Hawaii will not see an increase in the state minimum wage this year, but another measure still moving through the Legislature also involves the same law.

Senate Bill 793 calls for repealing the section of state law that denies people with disabilities the guarantee of a minimum wage, which is currently $10.10 an hour in Hawaii.

In essence, the current law allows for payment instead of a subminimum wage for workers with disabilities.

SB 793 explains that the Legislature finds that “the real problems of disability arise not from the medical conditions themselves, but rather from the low expectations, misinformation, and socially‑constructed systemic barriers associated with the conditions.”

Sharon Moriwaki Con Con Panel.
State Sen. Sharon Moriwaki is the chief author of SB 793. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

It adds, “Individuals with disabilities are subject to low expectations particularly in employment and the system preparing them for employment, such as education and rehabilitation programs.”

The origins of the exemption date to the 1938 federal Fair Labor Standards Act. SB 793 says the federal law no longer fulfills its original intent to create job opportunities for the disabled and in fact “runs contrary” to the Americans With Disability Act that was enacted in 1990.

The bill has the support of the state Department of Health, the Disability and Communication Access Board, the state Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Hawaii State Committee of Blind Vendors and a host of other groups.

The problem is that the House and Senate have not yet agreed on the language of SB 793.

Sen. Sharon Moriwaki, the lead sponsor of the bill, remains hopeful of eventual passage but notes that similar measures have died in previous sessions.

“I don’t want it to die,” she said Wednesday. “We need this bill because we should really treat the disabled equitably.”

SB 793 has a conference committee meeting Thursday midday and faces a 6 p.m. deadline Friday in order to advance. The 2021 session concludes April 29.

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