House Speaker Scott Saiki plans to introduce legislation that would create statewide, uniform COVID-19 travel rules to reduce confusion for both residents and tourists.
Saiki also told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he would be willing to introduce a bill on behalf of the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to allow a casino resort on DHHL property, if asked. Saiki said there should be a debate on the proposed Kapolei casino that’s designed to generate much-needed revenue to put Hawaiians into homes, but he opposes gambling in Hawaii. The state is currently one of only two, along with Utah, that outlaw gambling.
“I’ve always opposed gaming in Hawaii,” Saiki said. “But I feel it’s important that the Legislature hold a hearing on the DHHL proposal. … I’ll introduce it for them if DHHL asks (but) I’ve always opposed gaming as a general policy. … I personally don’t think there is support for that proposal.”
Saiki earlier Wednesday told the Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii web program that he also would be likely to introduce legislation that would lower the penalty for not wearing a mask in public from a misdemeanor — punishable with a maximum penalty of $5,000 and a year in jail — to a citation or violation.
“The misdemeanor offense is too harsh for the mask mandate,” Saiki said. “Convert it to something like a ticket or a violation.”
Saiki said he “absolutely” expects push back from different counties to try to create consistent statewide travel rules, such as Kauai.
“I get it,” Saiki said. “Each mayor is concerned.”
A Saiki bill calling for a uniform travel policy “would not allow for the kinds of exemptions that we are currently seeing, such as on Kauai. The statewide travel policy should be consistent and apply to all counties to avoid confusion and to help prop up our entire statewide economy.
“No. 1 there should be a statewide system to avoid confusion,” Saiki said. “No. 2: Health data does not show that travel is a predominant cause of COVID in Hawaii. No. 3: travel is part of our statewide economy. Every county needs to be a part of that.”
Saiki said he is also likely to introduce legislation that would allow inbound passengers to take a COVID-19 test at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport if they do not arrive with a negative test before landing. If they test negative after landing, passengers would face no quarantine.
Currently, passengers with no negative test results must endure a 10-day quarantine, which adds an additional deterrent to Hawaii travel.
“If you don’t have your result when you land then you would need to take a test upon arrival,” Saiki said. “They would take a test at the airport and they would have to be quarantined until they receive that result,” Saiki said. “The wait time (should be) three or four hours.”
Asked if he would like a statewide COVID-19 tier system similar to Oahu’s, Saiki said it’s appropriate only for Oahu where 80% of island residents live, but not for neighbor island counties.