(BIVN) – Another state legislative session; another year without lifeguards at Kua Bay.
Once again, state lawmakers failed to pass a bill to appropriate funds for the employment of water safety officers, and purchase lifeguard equipment, at the popular beach at Kekaha Kai State Park.
H.B. 14 passed the House and was advanced by the Senate Committees on Water and Land and Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs, before the bill died at the Ways and Means Committee without a hearing.
“It doesn’t mean that we’re … going to stop supporting it,” Fire Chief Darren Rosario told Fire Commissioners at a recent meeting, held after the legislative session concluded. “I’m sure that there’ll be a bill for next session and we’ll just keep going.”
“This has been something we’ve been doing for three years now,” said Rosario.
Even before the legislative session began, local officials were growing short on patience.
“It doesn’t disappoint me,” said Kona’s Hawaii County Councilmember Dru Kanhua during a meeting in January, “it pisses me off.”
The state is well aware of the need for lifeguards at the crowded – and, at times, dangerous – state park. As the senate committees reported, Kua Bay “has been experiencing increased popularity with growing numbers of visitors due to its location and recent improvements. The increase in visitors has been accompanied by an alarming increase in water safety incidents.”
Hawaii Island has reason to hope for next year. Once this year’s legislative session ended, the Senate Chair of Ways and Means, Jill Tokuda, was removed by leadership and replaced by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz.