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Hawaii senators vote to repeal public land agency

    Hawaii Rep. Cindy Evans, chairwoman of the House Committee on Water and Land, advocates for the repeal of the Public Land Development Corp. before a vote in the House at the Hawaii Capitol in Honolulu on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Anita Hofschneider)

The Hawaii state Senate voted unanimously tpday to get rid of the heavily criticized Public Land Development Corp.

The move comes after the state House passed a separate proposal last week abolishing the agency, which has been denounced for its broad power to develop public lands. 

Despite the similar outcomes, Hawaii senators avoided the fanfare that accompanied the House vote, when a number of representatives stood up to say the agency was a mistake. Rather, the Senate repeal sailed through without comment.

The bill creating the land agency originated in the Senate two years ago.

Although both chambers have affirmed proposals to get rid of the organization, the bills still have a long way to go before they can become law.

Both chambers must consider each other’s bills in committees and work toward a draft they both can agree upon. The Senate version of the repeal is similar to the House bill adopted last week, but the two aren’t exactly the same. 

Unlike the House bill, the senators propose to keep some of the land agency’s personnel, including the executive director, by transferring them to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. 

Since its creation, the agency has been a constant source of contention between the state and county leaders, who have condemned the agency for its ability to develop public lands without regard to local zoning or permitting laws.

The bill approved by the Senate originally started as a proposal to curtail urban sprawl, but it morphed into a repeal of the public land agency after being heard by the Senate committees on economic development and land.

Sen. David Ige, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, cited the agency’s excessive power in his report to the Senate president recommending that the agency be killed. 

He said that repealing the law creating the agency is in the public’s best interest.

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