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HB2409, a bill criminalizing homelessness makes lying down at bus stop disorderly conduct

Up for hearing at the Big House (aka Hawaii State Capitol) on Wednesday morning at 10am in room 016 downstairs, is HB2409 Relating to Disorderly Conduct. It's yet another bill criminalizing homelessness, but this one really takes the cake. It makes lying down at a bus shelter Disorderly Conduct and subject to a $50 fine. Of course, if you have to lie down at a bus shelter you don't have $50. You just continue to get cited until you get pulled in for outstanding citations and then you are processed by the criminal justice system whch then has no choice but to put you in jail. Introducing this is about as low as you can get and credit where it's due, Representative Karl Rhoads gets the mention here.

My testimony, which I reproduce below, requests criminalizing the introduction of these kinds of bills.

Every legislative session one sees a number of really bizarro bills introduced. Aside from wasting a tremendous amount to time and (public) money to introduce and hear them, it also makes one ask, WTF? A friend has the theory that legislators have constituents who are basically loud and fearsome tita's who badger their legislators into drafting and introducing these absurdities. Is this the case with HB2409?

HB2409 proposes some simple changes to Hawaii Revised Statute on the definition of the crime of Disorderly Conduct. That's the crime of yelling and screaming, threatening and cussing, picking fights, and of course, asking to talk to the Mayor when he's at the park when he wants to ignore you. But that's a whole other story.

One who acts "with intent to cause physical inconvenience or alarm" or "recklessly creating a risk thereof…" and engages in the aforementioned behavior is guilty of disorderly conduct. To that, HB2409 proposes to the add one who "Lies down at a bus stop shelter or other bus stop structure." Perhaps the act of lying down itself exhibits "an intent to cause physical inconvenience or alarm"? Or maybe HB2409 is an ad hoc and ill conceived bill kludged together to appease some loud but unreasonably influential tita like my friend thinks is the case?

Hearing is tomorrow so you can submit "late" testimony or just show up (Wednesday, 3/19 10am room 016 at the Big House)

Anyway, here's my testimony on the next page:



Re: Testimony OPPOSING HB2409 RELATING TO DISORDERLY CONDUCT

Dear Chair Hee, Vice Chair Shimabukuro, and the Committee,

Over the past two plus years, Hawaii Guerrilla Video Hui and associated videographers have documented many of the raids on the homeless. It is a simple fact widely known that the homeless are routinely deprived of the fundamental civil rights that were drafted and enacted to protect all of us. I personally spend much time opposing legislation criminalizing the poor and homeless at the county and state level. 

When I oppose proposed legislation, I read the bill carefully and try to make reasonable arguments supported by facts and available data. The increasing rate of public homelessness has sparked increasing legislation against the homeless and I find these measures targeting nonviolent and vulnerable populations disheartening and offensive. 

HB2409 goes beyond being disheartening and offensive and goes straight to being insulting and disgusting. What are we to say about a bill that imputes criminal intent to the most vulnerable members of the public who must seek shelter within a public "shelter"? It imposes a $50 penalty to those who canʻt find any other shelter and those fines will mount until the justice system must put subject homeless person in the prison system. Like other bills targeting the homeless, it will require selective enforcement to implement subjecting the police to potential liabilities stemming from violation of constitutional rights, namely 5th Amendment rights to due process, and 14th Amendment protections from selective enforcement. 

The most important thing to note is that although many have assumed this bill targets those sleeping at bus stops, note that it criminalizes and penalizes one who "Lies down at a bus stop shelter…" Is it necessary to point out that Article IX Section 10 of the Hawaii State Constitution incorporates the Kanawai Mamalahoe of King Kamehameha I? "Let every elderly person, woman and child lie by the roadside in safety--shall be a unique and living symbol of the State's concern for public safety." 

Shall HB2409 be the living symbol of the State's disregard for its own constitution? 

I urge you to do more than simply stop this bill, I sincerely and respectfully ask you to condemn it. Creating public policy to remedy the complex problems of homeless may be exceedingly difficult, but drafting and introducing as flawed a measure as HB2409 in full awareness of the public time and resources required to review and hear the bill during legislative session is itself criminal. 

Me ka haʻahaʻa, 

H. Doug Matsuoka
Makiki, Honolulu

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Here's a link to the bill's page: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=2409&year=2014

See you at the hearing. I'll try livestreaming from http://new.livestream.com/accounts/3132312

H. Doug Matsuoka
18 March 2014
Makiki, Honolulu

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