(BIVN) – Once again, a bill that would have brought lifeguards to the popular, and sometimes dangerous, Kua Bay in Kailua-Kona has died at the State Legislature.
House Bill 2044 HD1 SD1, which would have appropriated funds “to establish four full-time equivalent (4.0 FTE) state ocean safety officers at Manini‘owali Beach at Kua Bay in the Kekaha Kai State Park and to purchase ocean safety officer equipment,” was passed through the House, and even given a positive recommendation by the Senate Committee on Water and land, before it stalled in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
“Every year we submit something, we go through the process, we go lobby, and it ends up dying,” said a frustrated Councilman Dru Kanuha during a recent council finance committee meeting.
“I’m gonna jump on my soapbox,” said Fire Chief Darren Rosario at the same finance committee meeting, “and say that’s what the TAT (Transient Accommodations Tax) was intended for. It’s (Hawaii) County people providing protection at a state asset, so the state needs to step up and give us the money.”
But there may still be hope. House Bill 2097 is still alive and in conference committee. According to the description of the bill:
Requires the Attorney General to defend any civil action or proceeding against a county and any person employed by the county to provide lifeguard services at a designated state beach park under an agreement between the State and the county. Appropriates funds to the Department of Land and Natural Resources to contract with the counties for county lifeguard services at designated state beach parks under an agreement between the State and a county. Effective 7/1/2035. (SD2)
In its official testimony on the bill, The Department of Land and Natural Resources said it supports the measure with amendments “provided that its passage does not replace or adversely impact priorities indicated in the Executive Supplemental Budget request.”
DLNR wrote: “The total current costs of the lifeguard contracts for four state beach parks under the jurisdiction of the Division is $2.9 million dollars and funding has been executed through a creative and currently insufficient variety of sources; general fund appropriations, special fund revenue and a portion of the Transient Accommodations Tax allocation. Ideally – all four contracts would be funded via a commensurate increase in general funds, –including a targeted need for new lifeguard stations at Kua Bay at Kekaha Kai State Park with an additional $375,000 for personnel costs.”
Both Senate and House conferees have been named for the bill. If an agreement is reached, the chambers will ratify and then its off to Governor David Ige for his signature.