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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 10, 2010

Placing an expiration date on common sense

We can all breathe easier, knowing that our lawmakers were on the case. Thanks to newly enacted legislation, the temporary ban on public urination and defecation has been extended.

Say, what? Wasn't that always illegal? And permanently?

You'd think so. But in 2004, somebody figured out that no Hawai'i statute specifically prohibited publicly dumping a pantload. So the Legislature made it illegal to use the streets of downtown Honolulu the zone where there's been a problem as a latrine. (Presumably, it's still OK to go publicly in Pearl City, but that's a discussion for another editorial).

Problem is, the original law has a sunset clause. State Rep. Karl Rhoads represents downtown, and after previously extending the sunset provision to 2012, this time he tried to get the ban enacted permanently. Scads of his constituents testified in favor of House Bill 1862. But in the end, the House wimped out and opted to simply extend the ban for two more years, until 2014. The Senate signed off on it.

Then to add further nonsense, the law now requires police to submit a report before the 2012 session on how enforcement is working, despite the fact that the Honolulu Police Department already testified that the force is fine with it.

Rhoads, who said some of his colleagues were worried that a permanent ban will be seen as "anti-homeless," is frustrated. "I can't believe I had to spend political capital on this," he said.

We can't believe it, either. It's this kind of over-thought bureaucratic daffiness that confounds the public and makes them question the priorities, if not the sanity, of the Legislature.

Why are we wasting time on this?

It's a fine little law. It includes humane exemptions so that police won't ticket people who have a medical reason for lack of control. There's no reason for it to contain a sunset clause.

But now, because politicians couldn't summon the courage to make it permanently illegal to use downtown sidewalks as restrooms, some police officer will have to write a term paper and lawmakers will have to revisit the issue before 2014.

This is one of those days when the gang at the State Capitol deserves all the grief and scorn it gets.