Tuesday, May 28, 2002

State of Hawaii

Gov’s post-9/11 powers
over economy expire

What critics called the "King Ben"
bill was only used once

By Pat Omandam

A temporary law that sparked outrage because it gave the governor emergency powers to deal with last fall's economic crisis following the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks expired without fanfare April 30.

Known by critics as the "King Ben" bill, the controversial legislation was created during the November special session.

As enacted, the measure empowered the governor to suspend state rules, contracts, services, etc., to prevent endangerment of public health, safety or welfare to deal with the economic emergency.

Gov. Ben Cayetano used the emergency powers just once. In February he provided $21 million in rent relief to state airport concessionaires through a program that allowed them to pay the state lease rent based on a percentage of their revenue and not on minimum guaranteed payments as spelled out in their state contracts.

Airport vendors had complained about lost revenue due to decreased air travel traffic and increased airport security, and told lawmakers during the special session they needed financial relief to carry them through this period.

Lawmakers tried but failed this year to extend the powers for a year. House Minority Leader Galen Fox (R, Waikiki) said those emergency powers are not needed today.

"It would have been wrong to act like the emergency was continuing, even though our economy still continues to be down," Fox said. "It just isn't described as an emergency at this point."

State of Hawaii

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