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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 4, 2002

Governor may veto handicap parking bill

By Robbie Dingeman
and Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writers

Gov. Ben Cayetano will probably veto a bill that lowers the fine for parking illegally in handicap parking stalls, a governor's spokeswoman said yesterday.

Advocates for the disabled yesterday blasted House Bill 2509, which started out as a measure to strengthen handicap parking laws but in the final week of the legislative session was amended to lower the minimum fine from $250 to $100.

"It's an outrage to anyone who's handicapped," said 'Ewa Beach resident Lila Rattner, whose husband, Sol, has a physical disability.

Cayetano communications director Jackie Kido noted the governor introduced the original bill but lawmakers dramatically altered the measure.

"The intent of our bill was to further discourage misuse of handicapped parking accommodations, not to lighten the penalty for violators," Kido said.

The bill was meant to expand the law by stating that anyone who parks in the marked access aisle next to a handicap space is subject to the same fine as those who park in the handicap space.

On April 25, a House-Senate conference committee amended the bill, changing the range of the fine from $250-$500 to $100-$500.

"It caught us by surprise," said Francine Wai, executive director of the state's Disability and Communication Access Board. "To us, it is a slap in the face to the disabled community, that we think that even though parking in a disabled stall is illegal, it is not really that bad."

Rattner said people in the disabled community took years to get fines established that would discourage people from breaking the parking rules. She said the higher fines make a big difference in whether people will violate the law.

"It absolutely discourages them," she said. "Hit their pocketbook at $250, they notice. It's not repeated."

Honolulu police Sgt. Bart Canada, who oversees a program of 26 citizen volunteers deputized to issue citations, said he was shocked by the change.

Last year more than 3,300 citations were issued to people who parked in disabled stalls illegally. Police have found that the lower the fine, the greater the abuse, Canada said.

Jim Santos, commander of the 4,600-member state chapter of the Disabled American Veterans, sent a letter to the governor urging a veto.

Rep. Joe Souki, D-8th (Waiehu, Ma'alaea, Napili), was a member of the conference committee that lowered the fine — a decision he noted was unanimous.

"We just thought $250 was excessive," he said. "We gave the judge a little more discretion. I don't believe in soaking people with heavy fines all the time."

Souki called the change "relatively minor."

"I don't know what they are all stewed up about," he said.

Sen. Cal Kawamoto, D-19th (Waipahu, Pearl City), said House members of the conference committee sought the reduction and Senate members agreed.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070. Reach Mike Gordon at mgordon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8012.