HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The full Senate approved a measure Thursday that would stop construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea if the University of Hawaii doesn't meet certain requirements.
The last-minute legislation surprised both supporters and opponents of the project, and now heads to conference between House and Senate negotiators.
State Sen. Kaialii Kahele, a co-sponsor of House Bill 1585, said he supports TMT, but wants the university's management at Mauna Kea fixed first.
But UH officials say that if the bill is passed, the TMT project would likely be killed because of all the delays the telescope has encountered already.
"There is one thing that resonates time and time again and that is we have to do — we must do a better job of managing and protecting Mauna Kea and we can't wait any longer," said Kahele.
"This bill does one thing for certain. It kills the Thirty Meter Telescope," said Russell Ruderman (D-Keaau - Pahala).
The bill, which passed the full Senate in a 15-to-8 vote, would require UH to secure a new master lease and complete an environmental impact statement and management actions. It would also call on the state auditor to complete financial, performance and organizational audits.
Critics of the bill, however, say it was written without any public input. House leaders say they won't support it because they want to wait for the state Supreme Court rulings on TMT's permit and sublease.
"Public dialog can continue without the legislative shenanigans that are occurring at the moment," said State Rep. Della Au Belatti (D-House Majority Leader).
TMT met Thursday in their Pasadena headquarters about its April deadline for making a decision about pulling out of Hawaii. Kahele says TMT told him their new deadline for making a decision will be pushed back from April to September - something TMT has not confirmed.