Published January 28, 2011
HONOLULU -- Anyone would be able to get a copy of President Barack Obama's birth records for a $100 fee under a bill introduced in the state Legislature that backers hope will finally dispel claims he was born elsewhere.
The bill would change a privacy law barring the release of birth records unless the requester is someone with a tangible interest, such as a close family member.
The measure was introduced by five Democrats but has not yet been scheduled for a public hearing, a required step before it can move forward. A decision on considering the bill will be made by the House's Democratic leadership and committee chairmen.
The idea behind the measure is to end skepticism over Obama's birthplace while raising a little money for a government with a projected budget deficit exceeding $800 million over the next two years.
"If it passes, it will calm the birthers down," said the bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Rida Cabanilla. "All these people are still doubting it because they don't want the birth certificate from Obama. They want it from our state office."
So-called "birthers" claim there's no proof Obama was born in the United States, and he is therefore ineligible to be president. Many of the skeptics question whether he was actually born in Kenya, his father's home country.
The Obama campaign issued a certification of live birth in 2008, an official document from the state showing the president's Aug. 4, 1961, birth date, his birth city and name, and his parents' names and races.
Hawaii's former health director also has said she verified Obama's original records. And notices were published in two local newspapers within days of his birth at a Honolulu hospital.
Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who was a friend of Obama's parents and knew him as a child, said last month he wanted to release more of the state's birth information about Obama. But he ended the effort last week when the state attorney general told him that privacy laws bar disclosure of an individual's birth documentation without the person's consent.
The new legislation to release records may run into similar legal problems because of Hawaii's strong constitutional privacy protections, said Rep. John Mizuno, a co-sponsor of the bill.
"If people really want to confirm Barack Obama is born in Hawaii, that's fine," Mizuno said. "I don't have a problem with looking at innovative ways to bring revenue to the state. The taxpayers deserve a break."
The $100 fee would help offset the extra work by state employees who handle frequent phone calls and e-mails from people who believe Obama was born elsewhere, Cabanilla said.
But the number of birther requests has been declining from the 10 to 20 weekly inquiries received early last year, according to the Department of Health.
"Requests have decreased significantly over the years. Currently we receive anywhere from zero to five per week," said department spokeswoman Janice Okubo.
The Health Department is still reviewing the bill, Okubo said.
House Health Committee Chairman Ryan Yamane didn't immediately return messages seeking comment on whether he would hold a hearing on the bill.