Grassroot Institute warns again about granting wide powers to health director
News Release from Grassroot Institute
HONOLULU, July 1, 2020 >> A bill that would grant sweeping emergency powers to the state director of health survived a Senate committee hearing last week, and now it's back for consideration tomorrow, July 2, by another Senate committee.
In testimony last Thursday to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii warned that the bill is a threat to our privacy and civil liberties, and that its origin as a "gut and replace" bill means that neither the public nor the Legislature has had time to adequately consider it.
The committee subsequently tweaked the bill's language to make the granting of the powers to the state health director contingent on the governor's approval, then sent it for review today by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
In its newest testimony concerning the measure, the institute said it "continues to have grave concerns," since "the powers contemplated in this bill are so sweeping and broad as to raise significant questions about privacy, civil liberties and constitutionality."
Of particular concern, the institute said, "is the bill’s broad permissions regarding screening/tracking technology and how collection, sharing and disclosure of personal information will be handled.
"Likewise, the power to close businesses for months at a time is not one that should be given to an administrative agency without greater oversight and a more effective system of checks and balances on the exercise of the state’s police powers."
More generally, the institute's testimony said, "The bill would … give the (state health) director broad powers …, including requiring screening, testing, quarantine and contact tracing; closing schools and businesses; releasing confidential information; requiring detailed personal information from travelers; and taking other, unspecified actions the director might deem necessary for the public health."
Especially as we approach July 4th, America's Independence Day holiday, even contemplating such a bill seems inconceivable. If this bill survives the WAM committee, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii will continue to throw out red flags, bearing in mind Lord Acton's famous observation that "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely."
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June 26, 2020: HB2502: Lawmakers pare back quarantine-powers bill after public concern