Hawaii's governor and four county mayors may be granted unprecedented emergency powers during a crisis, such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack.
The bill, HB 849, is designed to bring Hawaii's emergency management plan to federal standards. It renames the state civil defense agency the "Hawaii Emergency Management Agency" and houses it under the state Department of Defense.
The bill also adds to government bureaucracy, creating a state emergency management director position and a council on emergency management to advise the governor. Mayors will be granted the same power as the governor in declaring an "emergency period."
Some language in the bill worries Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, who is troubled about how it would affect privacy and property rights of Hawaii residents.
"My main concern is the bill gives expanded powers to the governor and mayors without checks and balances or oversight," the Republican said. "The definition of emergency powers and where they come into play is vague and overly broad."
In one section of the bill, the governor and the mayors of Kauai; Maui; Hawaii; and the city and county of Honolulu, encompassing Oahu, are authorized to use all services, materials and facilities owned by partnerships, corporations and small businesses, including media outlets and technology companies.