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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lingle saves surf bill that lawmakers killed

By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Staff Writer

Gov. Linda Lingle established surfing reserves by executive order yesterday, resurrecting a measure killed by lawmakers in what could be a first in Hawai'i politics.

The move was a symbolic gesture of support for retiring Republican state Sen. Fred Hemmings, whose bill establishing surfing reserves was "recommitted" in the last day of the legislative session. Republicans said the last-minute kill was mean-spirited and party-motivated, while Democrats said the bill had flaws and needed more discussion.

The executive order sets up two separate surf reserves on O'ahu one from the Ala Wai to the War Memorial Natatorium in Waikīkī, and the other from Hale'iwa to Sunset Beach. The reserves are modeled after similar designations in Australia, and are mostly meant to highlight the significance of the spots to the surfing world.

The reserves won't get any funding, and no substantive rules have been changed, though the state can now accept money for signage to identify the reserves and can work with other entities to secure funding to protect the zones.

Hemmings said the reserves are like "declaring Diamond Head a national monument. This just says these are special places."

In a news conference yesterday, Lingle said her staffers were "angry" after the surfing reserves bill was killed and so looked for other alternatives to get it passed.

"This was a real labor of love," she said.

The executive order was Lingle's seventh so far this year, but the first of her administration that resurrects a measure killed by lawmakers. Political onlookers have said they couldn't recall a governor ever issuing an executive order that revived a bill the Legislature had killed.

House Speaker Calvin Say, a Democrat, said the measure was recommitted because of "uncertainty and concerns" from members about the effects of the bill. In a statement, Say said members had received calls from surfers raising issue with the bill.

"Rightly or wrongly, the calls were concerned that the surfing reserve designation would result in an advantage for commercial surf contests over recreational surfing," he said. "The recommittal of the bill was not intended to be a slight against Sen. Hemmings, who I like and respect."

Hemmings said yesterday that he and Say talked, and agreed to disagree on concerns over the measure.

Hemmings said the last-day recommittal was a "combination of misunderstanding and politics" and added the surfing reserves designation has "absolutely zero impact on the status quo" for surfers.