Lingle pulls land talks with OHA off the table
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Gov. Linda Lingle says the failure of the state Legislature to approve a ceded-lands settlement with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was shortsighted and a disappointment.
The Republican governor was critical of the legislative session that ended Thursday, blasting the Democratic-controlled Legislature's rejection of her proposed deal with OHA as the lawmakers' greatest failure.
Lingle, however, said she was pleased that they did not override a veto of a bill to restrict her use of emergency powers to just natural disasters.
Another bright spot, according to Lingle: winning legislative approval to continue administration plans to buy and then preserve the Turtle Bay area of Oahu's North Shore.
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Rejection of a $200 million settlement between the state and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was the Legislature's biggest failure, according to Gov. Linda Lingle.
In a brief meeting with reporters yesterday, Lingle said her administration will not resume negotiations with OHA or offer any new proposals to the Legislature regarding the settlement required to satisfy state constitutional requirements.
The settlement called for giving OHA $13 million plus state land in Kakaako, Kapolei and the Big Island -- valued at $187 million. It also called for additional payments of $13 million a year.
Senate leaders said the settlement had not been discussed with the Hawaiian community, and directed OHA to start better communications and come back next year with another settlement.
Asked if the state would return to the bargaining table, Lingle said yesterday, "No, we won't."
"We were trying to help the Legislature. It was their responsibility. We worked in good faith for four years to bring them a package that was fair to taxpayers and the Hawaiian people," Lingle said.
"I think it was a bad, shortsighted, political decision," Lingle said. She singled out Sen. Jill Tokuda (D, Kaneohe-Kailua), who, as chairwoman of the Hawaiian Affairs Committee, played a big role in rejecting the settlement.
"The fact that a couple of people could stop something is always frustrating," Lingle said.
Tokuda responded that OHA was willing to continue the community discussion and return to the Legislature next year.
"I think they recognized the importance of taking a good look at the issue," Tokuda said. She denied that she unilaterally killed the settlement.
"I wouldn't say I am a one-man show. I think the Senate as a whole had a number of concerns," Tokuda said.
Winning legislative approval to continue administration plans to purchase and then preserve the Turtle Bay area of Oahu's North Shore was a bright spot for the Legislature, Lingle said.
Lingle singled out Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Kaneohe-Kahuku) and Rep. Mike Magaoay (D, Schofield-Kahuku) for their work moving the bill through the Legislature.
"The people who voted for Turtle Bay win very big because it shows a recognition that we need to preserve our state," Lingle said.
On Thursday evening the Legislature came close to overriding Lingle's veto of a measure that would have restricted her power to declare a state emergency and ignore state or county laws. The Senate approved the veto override, but the House failed to vote on it.
Lingle said she declared a state emergency to handle the problems with homelessness on the Leeward Coast, and the Legislature did not fight her.
"I truly believed it was a state health emergency," Lingle said, describing how officials saw homeless people using the beach as a toilet.
"I don't mean in the public bathroom, I mean on the public beach. There were children there, and they would go to public schools. I thought the chance of the spread of disease and illness was higher, and we needed to do something right away," Lingle said.
The state dropped environmental, procurement and zoning laws to speed the construction of emergency housing for the homeless.
Lingle said she understood that legislators were concerned, but when she wrote House and Senate leaders saying, "'If you have a problem with me using these powers, please let me know and we will just stop,' they did not ask me to stop," Lingle said.