(BIVN) – A controversial bill seeking to establish a Mauna Kea Stewardship Authority as the sole authority for management of state lands on Mauna Kea is advancing in the State Senate.
On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Higher Education voted to recommend House Bill 2024 be passed, with additional amendments. The committee was the first in the Senate to hold a hearing on the bill since it crossed over from the House.
From the committee report:
In 2021, the House of Representatives convened a working group to develop recommendations for a governance and management structure for Mauna Kea, pursuant to House Resolution No.33, House Draft 1, Regular Session of 2021. The Mauna Kea Working Group was tasked with the development of recommendations, elaborating on the findings of the Independent Evaluation of the Implementation of the Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan, and determined a new governance and management structure for Mauna Kea that collaboratively engages with all stakeholders, particularly the Native Hawaiian community.
Despite the work completed by the Mauna Kea Working Group to address the management of the Mauna, your Committee notes that this measure, as drafted, may not allow a newly created authority to manage Mauna Kea, envisioned by the Mauna Kea Working Group, without financially overburdening the taxpayers. In addition, your Committee recognizes that the needs of the University of Hawaii’s astronomy program must also be met. To address the myriad of stakeholders regarding Mauna Kea, a gradual transition, transformation, and change in a sustainable way will require constant review and accountability to ensure effective management.
As the proposed Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority will be a new board, your Committee encourages the Authority to strive to be a financially self-sustaining body. As your Committee notes, mitigation of financially overburdening taxpayers is of utmost importance.
Your Committee also notes the concerns from the Department of the Attorney General and constituents regarding the race-based criteria for the proposed Mauna Kea Stewardship Authority membership and the usage of the name “Mauna a Wākea.” Creating selection criteria for board members based on race or ethnicity may pose legal challenges and inadvertently prohibit qualified candidates who are interested in serving on the Authority. To address the concerns of the Attorney General and community members, your Committee recommends the removal of race-based criteria in this measure and reverting all instances of “Mauna a Wākea” to “Mauna Kea”. Your Committee also recommends that the Senate committees whose purview are higher education and water and land lead the advise and consent hearings to confirm qualified community members to serve on the Authority.
To recognize the importance of science and astronomy research on Mauna Kea, your Committee notes that, to fulfill the University of Hawaii’s astronomy program needs, the University shall receive at least seven percent, and up to fifteen percent, of total viewing time at telescopes situated on Mauna Kea.
Finally, your Committee further notes the concerns regarding the membership of the University of Hawaii, Hilo Chancellor as an ex officio nonvoting member of the Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority. As the University of Hawaii, Hilo Chancellor has been remotely working away from Hawaii since June 2021, your Committee raised concerns that the Chancellor may not fully understand the issues regarding the management of Mauna Kea or attend meetings that are vital to the Authority’s success. As the University of Hawaii, Hilo, will play a major role with the new Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority, it is imperative that the Chancellor be present to ensure the enactment of the Authority’s mission.
According to the committee report, the senators also made twenty-three amendments to the measure by:
- Changing references from “Mauna a Wākea” to “Mauna Kea” throughout the measure;
- Changing the name of the proposed authority to the Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority (Authority) as the principal authority for the management of state-managed lands above the 9,200 feet elevation line on Mauna Kea, in conjunction with the Department of Land and Natural Resources;
- Changing the composition of the Authority to include eleven voting members, with the Chancellor of the University of Hawaii, Hilo serving as an ex officio nonvoting member;
- Establishing term lengths of three years and term limits of not more than four partial or full terms for Authority members;
- Requiring the Authority to be financially self-sustaining by the first year following the three-year transitional period;
- Limiting administrative expenses to five percent of the Authority’s budget;
- Deleting certain provisions to increase flexibility for the Authority to develop a workable management plan;
- Requiring the timely decommissioning of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Submillimeter Telescope and the University of Hawaii, Hilo Hōkūke‘a Teaching Telescope;
- Providing that certain renewal of lease terms and other leases that result in terms that exceed sixty-five years require approval by supermajority vote of Authority members;
- Requiring the Authority to allow the University of Hawaii a certain amount of viewing time at the telescopes;
- Requiring annual reports to the Legislature, beginning with the Regular Session of 2024;
- Removing the section that would have excluded Mauna Kea lands from the definition of “public lands”;
- Requiring the Auditor to conduct a performance and financial audit of the Authority and submit a report to the Legislature before the convening of the Regular Session of 2029;
- Requiring the University of Hawaii Board of Regents and President to exercise their management authority under chapter 304A, Hawaii Revised Statutes, only to the extent necessary to assist the transition of management to the Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority;
- Requiring the University of Hawaii to continue equitably funding the Authority;
- Inserting an appropriation of $12,000,000 for startup costs for the Authority;
- Inserting a blank appropriation for one full-time equivalent (1.0 FTE) executive assistant position, who shall also serve as secretary to the Authority, and who shall be exempt from chapter 76, Hawaii Revised Statutes, to support the Authority;
- Amending section 1 to reflect its amended purpose;
- Requiring the University of Hawaii, Hilo to provide supports to the transition;
- Providing that, if the Auditor’s report finds that the Authority is unfit to continue its stewardship and oversight roles, then the management of Mauna Kea lands reverts back to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents and President;
- Amending section 1 to reflect its amended purpose;
- Making it effective on January 1, 2055, to encourage further discussion; and
- Making technical, nonsubstantive amendments for the purposes of clarity and consistency.
HB 2024 will still need to be heard by the Senate Ways and Means Committee before it can get a vote in the full Senate.