Partisan showmanship highlighted otherwise lackluster session
The state Legislature has closed up shop for another year.
STATE lawmakers have concluded a session
that will be memorable for leaving two important state agencies without permanent leadership, displays of political stagecraft and generally timid, reactive legislation.
Bold steps to boost construction of homes priced in the financial reach of middle-income families and young people failed to materialize as pedestrian proposals that could have had unintended consequences met opposition or indifference.
One such idea was to exempt housing developers from land-use, zoning, environmental studies and other county laws if they built affordable rental projects. That alarmed county officials, who saw the proposal as jeopardizing sensible planning and usurping their authority. But their concerns didn't kill the measure. With the housing market thriving, few developers found the plan financially attractive when more money could be made conventionally.
As other housing measures, including legislation to curb speculation, fell by the wayside, lawmakers contented themselves with sending more of the state's budget surplus toward a rental housing trust fund, renovating public housing and providing financial support to keep some units in the Kukui Gardens complex affordable in the long term.
The session began with a bit of drama in the House as three unhappy Democrats voted against the leadership in what is usually a pro forma election. That sincere but futile act was eclipsed in the Senate when Democrats, armed with subpoenas, took down public safety director nominee Iwalani White and land and natural resources director Peter Young in a tour de force of political showmanship.
The session was supposed to be focused on sustainability, but that agenda faded quickly. Still, lawmakers managed to pass a significant bill to curb global warming pollution. Republican Gov. Linda Lingle should follow the lead of Arnold Schwarzenegger, her Republican counterpart in California, and sign the bill to make Hawaii the second state to adopt such a measure. Then, if only for this, legislators can claim success.
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