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Bill could weaken Safe Travels program

The state Legislature is currently moving a bill through the house, HB 1286, that will significantly weaken the Safe Travels program and remove the mayors’ authority to make specific travel requirements for individual counties.

The thought is that less stringent rules for traveling to Hawaii and rules that are uniform throughout the state will bring more tourists into Hawaii.

It’s also been stated, a little bit more quietly, that the variety of travel restrictions decrease tourists’ ability to island hop and often force them to choose a single island visit.

Generally, that single island will not be Oahu, decreasing Oahu’s tourist revenue. A majority of state legislators represent Oahu.

Regardless of one’s opinion about how various county mayors are handling their reaction to COVID-19, most Neighbor Island residents are aware of the differences between Neighbor Islands and Oahu and are in favor of self-governance.

However, many of our own representatives are voting in favor of this unfortunate bill. HB 1286 will have immediate and long-term effects on the counties’ ability to react to current and future emergencies.

With new variants and new vaccines popping up regularly, it is probably time to stay the course rather than throw open our doors under someone else’s rules.

You can testify through the state Legislature’s website at www.capitol.hawaii.gov/ in writing or remotely over Zoom. You can also get your legislator’s phone numbers there, so you can call their office to let your opinion be known.

Mike Wildberger

Kihei

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