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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, March 7, 2003

Senate scraps landfill bill

By Lynda Arakawa and Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Senators yesterday buried a bill that would have supported the establishment of a landfill over underground drinking water sources.

The Senate, by a voice vote, recommitted Senate Bill 1532 Senate Draft 1 back to the Senate Water, Land and Agriculture Committee, where it will likely die this session.

The bill was amended on Tuesday to say the counties "may" rather than "shall" allow a landfill to be built over an aquifer to make it more palatable for senators, but some still had problems with the bill.

"I think people were concerned about the environmental concerns and so we take that to heart; we want to make sure that the next time we address this particular issue that we actually address the environmental question," said Senate President Robert Bunda, D-22nd (North Shore, Wahiawa), who introduced the measure.

"This issue is a major concern for the general public," Bunda said. "And solid waste is a major concern in our district, so perhaps maybe what we need to do is to actually look at some other alternatives and some plans in the interim."

The bill was one of a handful lawmakers in the Senate and House dealt with yesterday in preparation for tonight's deadline known as "crossover," when bills are approved and moved to the other legislative body. On Tuesday, about 600 bills were transferred between the two legislative bodies.

Currently, state law does not prohibit building landfills over aquifers, but some opponents said the bill would have reversed state policy against it. Other opponents said the measure raised a homerule issue because landfills are a responsibility of the counties rather than the state.

Bunda said landfills are in fact a state issue, and denied public comments and speculation that he was pushing the issue as a favor to Central O'ahu Recycling and Disposal Facility, Inc., which last year proposed to the Honolulu City Council building a 100-acre landfill on Campbell Estate land in Kunia. The property is over the Pearl Harbor aquifer.

Clyde Kaneshiro, president of Central O'ahu Recycling and Disposal Facility, and Campbell Estate had testified in support of the Senate bill this year.

Kat Brady of Life of the Land, who heavily lobbied senators to oppose the bill, called yesterday's recommittal "a great victory for the community because their voice was heard and their voice clearly said protect the public trust, don't give away our public resources for private developments that are going to harm the community."

Honolulu City Councilman Mike Gabbard, who had introduced in January a resolution barring landfills over drinking water supplies, hailed the Senate's action, but said the fight is not over yet.

"We're back to square one with a developer standing ready, plans in hand, to put a dump over our drinking water," Gabbard said. "The Honolulu City Council needs to step forward and make a strong policy statement that putting landfills over our drinking water is never an option."

The Senate also narrowly approved a bill that would require people who acquire a business with more than 100 employees to keep at least half of the nonsupervisory employees. Senate Bill 1 Senate Draft 2 would exempt construction businesses.

The Senate voted 13-12 on the measure, with opponents saying it would discourage investment in Hawai'i and backers saying it supports the working public.

The Senate also voted unanimously to confirm Gov. Linda Lingle's appointment of Nelson Befitel as director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Senate Labor Committee Chairman Brian Kanno, D-19th (Kapolei, Makakilo, Waikele), said Befitel, who was the chief legal adviser for Lingle's gubernatorial campaign, received the support of more than 130 government officials, community leaders and others.

Sen. Sam Slom, R-8th (Kahala, Hawai'i Kai), described Befitel as an energetic, hard worker who has the ability to bring businesses and labor together.

In the House yesterday, a request for a $1 million emergency appropriation to bolster the governor's office budget and provide furniture for her new residence was halved despite objections from the Republican caucus.

Minority Whip Mark Moses, R-40th (Makakilo, Kapolei, Royal Kunia), led a charge to restore the funding noting that the Legislature last year slashed the governor's office budget by a third. "We knew that an emergency appropriation would be necessary this year to cover the shortfall," he said. "Give the governor the money needed to operate the office and stop this partisan behavior."

House Majority Whip Brian Schatz, D-25th (Makiki, Tantalus), said the $491,000 cut to the request included nearly $220,000 the governor's office itself acknowledged it does not need.

Several Democrats questioned the idea of spending $93,500 for furniture at the new governor's residence behind Washington Place, which was built with donations but came with few furnishings, when health, education and social service programs were being reduced. "We've got other emergencies in other areas," said Human Services Chairman Michael Kahikina, D-44th (Nanakuli, Honokai Hale).

Lingle told reporters the move by House Democrats was "strictly partisan."

Advertiser staff writer Will Hoover also contributed to this report. Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com and Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com. Or reach both at 525-8070.