Hemmings may have the answer
Hawaii's 2007 legislative session began last Wednesday with its opening day ceremonies at the state Capitol.
There were the usual speeches filled with predictions, prayers and promises for our state, of course. But it was Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings (R, Lanikai, Waimanalo) who really caught my attention with his references to recreational boating.
After pointing out that our state's current economic challenges are generations old, he went on to say that the response of this year's Legislature must not be business as usual.
"Senate Republicans believe we should focus this session on three initiatives: the family, the economy, and the environment," Hemmings said.
In one example -- and after pointing out that Hawaii has fewer available boat moorings than any other state and our boat harbors are in the doldrums -- Hemmings proposed legislation that if passed could revitalize our recreational boating industry.
Hemmings noted that maritime industries in Hawaii are long overdue, as they have been hindered by government-induced red tape, time, money, and taxes that chase business away from Hawaii. He explained his bill would create "maritime industry enterprise zones" that would provide streamlined permitting and tax credits for revenue-producing businesses.
After reading his proposed legislation in total, I believe that if enacted, its provisions would finally correct the decline of our public marinas that has been ongoing since the Department of Land and Natural Resources took responsibility for them in 1992.
Briefly, the bill would require the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, in consultation with an advisory committee, to designate maritime industry enterprise zones throughout our islands.
The advisory committee of six governor-appointed, volunteer members would be comprised of: one from the DBEDT (ex officio and non-voting), one "knowledgeable in the maritime industry" (who would serve as the chair), and four members representing the mayors of the counties.
The bill would require the DBEDT to establish environmental impact statements for all zones created and expedite the issuance of all necessary county permits. It would also establish a tiered system of business tax credits over a seven-year period.
One paragraph in the proposed bill states, "A maritime industry enterprise zone shall not be subject to the requirement for prior authorization of the Legislature by concurrent resolution."
This would apparently eliminate the need for what has historically been the biggest hurdle in establishing marina developments in Hawaii and would place the approval process where it belongs: at the individual counties' level, where citizen participation is the keenest.
As I noted in this column two weeks ago, the recreational boating industry generated more than $37 billion nationwide in sales and services in 2005.
Hemmings' bill would seem to be an outstanding vehicle for Hawaii to use in the pursuit of its fair share.
If you agree, contact his office at 587-8388 to find out how to help him get this measure passed.