Friday | July 21, 2017
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Gov. Ige does a 180 on revitalization bill

Part of Hawaii Island’s ambitious legislative package to revitalize two areas in Hilo was pulled back from the brink Tuesday when Gov. David Ige issued his final list of vetoed bills.

Last month, House Bill 575 was one of 15 bills on Ige’s veto list. But it, along with a bill allowing a state department to conduct a pilot recycling program, will instead become law.

Ige will not sign the measure, according to a release from the Governor’s Office, but bills become law without a signature if they are not vetoed by July 14.

At the start of the 2017 legislative session, HB 575 was part of an eight-bill package put forth by East Hawaii legislators that was intended to facilitate economic redevelopment in Hilo. Two locations in particular — Banyan Drive and the Kanoelehua Industrial Area — were focal points of the package.

Both areas are mainly comprised of state-owned land that is leased out under 65-year terms. HB 575 notes that the limits on the lease “without the possibility of renewing the terms … leaves businesses that have existed in the community for decades with limited options.”

The bill allows leaseholders who made significant investments in their properties to renegotiate their leases with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources without going to public auction first. The auction process is typically required for state-leased lands (public auctions were still listed as an option under HB 575).

HB 575 specified that only commercial and industrial lessees within the last 10 years of their lease could request an extension. This provision led to the proposed veto: The primary concern with the bill was the possibility it was in violation of the state constitution because the section pertaining to Banyan Drive and the Kanoelehua Industrial Area was special legislation.

“It limits application of the bill to commercial and industrial lands only, without distinguishing these lands from other public lands under lease,” Ige wrote in a statement last month.

“If it had been vetoed, we would have been back at square one, and we would have had to go through the Legislature and get it all passed again,” said Rep. Mark Nakashima, D-Hamakua, North Hilo, South Hilo, who introduced the bill. HB 575 passed in the final hours of the legislative session this year.

“I’m pleasantly surprised that the governor did reconsider the issues that he shared with me,” Nakashima said, calling the decision “a step forward with regard to state management of the leased lands.”

During next year’s legislative session, lawmakers plan to introduce amendments to the bill to ensure it is not special legislation and thus subject to possible litigation.

“The bill will become law, and my sense is that with the way these things work, nobody’s going to try to do anything right away that immediately utilizes the terms,” Nakashima said.

Email Ivy Ashe at iashe@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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