By Malia Zimmerman | Hawaii Reporter
Most Hawaii residents haven’t heard of the Jones Act is, but one Hawaii lawyer and several business owners say the 1920 federal shipping law has a major negative impact on virtually every resident and business in the state, and they are challenging the law in U.S. District Court.
John Carroll, a lawyer and former state lawmaker, has filed a class action against the federal government on behalf of his clients, maintaining that the Jones Act violates the Commerce Clause by restricting shipping between states to American-owned and manned ships and thereby hurting businesses and residents by inflating the cost of goods.
The issue is hotly debated among Hawaii’s business owners and political elite, but largely ignored by the public.
Carroll and his clients, who include Patrick Novak, CEO of The French Gourmet; Daniel Rocha, a farmer and rancher; Ken Schoolland, a professor at Hawaii Pacific University, as well as William Akina, Bjorn Arntzen and Philip Wilkerson, say they hope to educate the public about the detriments of the Jones Act, which some experts argue increases the cost of living in the islands by as much as one third.
“The most important issue for me is the violation of the Commerce Clause,” Carroll said. “The founding fathers fought the British and over threw them based on imposition, without representation, of a tax on tea. This law’s enforcement taxes everyone who purchases anything in this state because of the excessive shipping costs, which seem to be out of control.”
Carroll maintains the lawsuit should be considered as Hawaii’s “revolution”… “to obtain economic freedom from monopolistic domination of shippers who face no competitors.”
But Carroll and other opponents of the Jones Act have met with powerful enemies who prefer to keep their control and profit.
Not surprisingly, the law has its advocates, including transportation companies, unions and lawmakers who benefit from political contributions.
Hawaii’s congressional delegation, with the exception of former U.S. Reps. Ed Case and Charles Djou, have been beneficiaries of substantial donations from Jones Act supporters, including Hawaii’s duopoly shipping companies Matson and Horizon.
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