Friday, May 28, 2010

Surfing Reserve Bill needs more input from surfing community

By Rep. Calvin Say, Speaker of the House of Representatives

Since the media has given so much attention to the surfing reserve bill, Senate Bill 2646, the following is an explanation for the recommittal of the bill by the House.

At the outset, I give assurance that the recommittal was not intended as an insult to Senator Fred Hemmings, who I like and respect. The House is much more responsible than that. The House acts on issues and facts, not personal feelings regarding individuals.

The House recommitted SB 2646 because of unease, uncertainty, and confusion about the actual effects of the bill. To honor individuals, the Legislature generally uses measures, such as resolutions and certificates, which have a lesser stature than bills and consume less public resources to adopt. In general, bills are passed to establish or repeal programs, appropriate funds, impose a duty, confer a right or privilege, or prohibit and penalize illegal actions. Because bills have the force and effect of law, the Legislature must be careful to avoid unintended consequences that may result in inadvertent negative effects.

During the last days of the session, some House members received calls from surfers and others opposing the bill. Rightly or wrongly, the callers were concerned that the surfing reserve designation would result in an advantage for commercial surf contests over recreational surfing.

Furthermore, "misunderstandings" over the final version drafted by the Senate negotiators on the bill caused confusion and raised suspicions as to the true intent. As drafted by the Senate, the bill included Makaha as a surfing reserve. The House negotiators had been led to believe that the Makaha designation was supported by the Senator representing the Leeward Coast. That, however, was not true. Additionally, as drafted by the Senate, the bill included references to "competitive sports" and "competitive surfing". Those references should not have been included. House negotiators had been adamant that the bill not be perceived as supporting commercial surf contests over recreational surfing. Although the errors were corrected by a floor amendment, the House's unease remained.

Because of this unease, uncertainty, and confusion, the House chose to recommit the bill, with an intent to consider it again during the next session.

Since the end of session, another practical question has arisen. What would the consequences be of the surfing reserve designation on swimmers, fishermen, snorklers, and canoe paddlers? Would the designation subordinate those recreational nearshore water users to "surfers" in Waikiki during the entire year and on the North Shore during the summer months? Remember, under the bill, "surfers" includes paddleboarders and stand-up surfers who do not need waves for their activities.

The unknown effect of the surfing reserve designation is the reason I suggested that the Governor hold public meetings in the affected communities before making any designation by executive order. Surfers and other nearshore water users should have the opportunity to review the proposed executive order, ascertain the intended effect, and provide input. Persons who oppose the designation of Makaha and Honolua Bay also should be permitted to state their opposition to the designation of those areas by executive order.

In the end, my belief is that the surfing reserve designation by executive order will have no substantive effect. The House Republicans merely wanted to pass a bill as a token gesture for Senator Hemmings. That the House Republicans have elicited and received front page coverage of the surfing reserve designation bill displays their misplaced priorities. They are more interested in "show" than "substance".

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