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Posted: Monday, March 3rd, 2014 12:23 PM HST

Hawaii advances bill to fine lying at bus stops

By Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) Lying down and obstructing a bus stop would become a misdemeanor and could result in a $50 fine under a bill passed by the Hawaii House of Representatives.

The measure is aimed at keeping bus stops clear for travelers. But in debate on the House floor Thursday, lawmakers argued that it could punish people who are just scrounging for shelter.

Democratic Rep. James Tokioka, of Wailua Homesteads and Hanamaulu, says the measure is slightly draconian. Rep. Marcus Oshiro, a Democrat representing Wahiawa and Whitmore Village, says it was "hypocritical" to pass the measure while the House is also advancing a Homeless Bill of Rights that would define and protect the civil rights of homeless people.

Forty-five of every 10,000 people in Hawaii are homeless, the highest rate of any state, according to a 2012 report by the Homelessness Research Institute.

Rep. Jo Jordan, a Democrat representing Waianae and Makaha, told her colleagues the measure could be self-defeating if enforced, as unpaid fines could keep a person from qualifying for public housing assistance.

In support of the bill, Rep. Karl Rhoads, a Democrat of Kalihi and Palama, says the needs of people without homes must be balanced against the needs of people who use transit.

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