Legislative Report (April 2017)

we_the_peopleACLU of Hawaii’s Legislative Program advocates tirelessly to protect the rights guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions. Our office lobbies local and state lawmakers and agencies to help create progressive change and to block proposed laws that may erode our constitutional rights. Because we must prioritize issues, our office depends on your input about the civil rights issues most important to you and your community.

Legislative Session 2017 Priorities: Getting Smarter on Criminal Justice, Saying “NO” to the Muslim Ban, and Continuing the Fight for LGBTQ Equality Mahalo to our members and allies for all of your support this year! The 2017 legislative session is about to wrap up. Below is an overview of our 2017 legislative priorities.

  • No Prison Without a Plan: Many of Hawaii’s prisons are overcrowded, with seven out of Hawaii’s nine correction centers over capacity — three of those being 150% or more over capacity. Most incarcerated offenders are serving time for relatively low-level offenses — Class C felonies and below. The incarceration of nonviolent, low-level offenders and the pretrial detention of those who cannot afford bail is costing taxpayers millions of dollars each year; this also pushes our current facilities beyond the brink of their capacity, resulting in unconstitutional and unsafe conditions. To address this problem, the State must first look to long-term, comprehensive criminal justice reform prior to developing plans to construct any new correctional facility. In light of proposals to relocate the Oahu Community Correctional Center (“OCCC”), the ACLU of Hawaii has been at the frontlines educating lawmakers and community members about why it makes no sense to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on a prison before the State has a concrete plan to reduce our incarceration rate.
  • Aloha Without Borders: As you may be aware, the ACLU has been more than a little vocal about our opposition to President Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim Ban(s). As our State Attorney General moves forward with a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s Muslim Ban, we took that power to the Legislature, and, side-by-side with immigrants’ rights groups and community allies, we unequivocally told lawmakers that Hawaii should not play accomplice to these unconstitutional policies. And you know what? They agreed. Advocates successfully defeated bills this session that would have targeted our immigrant Ohana by, for example, deputizing ICE agents to make arrests for low-level “public order” offenses (giving them pretense to racially profile immigrants), denying immigrants access to state university or public employment, or deeming Limited Purpose Driver’s Licenses unacceptable for notary purposes. Unfortunately, this fight is far from over. Moving forward, we still need your help to ensure that immigrants’ constitutional rights are protected.
  • Equal Access to Fertility Treatment: At a time when the Trump Administration is proposing paid family leave that shamelessly excludes unmarried women and same-sex couples, the Hawaii State Legislature is moving forward with the most progressive fertility coverage bill in the nation. The Hawaii State Legislature decided decades ago that in vitro fertilization (“IVF”) — which can cost upward of $20,000 per cycle — was such an important treatment of infertility that its coverage under insurance plans should be mandated by law. Today, the ACLU of Hawaii is fighting to ensure that this important treatment is available to all people, regardless of sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or marital status. S.B. 502, which is on its way to conference committee, would do just that and reinforce Hawaii’s core value of equality.

Looking Towards 2018: We Need Your Help! Even after such a successful legislative session, we still have a long way to go, especially in the area of criminal justice reform. In many ways, Hawaii is still in the Dark Ages on issues like bail reform and evidence-based alternatives to incarceration. We are incarcerating homeless individuals and families rather than provide meaningful services, contributing to mass incarceration and costing you — the taxpayer — money.

With your help, we know that we can continue to effect change on these issues and more. We want to hear your ideas! Which issues are most important to you? Are there areas of civil rights where you believe our office could be doing more? Are you interested in volunteering on a particular issue? Let us know! Your voice matters and your involvement makes our work possible.

Contact us at legislative@acluhawaii.org or at 522-5906.

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