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County Council Update

IMPORTANT COUNCIL NEWS FOR NORTH KOHALA: On Nov. 4 the new North Kohala county council video conferencing center opened at the old Bank of Hawaii building. A great celebration and blessing by Kealoha Sugiyama was held. On Nov. 5, close to 50 North Kohala residents came to testify in support of my Bill 113 . (Bill 113 would limit the spread of the cultivation of GMO crops on Hawaii island, while generally grandfathering in current GMO operations, including the GMO papaya farmers).

—STATUS OF GMO BILL 113: On Nov. 19, Bill 113 passed final County Council reading by a vote of 6 to 3. The Council took what started as a debate between two very divided sides, listened to everyone’s concerns, fears, and suggestions, and crafted a modest bill designed to hold the status quo with respect to current GMO operations on this island.

Mayor Kenoi received Bill 113 on Nov. 21. He had 10 business days to decide whether to sign, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto the Bill. By the time this legislative update is published Mayor Kenoi will have made his decision.

—POSSIBLE VETO OF BILL 113: If Mayor Kenoi vetoed Bill 113, the Council will seek to override the veto by the required six vote majority. Given there were six council members in favor of the Bill, the Mayor would have had to convince one of these six to now vote against the Bill.

— COUNCIL GMO AD HOC COMMITTEE COMMUNICATION: Assuming Mayor Kenoi signs Bill 113 (or allows it to become law without his signature), the companion ad hoc committee piece of legislation will be placed on the council’s agenda. The purpose of this companion legislation is to work through some of the nuances of the law that take us beyond the status quo. For example representatives of the floral industry say they are looking into GMO floral production and believe this can be carried out open-air (not in an enclosed structure) without harm to non-GMO farms and neighboring properties. Likewise the spokesperson at the Big Island Dairy on the Hamakua coast wants to expand his GMO operation and believes this can be done without harm to area non-GMO farm operations and without significant harm to the environment. The point will be to hold a discussion on a crop-by-crop basis, and consider the need for any further legislation based on the results of these more in-depth conversations. Examples of topics for the ad hoc committee other than “co-existence” include the pros and cons of emphasizing indigenous and ecofriendly methods of farming, and whether any regulatory enforcement is appropriate.

OTHER LEGISLATION I HAVE SCHEDULED TO COME BEFORE THE COUNCIL IN THE NEAR FUTURE are several items concerning solid waste, including an upcoming presentation by the Department of Environmental Management, as well as more ag related agenda items scheduled for Dec. 17 – including presentations about the severe decline in our island bee population, support for our island Orchid industry, and a resolution to establish a Hawaii island brand for agricultural produce and products. I am also working on issues relating to increasing the bus service throughout the District, food trucks, revising the county sign law, and establishing a regional transit hub in Waimea.

The Council is again participating in the Toys for Tots Program, so please drop off a gift (unwrapped) by Dec. 13.

And to find out more about up-coming county legislation, or to receive my newsletter, call my office at 887-2043.