House committees vote to repeal public land agency
By ANITA HOFSCHNEIDER
HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers from two House committees have voted to repeal the Public Land Development Corporation, bowing to strong community opposition across the Hawaiian islands.
House committees on finance and land approved the measure Monday afternoon.
The more extreme bill prevailed over other proposals to merely reform the organization, which has been criticized for its power to override county zoning and permitting laws.
Rep. Cindy Evans, chairwoman of the House Committee on Water and Land, said opponents of the agency presented overwhelming opposition during a hearing last Saturday.
“Democracy has spoken loudly here,” Evans told The Associated Press. She said opponents of the agency made a compelling argument for repeal.
So many people testified about the issue that there was a delay in posting the testimony online, as letters continued to pour in days late.
Several bills before the House committees included proposals to reform the agency rather than scrap it altogether.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs submitted a bill to make the corporation more sensitive to Native Hawaiian culture and traditions.
But Evans says that because of public distrust, she doesn’t think the agency can be reformed or fixed at this point.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie suggested replacing the Public Land Development Corp. with an organization called the Harbors and Parks Development Authority. But critics say his proposal perpetuates the same problem under the guise of a different name.
Much of the outcry against the Public Land Development Corp. has come from environmental groups and community leaders at the county level who say the corporation’s powers impede on their right to home rule.
The state association of mayors and county councils voted last fall to get rid of the agency.
The Public Land Development Corp. was created in 2011 with the goal of increasing state revenue through private-public partnerships.
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