Bill toughens brush-fire penalty
Arsonists could face five years in prison and pay for damage
Anyone caught setting brush fires would be guilty of a felony and could face five years in prison under a bill approved yesterday by the state Senate Judiciary Committee.
The measure, SB 2941, would also allow the courts to charge those setting brush fires to pay for the damage and the costs of fighting the fire. If the arsonist is a minor, the parents or guardians would be liable for the costs, according to the bill.
Last year, the Leeward area, represented by Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, was scorched by dozens of brush fires, many of which had been deliberately set, according to officials.
In August a 400-acre fire that might have been deliberately set threatened dozens of homes in Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens and Ko Olina and forced the evacuation of 150 residents of Fairway Villas at Ko Olina.
The brush-fire measure, sponsored by Hanabusa, was one of several that moved out of the Judiciary Committee. Bills approved by the Judiciary Committee have to receive approval by the Senate by March 9 to be considered by the House.
Also approved were a series of bills to tighten government ethics.
Lobbyists and political action committees would be prohibited from making contributions to campaigns of the governor, lieutenant governor and legislators while the Legislature is in session under SB 106.
Another measure, SB 627, would spell out that state board or commission members could not do business with their board and would prohibit public employees from taking action that directly affects their families. The bill would also require members of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents to disclose their financial interests.
Finally, a bill to permit the open carrying of firearms was deferred while a study is done.
Hanabusa (D, Makua-Nanakuli) said she was deferring the bill, SB 2529, introduced by Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai), because of "conflicting testimony."
Hanabusa said that while the state's Health Department says the measure would have little effect on violent-crime rates, the Hawaii Riffle Association says it would lower violent crime.
She asked that the Legislative Reference Bureau review similar laws in other states to study the effect on violent-crime rates.