LIHU‘E — Gov. Neil Abercrombie has signed into law HB 2626, also known as Safe Routes to School Bill, which promotes children walking and biking safely to school.
The bill, crafted by Rep. Derek Kawakami, D-14th District, becomes effective in September, and adds surcharges of $10 or $25 to traffic tickets, depending on where the violation occurred. The surcharge will be used to fund an statewide Safe Routes to School program.
“We are the first state in the entire nation to have a statewide Safe Routes to School bill,” said Get Fit Kaua‘i Coordinator Bev Brody, calling Tuesday a “historic day.”
Never before has Hawai‘i’s Legislature given money from traffic violations back to the counties, she said.
Brody said that last year she approached Kawakami about introducing legislation that would guarantee the continuation of the program she started on Kaua‘i almost two years ago. She said Kawakami told her he loved the idea, and about a month later they met to begin crafting the bill.
Prior to the bill’s introduction at the state Legislature in January, Deb Hubsmith, the director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, was visiting Kaua‘i.
Brody said Hubsmith, who started the nationwide walking/biking to school movement years ago, helped with valuable input before the bill was first read.
“Safe Routes to School is all about addressing the obesity epidemic in children and creating an infrastructure so they can walk or bike safely to school,” Brody said.
Kawakami co-introduced the bill on Jan. 26, along with 15 other state representatives, including Kaua‘i’s Reps. Jimmy Tokioka, D-15th District, and Dee Morikawa, D-16th District.
Get Fit Kaua‘i, a nutrition and physical fitness coalition, first started the Safe Routes to School/Walking Bus program at Kapa‘a Elementary School.
Children are encouraged to walk to school every fourth Wednesday of the month. The program since has expanded to Koloa, Kilauea, Kalaheo and Kapa‘a’s St. Catherine’s schools on Kaua‘i.
But the funding source for the program was going to run out at some point, according to Brody. The program is currently funded by the state Health Department’s Healthy Hawai‘i Initiative, through a tobacco settlement fund.
The new legislation will allow the program to continue for generations, she said.
“This bill will be here forever for our kids and grandkids,” Brody said. “They will be walking and biking to school safely because of this bill.”
Tuesday also marked the day Abercrombie made his final decision on all 2012 legislative bills.
Of the 345 measures passed this year, 329 are now law. Abercrombie signed 323 measures into law and vetoed 14.
Six measures became law without his signature, according to a state news release.
“This was a very, very productive legislative session and one of the most positive in recent memory,” Abercrombie said in the release.
“I’m very pleased to have signed off on a majority of the measures that passed out of the session and am grateful to those who worked to see them through.”
Visit www.hawaii.gov for more information.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.