5 New or Updated Hawai‘i State Laws You Need to Know About in 2016

It’s a new year, which means new state laws go into effect. Get to know these new or revised laws that might affect you or someone you know!
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More Hawaiian Plants 

Beginning on June 30, you might start seeing more hibiscus plants and other native Hawaiian plants around town. Under a revised law, new or renovated state landscaping projects must include Hawaiian plants, not just indigenous or Polynesian plants. It’s an effort to combat the recent influx of non-native and invasive plants in the Islands. All plans, designs and specifications for state buildings developed with public funds are now required to incorporate a minimum percentage of Hawaiian plants. By Jan. 1, 2030, Hawaiian plants will constitute a combined minimum of 25 percent of the total footprint for state landscaping projects. 


E-Cigarettes Banned in Public Places, Smoking Age Raised 

On Jan. 1, Hawai‘i became the first U.S. state to raise the legal age of smoking tobacco products and electronic smoking devices to 21. The Hawai‘i State Legislature also banned the use of electronic smoking devices where smoking is already illegal. Smokers are prohibited from lighting up e-cigarettes in public places or places of employment, including:

  • Work and educational settings

  • Restaurants and retail 

  • Hotels and multi-unit housing common areas 

  • Care and rehabilitation facilities, including prisons 

  • Indoor and outdoor recreational areas

  • Transportation-related areas 

You’ll start to notice updated “Smoking Prohibited By Law” signs that include the mention  of “e-cigarettes and all other electronic smoking devices.” 


Beach Protection 

Hawai‘i’s sandy beaches may be in trouble by mid-century. New research predicts global sea level rise may cause Hawai‘i’s coastal erosion to double by 2050. On July 1, the transient accommodations tax revenues will be reallocated to finance beach restoration and conservation projects. “Because of the growing demand for the use of beaches, the state needs to reinvest in its beaches,” according to the measure.


Voter Registration 

Hawai‘i now joins Connecticut and Colorado in allowing same-day voter registration. Back in June 2014, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed the legislation into law which goes into effect at absentee polling places this year, and then at all precinct polling places on Election Day in 2018. Will this improve Hawai‘i’s abysmally low voter turnout? We just hope it’ll help rid us of the image as “the state that doesn’t vote.”


Open Movie Captioning 

Good news for Hawai‘i’s deaf and blind. Starting this year, they’ll get to enjoy a movie on the big screen with audio description and open movie captioning during at least two showings each week. This state law applies to movie theaters with more than two locations in the state, including Consolidated Theatres in Ward, Pearlridge and Kāhala. Star Wars, anyone? The law sunsets Jan. 8, 2018 unless further legislative action is taken.