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Lawmakers lead repeal efforts in Legislature


Tribune-Herald staff writer

For the state Legislature, 2013 might be the year of the repeal.

Since the session began Wednesday, several bills have been written to undo past legislation that critics say takes away local oversight over development.

One of the targets is the Public Land Development Corporation, and a few Big Island representatives are helping to lead the charge.

Reps. Faye Hanohano, Nicole Lowen and Cindy Evans, each representing Big Island districts, have sponsored one of two bills introduced as of Thursday to repeal Act 55, which created the PLDC.

Three other bills seek to repeal portions or amend the act.

The Legislature voted almost unanimously in 2011 to create the PLDC to spur development of state lands through public-private partnerships.

But it has been heavily criticized for its broad exemptions to local zoning and land use regulations. Several counties, including Hawaii County, and environmental groups have called for dissolving the agency.

Neither Hanohano, Lowen or Evans could be reached for comment.

Act 97, adopted last session, is the target of another repeal effort.

The act eliminated geothermal subzones, designated areas previously established to host geothermal power projects.

Critics say the move essentially allows such projects to occur anywhere. Hawaii County has also raised objections to the legislation, saying it eliminated references to county authority over permitting for such projects.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, Ka‘u, is leading the repeal effort and has drafted legislation to undo the act, according to state Sen. Josh Green, who co-sponsors the bill.

Ruderman couldn’t be reached immediately for comment Thursday.

Green, D-Kona, Ka‘u, was also a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 3003, which became Act 97 upon adoption.

He said he was unaware of the bill’s implications on county-level oversight and believes that needs to be fixed.

“I think definitely we want local input and local control,” he said.

Green said he remains a supporter of expanding geothermal energy.

He said he would also support amending the act but feels repeal is the right approach if it fixes the issue.

“Sometimes you have to slay the dragon in order to improve the situation,” Green said.

Rep. Denny Coffman, D-Kailua-Kona, Ocean View, said he is drafting his own bill to amend the act.

His legislation would return county permitting authority while avoiding reinstating the subzones.

“I do believe that the county controls agriculture, urban and rural jurisdictions,” Coffman said.

“And they need home rule for permitting anything going to be built in those areas.”

He said he was also unaware of the bill’s impact until it was sent to the Senate for consideration.

The repeal efforts come as good news to former Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim.

Kim said he had exited retirement to run for mayor again last year partially to seek the repeal of both acts.

Since losing to Mayor Billy Kenoi in November, he has continued efforts to undo the legislation, particularly Act 97, which has received much less attention.

He said he has met with community groups around the state and legislators, including Ruderman, to gain support for repeal.

“It’s going to take a lot of talking and work,” Kim said.

“This will take a community movement to repeal it,” he said, referring to Act 97.

On Wednesday, the Hawaii County Council will also weigh in on the act.

Councilwoman Brenda Ford has introduced a resolution urging its repeal.

Ford also introduced the resolution adopted by the council last year supporting repeal of the PLDC.

She said she sees both as threats to county oversight and called them “equally bad laws.”

“Anytime you take away home rule from the county I’m going to oppose that process,” Ford said.

“We are the closest to the issues and the problems here.”

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