Senate Joint Committee Passes Amended Superferry Bill

John Garibaldi
John Garibaldi
Attorney General Mark Bennett
Attorney General Mark Bennett

HAWAII STATE CAPITOL (KHNL) - Late-breaking developments from the state Capitol Thursday night. The Hawaii Superferry cleared its first hurdle in the special session at the Capitol.

A Senate joint committee - consisting of the Judiciary and Labor Committee; Transportation and International Affairs Committee; and the Energy and Environment Committee -- passed an amended Superferry bill that would allow the ferry to operate while an environmental assessment is going on. This happened at about 3:30 pm Thursday.

This means things are looking good for Superferry executives. But because of the amendments, there's still some more back and forth in store between the House and the Senate.

The Hawaii Superferry is inching towards resuming its operations in Hawaiian waters.

Late Thursday afternoon, a joint Senate committee approved an amended draft of a bill that would allow the ship to operate during its environmental review.

It includes restrictions related to invasive species, car inspections, and possible harm to whales. The news couldn't have come at a better time for Superferry CEO John Garibaldi, who testified a few hours earlier. He said, again, his company is running out of time, and don't have months to wait.

"No, we will not be here in two or three months," said Garibaldi.

In this second day of a special session, representatives threw a volley of questions at those testifying.

Attorney General Mark Bennett addressed concerns about the state's liability if the Superferry operates now and runs into trouble.

"By passing this law, we would not be responsible for the Superferry's actions for hitting a whale if it were to do so in any legal way," said Bennett.

As lawmakers tried to get more information to make an informed decision, Garibaldi hopes the process wraps up in the next seven to ten days.

"We look at it in terms of weeks from here," he said. "As we've come to understand this process with the special session meeting that we'd be dealing in a number of weeks from now, within weeks."

KHNL spoke to Garibaldi Thursday evening and he said, on the surface, the revised bill looks workable. He was still reading it over at the time.

Garibaldi said he is appreciative of lawmakers for the tremendous amount of work they've done with the bill.

The bill will go back to the full Senate for a vote, most likely on Monday. Then it goes back to the House, because House members are still looking at the original bill. By then if both agree, then the House and the Senate will go to a final vote on the bill.