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Senate approves school land development

By Anita Hofschneider

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 7:18 a.m. HST, Mar 6, 2013

The state Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that seeks to raise state revenue by developing public school lands.

The proposal contends developing underutilized school lands can provide needed funds to improve public school infrastructure. The House passed a similar measure Tuesday night.

The Senate proposal says the existing educational system "traps information-age students in agricultural-age schools" and that developing just 10 parcels of school land could bring in more than $100 million.

Majority Whip Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Education, said the bill is necessary because the state will never catch up with school infrastructure needs by relying only on general funds.

But critics are wary of what they see as another attempt to gain revenue at the expense of local communities.

Some say the proposal is just an offshoot of the highly criticized state public land development agency. The House and Senate recently voted to dismantle the corporation amid strong community opposition to the agency.

But Tokuda says the proposal takes a cautious approach by limiting development to a three-year pilot project and taking community input into account.

Sen. Sam Slom and Sen. Laura Thielen voted with reservations for the bill. Thielen said the bill should include provisions governing the long-term leasing of public lands.

Sen. Josh Green and Sen. Brian Taniguchi voted against the measure.

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