Window tint bill likely to be postponed

  • Sue Lee Loy

A bill that would allow police to impound cars with window-tinting that is too dark likely will be postponed at a meeting of the Hawaii County Council this week.

County Bill 64 will make its return to the Hawaii County Council on Wednesday after several months of delay. But the bill, which gives police discretion to cite and remove cars with improper window-tinting, probably will be shelved again, said Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy.

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Lee Loy, who introduced the bill back in May, said she needs more time to reshape the bill after feedback from members of the community.

In particular, Lee Loy said the bill was criticized by operators of towing companies around the county, who already have difficulty finding space to store impounded vehicles under current conditions.

“I don’t want to say I’m appalled by it, but I thought ‘God, what a nightmare,’” said Nat Tomaselli, owner of Nat’s Towing Hawaii in Hilo.

Tomaselli said the bill appears to unfairly place a higher burden on towing companies, adding that it seems more logical to impose more enforcement during vehicle safety checks and certifications.

“It should be enforced at the safety check level, and it should end there,” Tomaselli said.

The bill is an amendment to “Aliyah’s Law,” a county law passed in 2012 named after a Kona toddler killed by a drunk driver in 2009.

Aliyah’s Law allows police officers to have a vehicle on public roads towed to a private tow yard at the owner’s expense for a number of offenses, including drunk driving, driving without a license, driving with fraudulent vehicle tags or other offenses.

The window-tinting bill’s last appearance before the council was in June, when it received criticism from other council members.

Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas said at that meeting that impounding a vehicle seemed too severe a penalty for the offense in question, and suggested that enforcing the law would put officers in needless conflict against vehicle owners.

Tomaselli agreed with the latter point, saying simply, “People with tinted windows are not going to be happy with us.”

Puna Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder also criticized the bill in June, worrying about police overreach and leaving such a decision to the discretion of an officer.

While Lee Loy pointed out on Friday that overly tinted windows are prohibited by federal and state laws — with a penalty of $250 to $500 for offenders — she recognized the difficulties the bill presents in its current state.

“When you write policy, you want it to be successful,” Lee Loy said. “But sometimes policies have hidden costs on the back end that you don’t see until they’re in place.”

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Lee Loy said she will look for other ways to enforce window-tinting regulations, but has not decided on what direction to take. Potential options include additional fees or working with the state Legislature to change the vehicle registration process.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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