Council to tackle ag bill

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council will decide next week if they want to reconsider a bill that would have established three separate categories for all agricultural properties — pasture, diversified agriculture and biotech research — when real property tax assessments are conducted.

That measure, Bill 2546, was passed by the previous seven-member board about two weeks ago and vetoed by Bernard Carvalho Jr. on Wednesday, marking only the second time that the three-term mayor has used his executive power to veto a bill.

“I don’t think he understands the bill or I don’t understand his message,” said Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who introduced many of the amendments in the vetoed bill. “I would like to have the full council to have a chance to vote on the issue.”

Council Chair Mel Rapozo, who along with Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa, cast the dissenting votes against the bill last month, said he will support the mayor’s veto.

“I think the questionable legality needs to be addressed,” Rapozo said. “I’m not interested in passing legislation that will incur litigation.”

What’s not yet certain is whether recently elected Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro, a project specialist at Grove Farm Company, will need to recuse himself from the matter. Officials from the large landholding company lease some of their land to seed companies on Kauai and have vocally opposed the bill.

Any county official or employee, according to the Kauai County Charter, “who possesses or acquires such interest as might reasonably tend to create a conflict with his duties or authority” must disclose the conflict of interest and not participate in the questioned matter.

A recusal is also warranted when a county official, or a direct family member, is an owner, officer, executive director or director of an organization in a pending matter.

Kaneshiro could not be reached by press time on Friday. The county’s attorney’s office declined to comment on the matter.

At least four affirmative votes will be needed to reconsider the vetoed bill. A minimum of five votes, however, are required to override the mayor’s veto.

If not enough votes from council members are received to reconsider the veto next week, the mayor’s decision will stand and the bill will die. If the council chooses to reconsider the bill, the seven-member board will vote to override the veto at a separate meeting within the next 30 days.

The County Council will take up Bill 2546 during their Wednesday meeting, which begins at 9:30 a.m. in the Historic County Building Council Chambers.

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