Final bills include
Ko Olina tax credits
The $75 million boost will
help construction of West Oahu's
A plan to build a world-class aquarium at the Ko Olina Resort and Marina appears headed for final legislative approval in the form of $75 million in tax credits for construction of the tourist attraction in West Oahu.
The Ko Olina bill was among hundreds that passed out of conference committee in a flurry of last-minute activity as lawmakers worked right up until a midnight deadline on Friday to get all proposed bills into their final forms.
Another key measure passed just ahead of the midnight deadline was a watered-down compromise on the issue of bringing control of public schools closer to local communities that establishes in law practices that already are being undertaken by the state schools superintendent.
All measures face final floor votes on Tuesday and Thursday, when the Legislature wraps up the 2003 session.
While the Ko Olina measure passed, lawmakers ran out of time on a bill that would allow the state to issue $40 million in special facility revenue bonds for a second aquarium -- an ocean science center in Oahu's downtown Kakaako district.
Lawmakers also shelved a proposal providing tax credits for private investment in a new motor sports park at Kalaeloa and a proposal to expand the tax credit that motion picture and television production companies can claim for costs incurred while filming in Hawaii.
"I think tax credits are going to become decreasingly realistic in the next year or two," said House Economic Development and Business Chairman Brian Schatz (D,Tantalus-Makiki). "We're going to have to come up with economic development strategies that don't require a lot of public resources."
The Ko Olina measure allows investors to claim a maximum credit of $7.5 million a year for investment costs incurred between June 1, 2003, and May 31, 2009. Both houses approved a similar measure last year that was vetoed by then-Gov. Ben Cayetano.
Gov. Linda Lingle is expected to sign the bill. In her State of the State address in January and at other public appearances, Lingle said she supports the bill as a means of revitalizing the economy of Oahu's Leeward Coast.
One measure that Lingle touted all year but was unsuccessful in swaying lawmakers on was a proposal to let voters decide whether to amend the state Constitution and allow for local school boards.
Each chamber instead crafted its own plan to bring school control closer to communities, with the House looking to establish 15 complex area school advisory councils and the Senate going with seven regional administrative units.
The two sides settled on a measure that simply establishes 15 "complex areas" consisting of multiple schools as determined by the state superintendent in consultation with complex area superintendents.
The bill also requires complex areas to ensure that curricula within each complex -- a high school and the elementary and middle schools that feed into it -- is aligned with state standards and demonstrates a "coherent progression" throughout all grade levels.
House Education Chairman Roy Takumi (D, Pearl City-Pacific Palisades) called the plan a "good first step" as lawmakers continue to study the idea of local school boards and other ways to improve Hawaii's public schools.
"The important thing that we did was to establish, by law, the 15 complex areas that the superintendent has created administratively," he said. "We're saying at the Legislature that we believe that no matter who the superintendent, this is the proper way and the best way to administer the schools.
"Second thing we did was we said the complexes must align their curriculum ... which is a hit or miss thing now, some complexes have done it some have not. We're saying in the Legislature that all the complexes should ensure that their curriculum from the K-to-12 is aligned."