The Maui News
Sunday, May 4, 2008
By CLAUDINE SAN NICOLAS, Staff Writer
MAUI COUNTY HIGHLIGHTS
HONOLULU — Children, trauma care and Hansen's disease patients exiled to Kalaupapa were on the minds of Maui's three state senators at last week's closure of the 2008 legislative session.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 208 recognizes and acknowledges the people of Kalaupapa and their families for the sacrifices of thousands of people exiled to the Molokai peninsula because they had Hansen's disease, also known as leprosy. The resolution apologizes to them for harsh restrictions that caused them undue pain as the result of government policies surrounding leprosy.
According to the resolution, from 1866 to 1969, an estimated 8,000 citizens were forced to leave their families and be isolated on Molokai because of society's fear of Hansen's disease.
State Sen. Kalani English, whose district includes Molokai, East Maui, Upcountry and Lanai, said that while there were many bills passed this legislative session, the resolution was one of the most significant measures approved.
"It goes a long way to honoring the dignity of those who were isolated by Hansen's disease," English said Friday.
While the adoption of the resolution does not confer any legal rights or remedies, it nonetheless apologizes for the harsh treatment of past and current residents of Kalaupapa.
English said he plans to make the resolution presentation later this fall to the patients who still are in Kalaupapa. "I was very, very honored to introduce the measure. . . . This resolution is a landmark measure," he said.
English also joined Sens. Roz Baker of West and South Maui and Shan Tsutsui of Central Maui in applauding the passage of Senate Bill 69.
Sponsored by Baker, Tsutsui and others, the measure temporarily expands eligibility for the state's Keiki Care Program to assist children of workers employed by Hawaii-based corporations that filed for bankruptcy and stopped doing business in Hawaii between Feb. 29 and Sept. 30 of this year.
The measure temporarily expands eligibility for health insurance coverage at no cost to children of former Aloha, ATA and Molokai Ranch employees.
"It's another sleeper bill that people didn't follow, but it has a significant impact," English said.
"This bill was extremely important to me this session because I know that many of our local residents are affected by the closing of two major airlines as well as Molokai Ranch," Tsutsui said. "Not only have people lost their jobs, but the loss of health coverage for their children is a critical issue which the Legislature knew was imperative to address."
In an e-mail to The Maui News, Baker listed about a dozen bills that she either introduced or helped get approved in this year's Legislature.
They include Senate Bill 1804, which sets up a trauma system special fund. It creates a series of surcharges on traffic offenses to augment funding from cigarette tax increases initially enacted in 2006. This is important, Baker said, because it will assist Maui Memorial Medical Center, which has the second busiest emergency room in the state, to ramp up its services and become a more highly skilled trauma center.
Baker also provided highlights on the following approved measures:
Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at email@example.com.
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