Bill to Lift Smoking Ban in Oahu Bars Moves Forward; Crime on Kahoolawe Spurs Legislation; Librarians Battle

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Bill to Lift Oahu Smoking Ban in Bars Moves Forward

The House Economic Revitalization and Business Committee yesterday approved a controversial measure by a vote of 10-1 to allow smoking in stand-alone bars and nightclubs on Oahu. Restaurants would still remain smoke free.


Under Hawaii’s current law, smokers must stand at least 20 feet away from a door or window.

Bill Comerford, Spokesman for the Hawaii Bar Owners Association and owner of four bars including O’Toole’s, told the committee the law passed in 2006 has led to problems such as noise, fights and littering outside bars. In turn, that has hurt the bars economically, and made acquiring new licenses more difficult.

A spokeswoman for the Hawaii Smokers Alliance testified the law has led to 18 women being sexually assaulted after their drinks were “roofied” when they were outside smoking.

But anti smoking groups, such as the American Lung Association and American Heart Association, spoke against the bill, saying Hawaii’s law should remain in place. Any change would subject Oahu’s workforce to second hand smoke, they said.

Rep. Barbara Marumoto, (R-Kaimuki/Waialae), was the only vote against the measure.

The bill will have to pass the full House and Senate before going to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his consideration.

Battle Over Kahoolawe Continues

Only a few people in Hawaii have access to the island of Kahoolawe, including those on the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission.

But the island has been plagued with people committing crimes and using illegal drugs, leading many to call for reform. The issue has deeply divided the Hawaiian community.

Sen. Michelle Kidani, D-Mililani, introduced a contentious measure last year to reorganize the commission, giving more power and oversight to the state.

An all day Saturday hearing held last year on the bill, there was standing room only in the hearing room, adjacent room and Senate halls, and loud discussions and disputes nearly forced senators to call security. This year, however, most of the discussions were quieter and behind closed doors.

A watered down version of Kidani’s bill was set for decision making yesterday in the The Senate Committee on Water, Land and Housing. Kidani, who is not a member of the committee, gave her comments that she was disappointed the bill had been weakened.

In a surprise vote, however, the bill died by a vote of three to three – a rare moment when a bill is actually killed before the public.

What that means is no changes are being made to the current representation and authority of the reserve commission.

The battle, however, will continue.

Librarians Battle

Hawaii’s Librarians and Friends of Libraries squared off in an unusual hearing held Wednesday in the Senate Education Committee.

A bill was introduced to allow various non-profits Friends of the Library Associations on Oahu and the neighbor islands to remain independent of the state Friends of the Library Association and the state librarian.

Friends groups were told by the state librarian, Richard Burns, they must become part of the single state organization and would not be allowed any further fundraising on the property of their community library.

Several groups declined to join or become part of the state organization, preferring instead to remain devoted to their community library.

Among them were the well-organized Friends of the Aina Haina library who have been operating successfully for 50 years.

Every penny the group raised has gone to the Aina Haina Library in East Oahu.

But the Aina Haina Friends were told they were no longer allowed to hold fundraisers on the library property if they did not comply with the state organization mandate.

During the hearing, the state librarian Richard Burns who was leading the effort to squelch any independent groups or competition among groups seeking to support their own libraries, was questioned by several members of the Senate Education Committee. Committee members appeared to became agitated at his refusal to answer questions and what some described as his lack of “truthfulness” and accuracy relating to actual state law.

In the end, the Senate Education Committee pass the bill to allow independent friends groups to continue to operate their fundraising efforts on the property of their community library with proceeds going to their respective community libraries.





  1. Re: the Kaho’olawe story, it would be good to explain the headline and comment in the story “the island has been plagued with people committing crimes and using illegal drugs”. Sounds like hyperbole as it is presented.

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