Few would argue that enforcement of the 14-day quarantine has been swift and effective. The neighbor islands have proven far more determined and effective than Oahu in tracking down quarantine violators, even though the vast majority of people subject to quarantine are on this island. It occurred to me that we pay close attention to the daily infection counts, but there is only sporadic news regarding quarantine violator arrests.
Last month, I began asking for regular public reporting of enforcement statistics. The Senate Committee on Covid-19 Response has worked long and hard with the administration and state agencies to implement policies such as the quarantine. At the latest committee meeting, the Attorney General agreed to provide weekly reports for number of leads, investigations, arrests, etc.
If we are going to continue the quarantine after September 1 when the negative test exemption is allowed for arriving passengers, we should make sure the quarantine is an effective deterrent to those who would try to evade our safety protocols. What gets measured gets attention.
The 2020 Regular Legislative Session finally came to a close on July 10, 2020, two months after the regularly scheduled adjournment. After beginning the session normally, we went into a prolonged recess when the pandemic such down much of the state. We returned for two weeks in May to amend the state budget to fill a one-billion-dollar budget shortfall, about 1/8 of the general funds. We returned again in June to finalize CARES Act funding for pandemic response, to advise and consent on Governor nominations, and to pass a limited number of bills. Additional, severe budget cuts will likely be waiting for the next Legislature in 2021.
Several of the Governor’s nominations were in jeopardy of rejection by the Senate on the final day of the session. On that final day, with the possibility of losing four votes, the Governor withdrew his nomination of Rona Suzuki for Director of the Tax Department. Craig Hirai, nominee for Director of Budget and Finance sailed through, but Damien Elefante, nominee for Chair of Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board, was confirmed on a 16-9 vote.
The final vote of this year’s session was on the nomination of Chris Yuen to the Board of Land and Natural Resources. I was strongly opposed to his confirmation because of various positions he has taken in recent years, each one at odds with staff recommendations and community input.
Mr. Yuen led the BLNR decision making in support of Na Pua Makani’s permits to build the monstrously tall wind turbines in Kahuku. When I asked him what he would say to the people of Kahuku, he said he hoped they would look at the turbines as a point of pride.
The day before the vote, Governor Ige appointed a new Senator to replace the late Senator Breene Harimoto. The appointment altered the vote enough to secure confirmation by a soft 16-9 vote, four of which were “Yes, with reservations.”