By Melissa Newsham
It has been more than two years since Hawaii’s coronavirus restrictions were put into place, and as they have slowly been lifted, life in the islands is finally starting to resemble the pre-pandemic “normal.”
We must remember, however, that these restrictions can easily be reinstated with the stroke of a pen because our state’s emergency-management law has not changed.
This could all happen again unless necessary checks are put in place.
Understandably, many seem to want to just forget about the crippling economic hardship, social isolation, ideological polarization and general uncertainty of the last two years.
Legislation has been proposed that would establish limits on the governor’s powers durng an emergency. However, it will all be for naught if it doesn’t ensure that so-called “emergencies’’ cannot be endlessly or arbitrarily renewed.
Throughout the lockdowns, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has been calling on our legislative leaders to put the brakes in place that would prevent the governor from perpetually renewing emergency orders without legislative approval.
Hawaii’s COVID-19 restrictions are waning, but our emergency-management statute remains fundamentally the same.
So we should not feel like party poopers when the state still has the same tools in hand to shut down everyday activities — including schools and people’s livelihoods — for extended periods with virtually no limits.
We should celebrate the lifting of mandates and be encouraged by the economic recovery that is underway.
But let us continue to advocate for a better balance between the executive’s emergency powers, our freedoms and government accountability.
Melissa Newsham is a research associate with the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.