State Sen. Glenn Wakai tells Aloha Stadium Authority that hope is not lost on Bill 2940

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Legislators are looking at two options this summer for reviving a key bill whose deferral in the last session has slowed the progress of the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District.

State Sen. Glenn Wakai (D, Kalihi-Pearl Harbor) told the Aloha Stadium Authority on Thursday he believes either a special session of the Legislature in August or an executive order by Gov. David Ige can restart what the deferral of Senate Bill 2940 earlier this month has slowed.

The bill, which would have transferred governance of the NASED project from the Hawaii Community Development Authority to the Stadium Authority, expired July 10, the final day of the last session due to a flaw in its language

The issue arose because HCDA’s contracts with developers are limited to a maximum of 65 years while NASED deals have been approved for up to 99 years. But an error in the bill would have made HCDA projects elsewhere on Oahu subject to 99-year agreements as well and an 11th-hour bid to win approval in exchange for pledges to re-write the bill in 2021 failed to win full Senate approval.

Without passage, the bill would have to be brought up again in the 2021 Legislative session unless another special session is called. It has been estimated that waiting until 2021 could raise the cost of the project by “at least 20 million.”

In the 2019 session the Legislature appropriated $350 million for the state’s share of the public-private partnership. Chris Kinimaka, Public Works Administrator for the Department of Accounting and General Services, told the Stadium Authority, “We have confirmed that that funding is still in place.”

Wakai said if Congress appropriates additional COVID-19 relief funds for the state, the Legislature could reconvene in a special session and would take up SB 2940. He said he has “gotten assurances from the Senate that, if and when that happens, we can go fix that stadium bill.”

Wakai said he has also been assured that “the House is like-minded.”

Wakai said, “Our second option is that COVID-19 provides us an opportunity with the Governor’s emergency powers. Because of him having these powers, there is a chance that, through executive order, that he can mitigate, which would be easier to do under these circumstances than under non-COVID-19 circumstances.”

Kinimaka said work is still progressing on the draft environmental impact statement and master plan.

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