SB933 on State Land Leases

Three bills introduced in the 2019 Hawaii legislature session directly address state land leases. The first of these discussed here on DarkerView was SB905 which attempts to assess reasonable compensation for a lease. The remaining two bills, SB933 and SB918, concerned with leases seem to make sense as well, but also leave questions.

Sunset over the shoulder of Haulalai
Sunset over the shoulder of Haulalai

SB933 is another that on first read seems to make sense. This bill would require a rent review on all state land leases every decade. Conditions change, economics change, inflation happens, insuring the state is fairly compensated for the use of state land is in the best interest of the public.

While the language of the change is simple, the impact of that language is not clear. Indeed, it seems strange when considering what a rent review would consist of.

171-36, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:
(10)  The board shall conduct a rent review of every lease and sublease of public land every ten years.

Language added to 171-36 proposed by SB933 in the 2019 Hawaii State Legislature

A review, that seems simple. It does beg the question… Just what is this rent review intended to accomplish? There seems to be no way to do anything about the rent once a lease is made, the terms of the lease were agreed to when the lease was originated. Are new leases intended to carry some sort of language allowing rent terms to be changed every decade?

Like Senator Kahale’s other Mauna Kea bills we have examined here, and contrary to good practice seen in other legislative bills, there is no explanatory language with this bill, no reasoning or justification given. Why is this change needed? What is the benefit?

Without a legal process to change the rent on an existing lease a review of rent seems useless. This would simply be a bureaucratic exercise with no point.

Is there something more to this bill? As if some changes to the language of the bill are expected, or planned during the legislative session. Senator Kahele, a primary sponsor of this bill, used the unethical tactic of gut-and-replace at least twice during the last session. Is something similar intended here, a last moment language change, or a complete gut-and-replace of the bill?

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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