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Monday, November 19, 2012
Joni’s Jones Act Plea
By Michael Hansen @ 3:40 PM :: 4980 Views :: Jones Act

Joni’s Jones Act Plea 

by Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council

The November 6th elections returned a Hawaii congressional delegation, including one new member out of four, that supports the Jones Act in its current form, and has made the prospects for Jones Act reform, which would benefit residents and businesses alike, seem even further out-of-reach.

Responding to this melancholy, Joni Kamiya of Kaneohe, Oahu, recently wrote to the editor of the only statewide daily, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, saying:

Now that Mazie Hirono, Colleen Hanabusa, Tulsi Gabbard and Dan Inouye are in, we, the people of Hawaii, need them to deliver on their promises. …..we need to revisit the Jones Act and how it affects our costs of living. Our representation cannot staunchly support it while allowing exemptions to occur that clearly demonstrate the need for reform. We, the people of Hawaii, deserve fair representation in Congress. Serving only the needs of powerful special interests does not help us anymore, even if they bought all the campaigns. They must do as they promised and truly make our Hawaii a better place for all.

A plethora of comments responded to Joni’s letter on the Star-Advertiser’s website. While none supported the Jones Act and virtually all agreed with the need for Jones Act reform, most opined that Joni is naive and engaging in wishful thinking to expect the Hawaii delegation to do anything about the Jones Act. Several of the commenters, however, supported Jon’s optimism and her admonition that the public continue to discuss the Jones Act and demand the state’s congressional delegation support meaningful reform.

The Hawaii Shippers Council believes that Joni and those who supported her optimism are right. The residents of the Aloha State need to keep the issue alive and continue to address Jones Act reform with their albeit unwilling congressional delegation. The vox populi must become louder than the special interests that support both the Jones Act and those politicians who refuse to reform it.

In order to create sufficient political support for Jones Act reform on the federal level, it will also be necessary to reach out to the residents of the other noncontiguous jurisdictions – Alaska, Guam and Puerto Rico – who are also negatively impacted by the Act. Towards this end, we have developed contacts with likeminded organizations in these other jurisdictions and have encouraged the development of similar reform initiatives there. We would ask that you do the same with any family, friends or acquaintances you may have in those places.

Perhaps the most important upcoming development in respect of Jones Act reform for the noncontiguous domestic trades – Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and Puerto Rico – will occur early in the first quarter of next year – i.e., 2013. That is when the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) is expected to release a Jones Act study requested by the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, Representative Pedro Pierliusi (D). The Commissioner requested the study in late 2011 because of the widespread support on Puerto Rico for a Jones Act exemption; and, in April 2012, the GAO confirmed to Rep. Pierliusi that the results of the study will be released before February 28, 2013.

The GAO said that one of the three primary areas of investigation would be the effect of the U.S. build requirement of the Jones Act on the ocean borne transportation in the noncontiguous Puerto Rico trade. The GAO study should shed much light on this key issue.

Importantly, the study should provide support for our reform proposal, which would exempt all the noncontiguous domestic trades from the U.S. build requirement of the Jones Act for deep draft self-propelled ships. It is Rep Pierlusi’s announced intention to introduce Jones Act reform legislation in the 2013 legislative session based upon the results of the study.

In addition to the Hawaii and Puerto Rico delegations, the Alaskan and Guamanian congressional delegations will need to speak on the issue of Jones Act reform in the next Congress. A substantial majority of the Guamanian people favor a Jones Act exemption, and there has been long term interest in Alaska dating back to their debates over Statehood, which was granted in 1958, for some form of a Jones Act exemption.

We look forward to continuing our advocacy for Jones Act reform with respect to the noncontiguous trades and discussing the relevant issues with you. We entreat you to do the same, support our reform proposal, and encourage your family and friends to do the same.

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