State senators say business at the Hawaii Convention Center would improve if renters' identities were kept from the public.

Veto sought
on secrecy measure

The bill withholds convention
center renters' identities

Republican senators will ask Gov. Linda Lingle to veto a bill that allows the Hawai'i Convention Center to keep secret who rents the state-owned facility.

With last-minute support from Sens. Colleen Hanabusa and Donna Kim, SB 2395 cleared the Senate yesterday 14-10.

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Charging the state is trading away the public's right to know, a bipartisan group of senators opposed the bill. Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) said he would ask Lingle to veto the bill. Lingle has not taken a position on the measure.

Opponents said that private convention facilities in Hawaii are already available to host groups that do not want any publicity, but Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) said the convention managers told her the business could be worth $11 million a year to the convention center.

Republican Sen. Gordon Trimble, who represents the Waikiki areas around the Kalakaua Avenue center, argued that his constituents "have a right to know whether it is the World Trade Organization or the Ku Klux Klan coming to town."

The bill requires the convention center to respond to questions from members of the Legislature when they ask who is leasing space. Hanabusa claimed that would put the Legislature in position to provide the information the bill hides from the public.

"It makes the Legislature really the watchdog," Hanabusa said. "It would be up to each and every member of the Legislature to do as what they believe they need to know or should know."

She added: "It is not the onerous bill that it has been made out to be. I trust the members of this legislative body will be there to ensure that nothing goes forward that would infringe on the rights of the public."

But Sen. Les Ihara (D, Kapahulu-Palolo) said the legislative exemption just complicates the issue.

"Why give the Legislature access but not the public?" he asked. "If legislators aren't expected to keep this secret, if we are going to make it public, what is the purpose in this legislation?"

Kim, chairwoman of the tourism committee, said the bill was designed to help the unprofitable convention center make money.

"If the convention center is successful, we can repeal this measure," said Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa).


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