Hawaii Congressional Delegation Should Push for Jones Act Exemptions

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BY JOHN CARROLLLast week, our newly elected Republican congressman in Washington DC from Hawaii, Charles Djou,  publicly called on President Obama to step up efforts to clean up the Gulf oil spill by waiving portions of the Jones Act shipping regulations. I want to publicly commend and support  this action because the Congressman has shown he has common sense and understands the needed urgency for an immediate repeal of the Jones Act shipping regulations as they relate to the State of Hawaii and the Gulf. This 90 year old law protects special interests in the U.S. maritime industry at the expense of the American economy and consumers. Now, in an odd twist, it is also harming the environment and impeding our response to the national emergency caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Several foreign nations, including the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, and Mexico, have come forward and offered to help the United States in the Gulf. We are employing oil booms and other equipment provided by them but the vital oil-skimming ships that they have offered have been sidelined. The shipping companies and unions that have a monopoly control feed off of the Jones Act and have blocked these foreign ships from operating in our economic zone because they are afraid that their crews might get paid to clean up the oil. These greedy special interests in Hawaii are putting our essential commodities such as food, clothing, fuel, building materials and our exports such as livestock, sugar, pineapples, and molasses and a large portion of our national economy at risk to support their own narrow financial self-centered interests. I view their actions in this time of an environmental national crisis in the Gulf as irresponsible and unpatriotic!


Mr. Abercrombie and our Senators are silent about this outrage because they have been taking massive campaign contributions from the Jones Act special interests for decades. They are afraid to bite the hand that feeds them even as that hand pushes away critical help from our friends and allies. While Ed Case was in Congress, he tried, apparently, but was unable to overcome the political weight of Neil Abercrombie and the other US Senators from Hawaii.  Thank goodness Colleen Hanabusa did not go to Washington. She has signed up for the Jones Act gravy train and favors the shipping companies’ interests over the safety and well-being of ordinary citizens. These are the people that yesterday the Chairman of BP called the “small people”. I call them “my fellow citizens”.

Last year, I filed a lawsuit on behalf of the citizens of Hawaii to strike down provisions of the Jones Act that are crippling our local economy. A federal judge dismissed my suit because he couldn’t see the harm caused to people and businesses and he considered the Jones Act to be “a political issue”. I wonder what he thinks now when he sees the awful images of oily beaches, unemployed fishermen, and dead wildlife. I hope he sees the harm now. I hope he understands now that “politics” can stand in the way of helping our people in a time of crisis.

In the 1970’s I introduced the first laws in Hawaii to protect our shoreline and our sea turtles. I understand that these are beautiful and fragile treasures and that it is our solemn responsibility to protect them and pass them on to the next generation. I fought the special interests back then to get those laws passed and I am still fighting the special interests today to get Hawaii exempted from the Jones Act. Our economy can’t expand and thrive if we are held hostage by companies who overcharge us for almost everything we buy so that they can profit at our expense.

I call on President Obama to do the right thing by immediately suspending the Jones Act and accepting any and all help from our friends and allies to fight the disaster in the Gulf. When Charles Djou is re-elected in November and I am elected Governor of Hawaii we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder and never rest until the dark cloud that is the Jones Act is removed from over the heads of the citizens of the Gulf States and Hawaii. My heart goes out to our fellow citizens who are suffering from this horrible environmental and economic disaster. I think about them daily and I know that a solution is on the horizon for them.

Open shipping and free trade will encourage an affordable and far more competitive marketplace. We will all gain with increased  shipping competition along with lower prices for all products we purchase by the elimination of the Jones Act shipping regulations.  With proper leadership, abandoning immediately the  current constriction of trade,  Hawaii can become the best place in the world to do business.  We have it all, the people, the spirit, the climate, the assets and the location.

When I become Governor of Hawaii, the talk will end. We will take immediate, concrete action to end our dependence on foreign petroleum and to finally break the back of the local shipping monopolies. I know that we will prevail with the support of our great citizens with strong minds and and an entrepreneurial spirit.  May God bless our beautiful aina, our great country, and the people of the Gulf.

Hawaii and the Gulf region, at least, must become exempt from the Jones Act.  It’s time recognition of the Constitutional provisions of the Commerce Clause be implemented based on the language of the early case holdings, i.e.

Regardless of the location of the state or its harbors, every State is entitled to equal access to interstate commerce.  With no highways, railroads or pipe lines, deprivation of over ninety percent (90%) of available shipping to Hawaii is not only constitutional violative, but also, given its effect on our economy, our cost of living, our massive homelessness and high unemployment, but also criminal.

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate John Carroll is an attorney in Honolulu