Geothermal, gasb45 bill vetos on council agenda for possible override, June 19

HAWAII ISLAND: On Thursday, the Hawaii County Council meets in Kona where it will consider a veto override for a handful of high profile bills that were given the thumbs down by Mayor Billy Kenoi.

The mayor recently vetoed Bill 256, a substantial revision to the geothermal relocation and community benefits program that would rename the fund and eliminate the community benefits in order to mitigate the alleged public health and safety concerns of those living near the Puna Geothermal Venture plant. It also would have prohibited the resale of homes aquired by the county through the relocation program, in order to create a buffer between the geothermal plat and residetntial properties. The bill was introduced by council chair Dominic Yagong, and the readings of the measure were some of the most heavily attended council meetings this year.

In his veto message, the mayor said it was unnesecary to tamper with the relocation and community benefits fund because a different program – the Geothermal Asset Fund – can pay for all needed public health and safety projects.

The mayor also says the bill results in increased costs and decreased revenues for the County, and has legal and technical flaws.

Another geothermal related bill introduced by Yagong that got the ax by Kenoi: a mandate that the county Civil Defense Agency prepare an emergency response and evacuation plan for PGV… due back to the council by August 1st.

The issue was debated during a recent mayoral forum in Hilo, between Yagong, Kenoi and former mayor Harry Kim, who was at one time the head of the county civil defense.

The mayor also disapproved of another one of Yagong’s ideas: Bill 262, which would have applied any fund balance in the county budget at the end of the fiscal year in exess of $5 million to the post employment benefit account – the infamous gasb45 that the two leaders are always argueing over. Again, from the recent mayoral forum in Hilo:

The county council will need to muster a super majority vote in order to overturn the mayor’s veto, which is doubtful because the bills narrowly passed in the first place.

Not all of Yagong’s high profile bills have been vetoed by Kenoi.

The mayor recently signed the bill that challenges to the authority of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to lawfully conduct helicopter eradication missions – as they have done on Mauna Kea and elsewhere.

Like the geothermal bills, the hunting bill drew hours of testimony at the council meeting. We can expect another long day on Thursday. Advocates of Yagong’s geothermal bills have already said they will be out in force that day, picjeting outside and sharing their opinion inside.