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Amends ‘outdated’ law to curb air emergency powers

Amends ‘outdated’ law to curb air emergency powers

HONOLULU (KHON2) – An old 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.

However, a new bill in 2023 could change that.

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Hawaii law allows governors or county mayors to halt certain services during a state of emergency.

under Hawaii Revised Statutes 127A-13they can do:

“(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 transmissions;”

The Hawaii Association of Broadcasters reports that the language was devised in 1951 – just after World War II.

Chris Leonard, president of the Hawaii Association of Broadcasters, said, “With concerns about blackouts, turning off the lights and shutting down RAF emitting transmitters so that our enemies can’t triangulate to attack us.”

“But obviously, what with the technology, our enemies are well aware of where we are and it serves no practical purpose with today’s technology.”

Chris Leonard, President of the Hawaii Association of Broadcasters

State Sen. Lorraine Inouye shares Leonard’s concern and recently offered Senate Bill 103,

“We are removing language in the current statute to allow electronic media broadcasts of any type of emergency in the state of Hawaii,” Sen. Inoue said.

“If you look back to 1951, the 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 the internet you use. From any social media platform you go.”

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Sen. Inouye agreed and said that the state of emergency should not lead to transparency. She also pointed out that Hawaii is not like any other state in the US.

“Where you can, you reach out to another state to relocate in case of emergency,” Sen. Inoue said. “we can not do!”

Leonard and Sen. Inouye said that during emergencies sometimes services such as gas and electricity need to be turned off.

“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 is more important that we communicate with the public more, not less.”

Sen. Inoue said, “It’s an old law, it’s a legacy language and it’s way ahead of its time.”

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In a statement, the Administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said:

“The emergency powers granted to governors and mayors are intended to be broad and flexible so that they can be applied to any type of danger that may threaten the community, even if the law is not contemplated to be in force.

“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

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