Legislators approve bill for Turtle Bay purchase
State lawmakers gave final approval yesterday to a bill supporting Gov. Linda Lingle's ambitious plan to buy the Turtle Bay Resort property and now wait to see what kind of deal can be negotiated.
The Turtle Bay proposal was among handful of bills taken up by lawmakers yesterday as they adjourned the 2008 regular session.
Lingle, in her State of the State address in January, proposed buying the land to prevent further development and maintain the rural nature of the community.
Lawmakers worked throughout the session to strike a compromise, reaching one just minutes ahead of a midnight deadline last Friday. The proposal, Senate Bill 2423, authorizes up to $250,000 in special funds to be used by the Lingle administration to negotiate a deal.
In the Senate, the proposal divided both parties on a 14-11 vote.
Sen. Clayton Hee, who has worked closely with the Lingle administration on the legislation, said Lingle still will have to come back to explain her plan.
"This is not a done deal," said Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe). "To do the deal, the governor will have to call us back to a special session. She will have to convince all of us, and that is when she will be asked to fish or cut bait.
"But this bill sends a message that resonates with all residents of Hawaii. It is a dramatic step forward."
Lingle and members of her administration have said the legislation is not needed or required to proceed with negotiations, and is more symbolic of the Legislature's support for any such deal.
Before the Senate vote, Lingle's senior policy adviser, Linda Smith, met privately with GOP Sens. Sam Slom and Gordon Trimble to address their concerns about the bill. Trimble went into the meeting with Smith saying he was undecided and came out agreeing to vote for the measure, but Slom said he was not convinced.
"We are not talking about keeping country country. The issue is whether state government can come in and be involved in the affairs of a private business," said Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai).
The vote was 37-10 in the House, with all opposing votes cast by Democrats.
Critics argued that the proposal showed favoritism toward a specific district and should not be a priority, considering the economic conditions of the state.
"With Hawaii's economic vitality in question, how in the world can we begin going down the road of spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer money for the purchase of Turtle Bay?" said Rep. Glenn Wakai (D, Moanalua Valley-Salt Lake).
Rep. Blake Oshiro (D, Aiea-Halawa) argued in favor of the bill, saying he understands the concerns, but added, "If you don't try and if you don't act, then the answer will always be no."
Another bill approved by the Legislature included a proposal requiring that all new single-family homes built after 2010 have solar water heating systems.
Kauai's lone senator, Gary Hooser, said he has been working four years to get a mandatory solar water heating bill passed.
"When I started, oil was $40 a barrel, and this week it was $119 a barrel," said Hooser (D, Kauai-Niihau). "This bill will be a huge leap by reducing energy consumption by 30 to 40 percent."
Hooser said SB 644 does not touch the existing tax credits for homes that have already been built, but requires that new construction include solar water heaters.
Star-Bulletin staff writer Richard Borreca contributed to this report.