A question of substance

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council will consider today whether the proposed charter amendment to further regulate genetically modified organisms and pesticides on the island should be amended or put to voters in its current form.

At the heart of the issue, some county officials say, is whether the wording of the proposed charter amendment, submitted by Kauai Rising, a nonprofit community coalition, is appropriate or should be framed as a ballot initiative.

An initiative, according to the Kauai County Charter, is defined as “the power of voters to propose ordinances,” and requires the signatures of at least 20 percent of voters registered in the last general election, or 8,148 people.

Charter amendments, those made to change the county’s governing document, meanwhile, require the signatures of at least 5 percent of voters registered in the last general election, or 2,037 people.

The debate on which method should be used to present voter-initiated ballot measures, however, is not a new one.

“I’ve had a chance to read through the charter amendment and it’s very lengthy and complex and touches on many aspects of the law,” Councilman Tim Bynum said in response to whether the proposed amendment could stand up to legal tests. “I have that concern, because of the experience of past charter amendments — both of which were overturned by the courts. So while I fully understand the intent and support it in terms of taking the next step, I don’t know — some of the legal complexities are going to be difficult for us.”

The Office of the County Attorney denied a public records request from The Garden Island on Monday to view the department’s legal opinion on the proposed charter amendment submitted by Kauai Rising.

Kauai County Elections Administrator Lyndon Yoshioka said signatures on the petition will be checked to determine whether individual signees are registered voters and match with the corresponding voter’s signature on file with the Elections Division.

The petition verification process, he said, is expected to be completed by June 27. The Office of the County Attorney will hold an executive session today briefing for the County Council during the seven-member board’s public meeting at the Historic County Building in Lihue.

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