Friday, April 24, 2015


Electronic cigarette bill SB1030 may not have been passed constitutionally

by Larry Geller

The constitution of the state of Hawaii is not so long that legislators should be forgiven if they forget the part that describes their job.

For example, Article III, Section 15:

Section 15


Section 15.  No bill shall become law unless it shall pass three readings in each house on separate days.  No bill shall pass third or final reading in either house unless printed copies of the bill in the form to be passed shall have been made available to the members of that house for at least forty-eight hours.

This part escapes many of them for some reason.

SB1030 is that well-publicized bill that regulates electronic cigarettes and increases the legal age for smoking to 21 years of age. Fine bill, no issue there, but the Legislature took some shortcuts that may make it unconstitutional.

The House Committee on Health put in language to prohibit the possession or consumption in public places of tobacco products by persons under 18. That was amended in the House Judiciary Committee to increase the age to 21,

That language has never been heard in the Senate. There should be three readings, but there were none.

One can argue about what is a legitimate amendment and what is not, and only a judge can say for sure, but it looks as though the lege could have endangered a good law by not following constitutionally-mandated procedure.

Of course, any kid nabbed under the new law is more likely to take the rap than to fight the law in court.…


The Senate received the House's amended version on April 16 (the final form of the bill) and voted to disagree with the amendments. But then after conference, agreed to the amendments on April 24. The constitution requires that a bill be in final form no less than forty-eight hours before final passage in a House -- which the Senate complied with. Second, a bill does not need to be read three times in its final form. Otherwise every law that is amended in the non-originating house or bills with a conference draft would all be unconstitutional. Maybe I'm missing something?

Maybe I wasn't too clear in explaining. The potential problem with this bill is that new language was inserted that was not heard. But the legislators think it's ok to do that, obviously.

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