Senate Bill 1358 – Government Permits for Peaceful Assemblies

Picture of Hawaii State Capitol

By: J. S.

Senate Bill 1358, relating to permits, was introduced on January 27, 2021. The bill is described as “requiring an applicant for a permit for a protest or activity to submit an attestation that all law, including traffic laws, will be obeyed. Any permit application requires approval from the department, the county, and the police.” The bill also “amends the offense of disorderly conduct to include a fine of $100 for obstruction.” Read the full Senate Bill here. Currently at 25% progression, the bill passed its first reading on January 29 and was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary on February 1. The bill is sponsored by Senator Lorraine Inouye of Hawaii Island’s 4th District.

Senate Bill 1358 lays out several conditions for citizens, who must obtain a “permit for a protest or other activity” and “shall require approval by: The department to whom the application is submitted; A representative from the county in which the protest or activity is to take place; and The chief of police of the respective county.” The bill states that “the purpose of this Act is to encourage any person engaging in any protest to obey existing laws and not obstruct traffic.” The bill goes on to define obstructing in the following manner: “A person commits the offense of obstructing if, whether alone or with others and having no legal privilege to do so, the person knowingly or recklessly: (a) Obstructs any highway or public passage; or (b) Provides less than thirty-six inches of space for passage on any paved public sidewalk.”

The right of American citizens to peaceful assembly is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The right to peacefully assemble in Hawaii has historically been a way for various groups of citizens to peacefully express a wide range of concerns with government decisions. Through the changing tides of leadership, peaceful assembly unrestrained by the government’s “granting” of the right, has acted as a catalyst for positive changes and a chance for the voices of Native Hawaiians and all citizens of Hawaii to have their concerns expressed in a respectful manner.

As of February 23, the Senate Bill is not yet scheduled for an upcoming hearing. Citizens interested in following this and other House and Senate bills can visit the Hawaii legislative website to review updates to bills and submit written and verbal testimony at certain points throughout the legislative process. For those interested in learning more about local politics and their district and state representatives, this website also provides details of all current bills, as well as information about the legislative calendar, representatives and ways to submit testimony. An additional resource for staying up to date with current bills is by monitoring legiscan.com which provides updates to your email for easy bill tracking.