Lifeguard bill faces tough going

CIRA de CASTILLOTGI Staff Writer

HONOLULU — The difference between the word indemnity and immunity may keep

the Legislature from passing a law that would allow the county to put

lifeguards at state beaches.

The bill (SB2001), which passed both the

senate and the house judiciary committees, calls for the counties to be

indemnified from any lawsuits that may arise from accidents of deaths that

occur at state beaches that are operated by the county.

As written, the

measure places the burden of responsibility with the state and indemnifies the

county from lawsuit liability. The Attorney General has testified against

passage of the measure because of the potential liability.

If the bill

passes the Legislature, Gov. Ben Cayetano may not sign the bill due to the AG’s

objections.

The AG, according to his testimony, is not opposed to the

intent of the bill but rather to the liability that will be passed onto the

state if the bill, as written, is put into law.

The Kusaka Administration

has been looking into having the bill amended to provide the county with

immunity from lawsuits rather than the indemnification. This change, said

Kusaka, would be met with stiff resistance from the powerful “plaintiff

attorney” lobby.

Amending legislation this late in the session may prove

tricky according to the rules and timetables set by the Legislature, said C.J.

Leong, assistant house clerk. The measure is headed to the house floor for a

vote.

If the bill is to be amended, it would have to “decked” by today.

That would create the opportunity for the bill to be amended on the House

Floor. However it is not a common practice to have bills amended on the Floor,

said Leong. “But it does happen,” she added.

The House Judiciary and

Hawaiian Affairs committee would need to initiate discussions related to any

amendment being offered on the floor. The bill if amended and passed would then

be sent back to the Senate for approval.

If the bill is not included in

today’s decking process, it could be held in the House, unamended, until April

27.

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