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By Ferd Lewis

July 9, 2020

A bill crucial to the progress of the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District suffered an 11th-hour death at the state Legislature, which is sure to delay the project for at least a year and drive up already-escalating costs, lawmakers said today.

State Sen. Glenn Wakai (D, Pearl Harbor-Kalihi) termed it, “a fumble on the one yard line” and the State Comptroller called it a “monumental error.”

Senate Bill 2940 was to have transferred the authority of the project to the Aloha Stadium Authority from the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

The state had appropriated $350 million toward the project which had been targeted to debut in September 2023.

But Sen. Kai Kahele (D, Hilo) objected because a snag in the wording of the bill, which was intended to allow the state to grant 99-year leases on the 98-acre Halawa footprint that the current stadium sits in, inadvertently would have also opened up other areas under HCDA jurisdiction to expanded leases.

In a letter to key lawmakers, Curt Otaguro, state Comptroller and head of the Department of Accounting and General Services said, “I apologize for this monumental error and for the confusion and inconvenience caused to the Senate membership at this late stage. This error was under the unique and unexpected challenges to our bill review and drafting caused by the COVID-1 9 pandemic and the effect on this legislative session, even as we were attempting to ensure we were as thorough as possible, and in no means was it inserted because of other hidden agendas or outside influences.”

State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D Mililani Mauka-Waipo Acres) said the bill has died because there was no agreement in time for at least a 24-layover preceding Friday’s legislative session adjournment.

It would take action by Gov. David Ige to call a special session, but lawmakers said that was unlikely.

“I think it (the bill’s death) is unfortunate,” Dela Cruz said. “Beside the fact that we need this project for our economy now that tourism is down…it (the project) is going to cost more.”