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Lawmakers to debate budget, land agency

April 1, 2013
By ANITA HOFSCHNEIDER , The Associated Press

HONOLULU - The Hawaii Senate Ways and Means Committee is to vote today on a bill to repeal the Public Land Development Corp., one of several key bills being debated this week.

Both the House and the Senate voted to abolish the agency this session in response to overwhelming criticism about the agency's power to override county ordinances to develop public lands.

But the chambers disagreed on the details of the repeal. Now, lawmakers are trying to figure out a compromise.

The House draft repeals the agency and transfers its assets to the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The Senate version also transfers the agency's executive director, planner, and project-development specialist to the department.

Sen. Laura Thielen says that if senators pass a different version of the bill, it will end up in conference committee, when lawmakers from both chambers form groups to work out the details of proposals.

"This would be extremely bad news for anyone supporting a repeal of the PLDC," Thielen wrote on her website. "It's easy for a bill to die in conference committee without any evidence of who is responsible for killing it."

The Senate Ways and Means Committee is also to vote today on the judiciary budget and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs budget.

The House voted to give both branches less money than they requested. Advocates are hoping senators will be more generous.

On Tuesday, the House Finance Committee is to vote on the governor's proposed early childhood education program.

The committee neglected to include funding for the program in its version of the state budget.

The committee is also considering a bill aimed at drawing down the state's unfunded liabilities for employee and retiree benefits.

Today, the House Finance Committee is to discuss several tax-related bills.

The proposals increase film tax credits, decrease solar energy tax credits, increase conveyance taxes and impose excise taxes on tobacco products other than cigars.

The committee also plans to consider a proposal to spend $500,000 to commission art honoring the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and the late U.S. Rep. Patsy T. Mink.



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