"State leaders' bungling led to Superferry mess"
Honolulu Star-Bulletin Dec 20, 2008
"IF a single situation could be held up as a model to discourage enterprise and investment in the state, it is that of the Hawaii Superferry. The Lingle administration and an equally culpable state Legislature did no one -- not taxpayers, the visitor industry, businesses or public or environmental interests -- any favors in their bungling of the ferry issue.
Had officials simply adhered to legal requirements from the get-go, the harm imposed and that could yet be brought to the ferry company and others, and the community divisiveness their mistakes have generated would not have occurred.
A report by the state auditor criticizing special legislation tailored to benefit the ferry company served as a prelude this week to arguments before the Supreme Court on constitutional challenges of the law.
The audit concluded that the legislation -- known as Act 2, passed after the court ruled that the state should not have exempted the ferry from environmental reviews -- "compromised" the law and "set a precedent for future government intervention that puts the interests of a single business before the state's environmental, fiduciary and public safety responsibilities."
In addition, the audit asserted that Act 2 puts restraints on other laws by allowing the ferry to operate concurrent with preparing an environmental review.
The report criticized the state for ignoring recommendations of the Department of Transportation's technical staff and allowing the ferry company to dictate harbor improvements.
The improvements, mainly comprised of loading ramps and barges, cost the state $40 million and have proven inadequate in winter weather at Kahului harbor. The audit found that five times over a period of five months, storm surges and high winds damaged lines, bollards, fenders and barges. For safety, tugboats are necessary to keep the barges in place at additional cost, which resulted in a dispute between the state and the company about who was responsible for the bill.
The audit's finding about the legal vulnerabilities of Act 2 was echoed in the court hearing on a suit that argues the state Constitution forbids the Legislature from conferring special exemptions and benefits on individual entities that don't apply to others.
The state's claim is that the law wasn't designed only for the Superferry since it refers generically to any "large-capacity ferry vessels." However, as the suit's plaintiffs and the audit both note, the law's effective window of 15 to 16 months was too narrow to allow any other ferry business to take advantage of it.
Should the court disagree with the state's contention, the ferry's operations could again be suspended..."
Also, a good recap on the proceeding in the Supreme Court is at the following:
Supreme Court to decide constitutionality of lawmakers’ Superferry actions
by Travis Quezon December 19th, 2008
Am about half-way through Act 2 listing the conditions that create a "closed class of one,"