Council to vote on mayor veto, GMO repeal

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council is expected to take action on two pieces of legislation when it meets Wednesday.

One is Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s veto of Bill No. 2635, which allows for the sale of alcohol at the Wailua Golf Course. As it stands, the bill cannot go into effect.

Five votes are needed to pass an ordinance to override it. If it fails, the bill will be deemed void and the veto sustained, according to the Kauai County Charter.

The mayor’s veto, which was submitted on Dec. 28, was based on concerns about safety, liability and costs.

On Jan. 12, the council voted to lay the mayor’s veto on the table, a procedural action to allow the council to decide at future meetings to override or sustain the veto.

During that meeting, Council Chair Mel Rapozo said he hoped the veto will stand.

Alcohol can be bought and consumed at the restaurant at the Wailua Golf Course, but not taken onto the green.

The counties of Hawaii and Maui have the same rules.

“Our golfers can buy beer at the vendors that are set up on county property at the golf course, but nobody sells beer to them while on the course,” said Rod Atone, spokesman for the County of Maui.

Because the Hilo Municipal Golf Course is a county park, alcohol cannot be consumed on the property, said Gerald Takase, director of Liquor Control for the County of Hawaii.

Also on Wednesday, the council is expected to pass Bill No. 2643, which seeks to repeal the GMO regulation bill.

The action comes after the Committee as a Whole recommended approval on its second and final reading on Jan. 19.

The council voted 6-0 to pass Bill No. 2643 in December 2016. Councilman Arthur Brun, an employee of Syngenta, recused himself from the vote.

Bill No. 2491, also known as Ordinance 960, sought to regulate the use of GMOs and pesticides by requiring mandatory disclosure of GMO and pesticide use by large agricultural businesses, and prohibiting open air testing of experimental pesticides and GMOs.

It was introduced in 2013 by former councilmembers Tim Bynum and Gary Hooser. It was passed 6-1 by the council. It was later vetoed by Carvalho, but the council later overrode that veto.

Bill 2491 was overturned in the federal court. And in November 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the court’s ruling that the Hawaii Pesticides Law preempts the county’s laws.

Moving forward, Councilman Mason Chock said GMOs need to be addressed by the entities that have the jurisdiction to to regulate them.

“I believe the issue needs to be adequately addressed by the state agencies identified as responsible,” he said. “My hope is that proper data by qualified and unbiased resources is collected so that state leaders can properly manage needs for the ongoing health and safety of our communities across Hawaii.”

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said the state is taking the right step forward when it comes to pesticide regulation.

“While much more needs to be done, the recent state actions are in the right direction and need to be acknowledged because they are a positive response to the public’s concern and demands expressed during the debate on Bill 2491,” she said.

She cited the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to sue Kauai Syngenta for violating pesticide laws relating to workers, the state assigning a deputy attorney general and five new investigators to work on pesticide issues and the creation of a rapid response team to respond to potential pesticide incidents as ways the federal and state governments are making headway in the GMO issue.

But while Bill 2491 will soon be put to rest, the issues it raised remain, Yukimura added.

“Even though Ordinance 960 has been repealed, different parts of it — such as the JFF and disclosure and enforcement — are being implemented in alternative ways, thanks to some very dedicated people in government,” she said.

“They should be commended and supported, not maligned. We all need to keep working in our own ways. Hopefully we can do it with respect and aloha for all — with open minds and open hearts.”

The county meets at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Historic County Building.

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