Honolulu, Hawai‘i: The 2020 Regular Legislative Session, which adjourned Friday, brought major victories in the areas of education justice, policing, economic justice, and criminal law reform. The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai‘i (“ACLU of Hawai‘i”) applauds the Legislature’s passage of these important measures and urges Governor Ige to sign them into law.
S.B. 2486 will require the State Department of Education (“DOE”) to collect, analyze, and disclose important civil rights data relating to student discipline, the use of seclusion and restraint, school climate, and student achievement. This bill and its companion were introduced by the Legislature’s two education committee chairs — Senator Michelle Kidani and Representative Justin Woodson — and will ensure more accurate data reporting so that parents, advocates, and legislators can identify and advance policies to make our schools a safer and more equitable environment for our keiki. This bill was a top priority of the ACLU of Hawaii’s 2020 Legislative Agenda.
Former ACLU of Hawai‘i Legal Fellow and local education policy expert Rae Shih said: “This bill represents a radical step forward for equity in Hawai‘i. A school system cannot profess to raise academic proficiency and attendance rates at the same time it deprives students of their right to an education, via long suspensions. Now, Hawai‘i must accurately track and report this data, and most importantly, analyze it for disparities. This provides an unprecedented opportunity to adjust student supports and staffing to reach our most vulnerable students.”
H.B. 2750 will end harmful and counterproductive traffic “stoppers,” which are administrative holds imposed on the driving and car registration records of those who cannot pay their traffic or parking tickets. This means a person who cannot afford their ticket is barred from renewing their driver’s license or registration, which may impact their ability to get to work, take their kids to school or the doctor, or to obtain insurance. This bill — introduced by Representative Cedric Gates with its companion introduced by Senator Karl Rhoads — was a top priority of the ACLU of Hawaii’s 2020 Legislative Agenda.
S.B. 2193 clears barriers to employment for those who have been previously incarcerated by restricting the convictions that prospective employers may consider when making job offers to felony convictions that occurred in the previous seven years and misdemeanor convictions that occurred in the previous five years. This bill was introduced as part of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs legislative package and was supported by the ACLU of Hawai‘i.
Office of Hawaiian Affiars Public Policy Advocate Jen Jenkins said: “This measure encapsulates the reality that most incarcerated people will one day return to our communities and need employment. As community members, we can either support their efforts or create more barriers. This measure creates a greater opportunity for people with conviction records to thrive and be employed, which is best for all of us in Hawai‘i.”
H.B. 285 removes the police officer exception under Hawaii’s public records law, which currently shields suspended officers from accountability. The bill also requires police departments to disclose to the Legislature the identity of suspended or discharged officers and grants decertification authority to the Law Enforcement Standards Board. This bill was introduced by Representative Scott Nishimoto and supported by the ACLU of Hawai‘i.
ACLU of Hawai‘i Field Organizer Shayna Lonoaea-Alexander said: “Now more than ever, nobody should lose their job or be unable to take their child to the doctor because they cannot afford a parking ticket. H.B. 2750, H.B. 285, and S.B. 2193 are some of the most intersectional and proactive pieces of legislation to solve the underlying social and economic conditions that drive crime rather than simply punishing people. These bills address the profound connections of crime to mental health, addiction, employment, education, housing and social inclusion. Governor Ige should support these smart, data-driven legislative and administrative reforms that help us reduce our incarcerated populations and corrections budgets, while keeping our communities safe. These reforms will end wasteful spending and reform ineffective government policies, and that should be something everyone can come together on. It’s time for Smart Justice in Hawai‘i.”