Friday, March 5, 1999

Hawaii State Seal

Dancers swaying
legislators to recognize
isles’ native form

Bill targets Y2K suits
Involuntary medication

By Pat Omandam


Pop quiz: What is the official dance of the state of Hawaii?

A) Foxtrot. B) Rumba. C) Hula. Or D) None of the above.

If you picked "D," you're right -- at least for now. But if you chose "C," join the crowd at the state Legislature who want to make the traditional native Hawaiian dance the state's own.

The House Judiciary committee yesterday approved a bill that would adopt hula as the official state dance. It will be up for a vote by the full House next week.

Earl M. Tenn of the Halau Hookipa Aloha said the bill is long overdue since the state adopted the Hawaiian language as the state language back in 1978. The two are inseparable, he said.

"There can be no dance without the spoken language," Tenn said. "The greatest of all Hawaiian values -- 'Aloha' -- cannot be separated from hula."

Tenn said hula allows an individual dancer to become whole by intergrating mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects. At the least, he added, hula is entertainment to both newcomers and kamaainas. It is also practiced widely abroad.

Michiko Maile Honma, chairwoman of the Japan Hula Association, said in written testimony that the 800 hula studios in that country are a testament to the aloha spirit.

"Hula is Hawaii's national dance and should be recognized in your state statutes," Honma said.

Anita Maria L. Serrano, chairwoman of Ka Leo O Na Hula, a hula teachers association in Mexico City, said hula courses are being offered throughout Mexico, with Hawaii hula instructors attending an annual festival to evaluate performances. Serrano said hula should be officially adopted by the state.

If approved, hula would be added to a list of official state designations, some familiar, some not so well known. Among the least known are the state tree (kukui), the state team and individual sports (outrigger canoe paddling and surfing) and the state gem (black coral).

Bill targets Y2K suits
against state, isle firms

By Richard Borreca


So next year, if your business falters, the bank forgets you and the state government counts you out because of a Y2K computer glitch, who are you going to sue?

Maybe nobody.

According to a proposal scheduled to move in the state Senate today, the state and some private businesses would be protected from lawsuit claims arising from Year 2000 computer mistakes.

But consumers or businesses that are damaged because of computer problems would be able to go to nonbinding arbitration, allowing computer experts to focus their attention on preventing problems now, instead of preparing for possible lawsuits.

Sen. Avery Chumbley, Judiciary Committee co-chairman, says his committee will approve the immunity bill in some form today, although he is concerned that it is adding to "piecemeal immunity" provisions that confuse the legal landscape.

"Immunity is something that should be dealt with in a comprehensive way; we keep chipping away at it," he said.

Chumbley also thinks existing tort laws that allow lawsuits for wrongful acts, injury or damage have a place in protecting consumers from wayward computers that can't tell if it is the year 2000 or 1900.

"I have concerns about capping the damages. We have adequate tort laws, so to say if some child is burned or permanently injured because of a computer problem, that's best left to the court," Chumbley said.

The immunity provisions would give state and county government immunity from claims based on year 2000 errors produced by government computer systems and would also put limits on the types of damages that could be collected against private concerns.

The Cayetano administration supports the immunity provision, calling it "reasonable and responsible."

By extending the immunity provisions to private business, the bill won the support of the Chamber of Commerce.

Senate may allow
involuntary medication

By Pat Omandam


As someone once hospitalized 18 times for psychiatric observation, Randolph Hack knows the importance medication plays in treating those with mental illness.

Hack, executive director of United Self-Help, a consumer-run mental health group, said it took him a long time to find the correct medication, which he must continually change even today.

Nevertheless, Hack told lawmakers yesterday he cannot support a Senate bill that allows involuntary medication of patients at the Hawaii State Hospital. Psychiatric patients, he argued, have a right to know about the medication they are given.

And those who refuse must have treatment options, he said.

"It is very important for mental health professionals to completely inform consumers about psychiatric medication," Hack said. "We need to know the risks and benefits of these substances."

A joint Senate committee today is expected to vote on SB 1032, which allows the state Department of Health to create rules to govern involuntary medication of state hospital patients.

The problem, say the bill's proponents, is that patients placed at the hospital under court order can still refuse treatment, and often never get better.

Paula J. Chow, a registered nurse, said a family member now in the state hospital was unable to get help for her psychiatric problem because she doesn't recognize her problem and refuses to sign papers authorizing treatment.

"She has been there for almost two months and has had to return to court for what will be the fifth time -- still being unfit to stand trial," Chow wrote.


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