County will revise lifeguard bill; try again

CIRA de CASTILLOTGI Staff Writer

LIHU’E – Gov. Ben Cayetano’s veto last week of a bill that would have made it

feasible for the county to post lifeguards on more beaches was anticipated by

lobbyists who had worked to get the measure approved.

“I think we got

trapped in the bureaucratic madness,” said Hanalei fire captain Bob

Kaden.

“On one hand the AG (attorney general) doesn’t want to have to

defend the counties and the trial lawyers don’t want the counties to have

immunity. I don’t think there is any consideration here on what is

moral.”

A member of the fire department’s water safety and rescue team,

Kaden has taken part in many North Shore rescues and has witnessed many

drownings.

What is needed, he said, is an assault on the system. “This

ocean is the state’s jurisdiction. I don’t care if you have to cross county

parks to get to the ocean.”

Cayetano said he vetoed the bill because it

would have imposed liability upon the state for personal injury or death

occurring at county-operated beach parks, even though the state is not in

control of the beach parks and cannot avoid the injury or death.

He said

the bill should have called for immunity from legal action rather than

indemnity.

Councilman Billy Swain, who headed the county’s legislative

lobby this session, said he had anticipated that Cayetano would veto the

bill.

“In the hearing, the Attorney General had testified against the bill

and asked that it be killed because of the indemnity part, and we knew it would

be tough to get it past the Governor based on that,” Swain said.

The

positive side of the situation, he said, is that Cayetano’s veto message stated

his support for granting the counties immunity from litigation resulting from

lifeguard services.

“So the county will start right now and put together a

bill that would grant immunity to the counties and introduce it next session,”

he said.

The Councilman cautioned however that immunity bills don’t do well

before the Legislature because of the strong plaintiff attorneys’ lobby. “So

the battle would be with the plaintiff attorneys as opposed to the attorney

general,” said Swain.

Kaden like Swain saw a positive side to the

Governor’s veto.

“The Governor is saying specifically what he didn’t like

about the bill and we can come at it next time and get it right. We are going

to get this right next year,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kaden says that the

county and the visitor industry has to be as straight forward as possible to

inform visitors about the dangers of the ocean.

Kaden said the Kusaka

Administration tried hard to get the bill passed.

The rest of the state,

he said, needs to get the same message that the Kaua’i media has been putting

out about the importance of the lifeguard legislation. “It seemed to be a

non-issue in Honolulu,” he said.

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