Thursday, October 25, 2007

Day 2: House Superferry hearing creeping into Hour 6

As of 2 p.m., 206 people have signed up to testify at the House public hearing on the Superferry legislation.

Unfortunately, whomever is hanging on to No. 206 is going to have to wait a while, as the Finance and Transportation committees are five hours into the public hearing without a break and are only on testifier No. 6 -- Superferry CEO John Garibaldi.

Reps. Mele Carroll and Faye Hanohano opened the hearing at roughly 9:15 a.m. with an oli or chant before a crowd of 50 or 60 people. Click here to read the public testimony.

Transportation Chair Joseph Souki has requested that the questions and answers remain brief. Even so, Attorney General Mark Bennett spent more than 90 minutes this morning answering questions from the members.

In his testimony, Bennett put down claims that legislation to allow the Superferry to sail after the Maui court ruled that an environmental assessment must be completed is unconstitutional or illegal.

Bennett drew a distinction between two questions he said are often blurred in the current debate: the question of whether the legislation is good policy and the question of whether the legislature has the constitutional right to pass such legislation. To the second question: "There is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about this," he said, adding that he believes the bill is "a fair compromise."

Several representatives questioned Bennett thoroughly after his initial testimony, including Rep. Hermina Morita, Chair of the House Committee on Energy and the Environment, who pointed out the explicit commitment to environmental protection outlined in Hawaii's constitution. She also expressed "common sense" concerns with the ferry running without first giving the "full disclosure" an environmental assessment would provide.

Between questions, Bennett paused to say, "You know, I was with the Senate yesterday and they didn't ask any questions."

"They had all the answers," quipped Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro.

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