Airport authority bill dies once more

  • Travelers rearrange the contents of their baggage Friday at Hilo International Airport. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)
  • A traveler waits curbside Friday at Hilo International Airport. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

HILO — For the fourth year in a row, a bill that would place authority over the state’s airports in the hands of an independent corporation has failed to pass.

Senate Bill 666 would have established an airports corporation that would adopt all authority over the state’s seven commercial airports, taking over from the state’s Department of Transportation.

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The airports corporation was presented as a way to streamline the decision-making process for the state’s airports by centralizing responsibility for the airports into a single body.

Other, similar bills have been introduced each year since 2016, but each one failed to pass. Senate Bill 666 joins the ranks of failed bills, as it failed to leave its final committee in the House before deadline.

“Those of us who have been supporting it are very disappointed,” said Sen. Lorraine Inouye, who introduced SB 666 and each of the previous three bills.

Despite encountering significant support throughout its passage through the state Legislature, SB 666 failed to move beyond the state House. After passing the House Committee on Labor and Public Employment, the bill moved to the House Committee on Finance, where it sat until the committee’s deadline passed earlier this month.

Unlike previous failures, SB 666’s failure did not appear to be driven by controversy regarding the corporation’s proposed exemptions to the state’s procurement code. Said exemptions were a sticking point during previous attempts to pass the bill for labor groups who feared that the leaving the corporation exempt from the code would also remove protections for contractors and sub-contractors hired by the corporation.

However, previous committees in both the Senate and the House amended the bill to allay those fears. Inouye said she was open to discussing the changes made to the bill in conference, if the bill had passed the Finance Committee.

Despite this, Inouye said the Finance Committee failed to hear the bill.

The failure is similar to the failure of the third bill in 2018, when it passed all of its committees in the Senate and House but failed to leave a final conference to agree on the final changes to the bill.

Ironically, Inouye said she had been in full support of the House’s changes to the bill last year, but the conference was discharged before the House could “agree with the agreement.”

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Inouye said the bill could theoretically be resurrected next year should the Finance Committee revisit unfinished business at the beginning of 2020’s legislative session. However, Inouye said she would try to push for a fifth bill next year regardless.

“All indication is that is what is best for the state,” Inouye said.

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