from the shipping companies as well as some state departments affected by this proposal. Espero says he has addressed those concerns and ultimately, this is about making it safer for everyone.

The attorney general suggested some changes to the bill, which include making sure the rules don’t contradict current labor contracts, defining work sites to alert the business owners, and focusing on fireworks as the target.

“So it would have to be specifically for fireworks — is that what needs to be done?” KHON2 asked Espero.

“In this case, yes, because we’re looking at using explosive-sniffing dogs,” Espero replied. “Now obviously, if something else they stumble upon during the inspection, they can take a look at that.”

Shipping companies and the state Department of Transportation are worried that these inspections can cause massive delays, but Espero says they don’t have to be done at the docks. They can be done at the warehouses where the shipping containers are delivered.

“It shouldn’t affect the shipping companies or their clients in a negative way,” Espero said. “I don’t see how anyone can be against making our harbors and our state a safer place for all of us.”

KHON2 called the different parties, and they are still apprehensive.

Matson said, “What our customers would not like to see is anything that would impede the flow of their cargo.”

The Pasha Group stands by its previous statement that the proposal should be looked at carefully in terms of a how a new law will affect the delivery system.

The state Department of Public Safety, which would be put in charge of the inspections using sheriffs and explosive-sniffing dogs, says it will reserve comment until the official testimony is complete and submitted to the Legislature.

The bill also raises the penalty for possessing illegal fireworks from $2,000 to $5,000. We’ll keep you updated on how it progresses throughout the Legislative session.

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