HILO, Hawaii (AP) — Two state Senate committees have voted to advance a House bill that would reconfigure how the aerospace industry is run in Hawaii with amendments that some say limit the functions and Hawaii Tourism Authority resources.
The bill originally sought to eliminate the state’s Office of Aerospace Development, Aerospace Advisory Committee and Unmanned Aerial Systems Test Site Advisory Board. It would also transfer administration of other programs to the University of Hilo in Hilo and the state Department of Education.
However, the bill was amended earlier this week to reduce the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s ability to conduct activities other than marketing and promotion, removing its power to develop policies and train officials. advisory boards and limiting the amount of funding it could draw from the Tourism Emergency Special. Funds.
The bill will go to the Senate for a vote after being passed by the Senate Ways and Means and Commerce and Consumer Protection Committees, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports. reported Saturday.
Committees voted Friday and made changes that would allow Hawaiian cultural programs administered by the Authority to continue and impose requirements on the agency to ensure its tourism marketing is culturally sensitive.
Hawaii Tourism Authority Chairman John De Fries said Friday that the bill tries to solve a problem that does not exist.
“It was like trying to fix something that wasn’t broken, and when we commit to doing that, the precondition is that we have to break it,” said De Fries, who attended an audition. joint of the committees.
Hawaii State Senator Glenn Wakai, a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the bill was needed to rein in the agency after it paid an average of $244 per Japanese tourist who visited the island in February, compared to $5.70 in 2019.
“We have to hold HTA accountable,” Wakai said. “Taking them out of special funds, where they can just do whatever they want and keep doing whatever they want, and making them now funded by general funding makes them accountable to us and the taxpayers to make sure that they spend our credits wisely.”
Wakai also said the agency’s remaining budget could still be used to market events and continue to promote Hawaiian culture.
It is not immediately known when the Senate will vote on the bill.