House of Representatives Speaker Scott K. Saiki released the following statement today on the Safe Travels bill.
I introduced HB 1286, Relating to Travel, at the end of January 2021. (The content of HB 1286 is now found in SB 266. The House Finance Committee heard SB 266 on March 31, 2021, and deferred it for decision making to today at 1:30 p.m.)
The purpose of the bill was to create a statewide "Safe Travels" policy that would reverse the Governor's county-by-county approach to decision making.
Please remember the circumstances that we were facing in January 2021:
Travel was slowly resuming.
The Governor's initial Safe Travels policy had begun on October 15, 2020. This enabled travelers to be exempt from the quarantine requirement if they received a negative test result prior to departing for Hawaiʻi.
Hawaiʻi residents were slowly returning to work.
Unemployment claims were slowly dropping.
On November 3, Japan joined our pre-travel testing program.
But on December 2, 2020, Governor Ige approved Kauaʻi's request to be exempt from the Safe Travels program so that Kauaʻi could impose a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Maui was beginning to request the same exemption.
The county-by-county inconsistency was and continues to cause confusion for residents and visitors traveling to Hawaiʻi and between our islands.
As I previously stated, I believed it was imperative that Hawaiʻi have a single statewide policy because our public health protocols had improved and we needed to safely re-open our economy.
We all know that travel is a basic component of our economy.
Please note that HB 1286 has a very narrow scope and was anticipated to address a very small population. At that time, there was a surge in cases on the continental U.S. and test results were slow to process.
HB 1286 would have required travelers to pre-test 72 hours prior to departure to Hawaiʻi, or else face a quarantine. It would have allowed a travelers who, through no fault of their own, did not receive a test result upon landing in Hawaiʻi, to obtain an airport test and also obtain a negative result on their original test. This would have affected a small percentage of travelers.
However, since January 2021, our circumstances have changed:
CDC guidelines. We've continued to learn more about COVID, including how it's transmitted and controlled.
Screening, testing, contract tracing capabilities are in place.
Hawaiʻi residents understand and practice public health protocols.
Vaccinations are more widely available, including at our two mass vaccination centers on Oʻahu that can collectively vaccinate up to 8,000 people per day.
Due to these changing circumstances, I have asked Chair Sylvia Luke to not take action on SB 266.
I want to thank the House members for their patience and support. I have said all along that we need a consistent statewide travel framework. Now that the counties are all together, we do not need to advance this legislation.
I also appreciate working with the county mayors to make travel safe, protect our residents, and re-open our economy.
Going forward, I hope that the Governor will work with the Legislature to provide strong leadership and make decisions that advance the physical and economic health of our entire state.