Airports authority bill clears Senate

A bill that would shift authority over the state’s airports from the Department of Transportation to an airport corporation was successfully passed Thursday by the state Senate.

Senators voted 30-2 to pass Senate Bill 2996 after a third reading. The bill now goes to the state House.

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The bill would establish an airport corporation, led by a governor-appointed board of directors, to take over all aspects of state airport management from the Department of Transportation by 2021. The airport corporation is intended to be a much more efficient means of managing Hawaii’s airports, particularly when it comes to construction and renovation projects.

Testimony presented in a pair of hearings was largely in support of the bill, particularly after the Senate Ways and Means Committee added provisions about how the bill would affect the corporation’s interactions with the State Procurement Office.

The only organization on record to oppose the most recent draft of the bill is the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which stated that, while the office has no stance regarding the corporation itself, language in the bill “would circumvent critical laws that protect Native Hawaiian rights related to ‘ceded’ lands, other public lands, and the public land trust.”

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However, most voices were in support of the bill, including the office of Gov. David Ige and the Department of Transportation, the latter of which stated that state-imposed budgetary constraints have caused the state’s airports to gradually deteriorate to conditions much worse than those of many other states.

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

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