Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lingle takes her time on Superferry legislation

Lingle takes her time on Superferry legislation


Supporters and foes pack Maui meeting

Gov. Linda Lingle has yet to call the state Legislature into special session this week as expected, saying she is waiting for "consensus" on a proposed bill to keep the Superferry alive.

Lawmakers say they are ready to meet to consider their bill, and they are waiting for the governor to call them back to work.

On Maui, meanwhile, the consensus yesterday among speakers at a heavily attended public hearing on the proposal was that the Legislature should not create a law to exempt the Superferry from a court injunction.


Gov. Linda Lingle says that she has not yet reached "general consensus" with the House and Senate about the terms of a bill to save the Hawaii Superferry and is delaying a call for a special session.

"We have a draft bill we have been reviewing, both the House, Senate, Superferry and myself, and whether or not we have a general consensus prior to the session beginning is going to determine whether or not I call them into session," Lingle said yesterday on a live radio show.

Democratic legislative leaders have tentatively set the session to open tomorrow at 9 a.m. and run for a minimum of five days.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and House Speaker Calvin Say released yesterday a copy of a letter they sent to Lingle saying they were ready for a special session.

"We have met with the members of our respective chambers and ascertained that there is support to convene a special session for the purposes of addressing matters pertaining to the Superferry," the letter said.

The Legislature plans to consider a bill that would let the Superferry sail from Oahu to Maui and Kauai without having to comply with a court order that it wait until an environmental impact statement be completed.

Last night, Say added that he was watching both Lingle and the Senate, saying he was confident that the House Democrats had the votes to allow the Superferry to sail despite a court injunction forbidding it to use Maui harbor facilities.

Say noted that the Senate has been holding public hearings on the neighbor islands, and wondered whether the hearings will result in changes to a draft bill proposed Friday.

"The Senate hearing is going on. I don't know what they have in mind at this point. It is up to the Senate if they agree. For what purpose are the informational briefings, to amend the bill? I don't know," Say said.

Yesterday morning, Hanabusa said she was still waiting for Lingle to call the session. "I don't know what she is holding it up for. I thought the positions were done," Hanabusa said.

Hanabusa, however, noted that she was not sure the Friday draft was something "that all will agree to."

Sen. Brian Taniguchi, who has been leading the informational briefings or hearings on Kauai and Maui, called the Friday draft "a starting point."

"I don't think necessarily that the draft is going to pass as it is now," Taniguchi said. "There are a lot of concerns about it. I am pretty sure it may not be the draft we come up with on Wednesday."

"The draft may be the best solution, but at this point I don't see it," he added.

According to the state Constitution, the Legislature can call itself back into a special session with a two-thirds vote, but Hanabusa said she did not think she could get two-thirds of the senators to approve the draft bill.

Lingle is allowed to call the Legislature into special session for up to 30 days.

About 300 people attended yesterday's Superferry hearing on Maui at Baldwin High School.

Supporters and foes pack Maui meeting

WAILUKU » Dozens of Maui residents told state lawmakers yesterday that they do not want a special law to permit the Hawaii Superferry to operate while an environmental impact statement is compiled.

Big Isle hearing

The last neighbor island hearing for the Superferry is set for 3 p.m. today in Kealakehe High School cafeteria in Kailua-Kona.

Several residents told state lawmakers that they should let stand Maui Judge Joseph Cardoza's ruling requiring the Superferry not to operate while conducting an environmental study, and they warned it would undermine people's respect for the law.

Hawaii Wildlife Fund official Hannah Bernard said nullifying a judge's decision through a legislative exemption would send the wrong message to children about how a law can be changed to favor a single business that has money.

"It's breaking our community apart," Bernard said.

More than 300 people attended the hearing at Baldwin High School's auditorium yesterday afternoon, the second of three such hearings conducted by legislators in advance of an anticipated special session. Of those who attended, 167 people signed up to give their testimony.

Early into the hearing, several people including Superferry employees were booed when they testified in favor of the legislation.

Wailuku businesswoman Terri Pintacura said she feels the Superferry will help to broaden her ceramics business, and she had planned to use it to attend a craft show at the Blaisdell Arena. She said expressing her opinions has hurt her business.

"I've lost customers because of my opinion on the Superferry," she said.

Randy Awo, chief of state conservation enforcement on Maui, did not say whether he favored or opposed the special session. But Awo said it has been frustrating to try to carry out his branch's mission of protecting Hawaiian cultural and natural resources.

"We ask that you provide us the means to be effective at what we can do," Awo said.

Masako Wescott, a farmer, said she was worried about the Superferry carrying invasive species that could destroy the local farm industry. Wescott said fire ants on the Big Island have forced two businesses to shut down because they were unable to recruit pickers.

Representatives of Maui Tomorrow, a group that brought the environmental lawsuit against the Superferry, said the attempt by the Legislature to bypass a judge's ruling was clearly unconstitutional.

"Please don't abandon the concerns of the environment," said Irene Bowie, executive director of Maui Tomorrow.

Maui Tomorrow attorney Isaac Hall said it was the Legislature's duty to protect the public and its constitutional rights. He said instead of honoring Cardoza's decision, state legislators want to ignore it.

"What right do you have as a Legislature to ignore it?" he asked.

Freelance writer Wendy Osher contributed to this report.