Opinion

October 15th, 2013
By

State Sen. Malama Solomon, the chairwoman of the Senate Water and Land Committee, has asked the state Attorney General's office for an opinion on whether counties have jurisdiction to regulate agricultural products.

The Kauai County Council and the Hawaii County Council could decide Tuesday on whether to advance bills that would restrict genetically modified organisms and, in the case of Kauai, pesticide use.

The biotech industry has argued that it is the state and federal governments that should regulate, not the counties. But county council representatives behind the bills contend that counties have an oversight role over the industry.

Solomon, who represents the northern portion of Hawaii County, wrote Attorney General David Louie on Oct. 10 and said she forwarded her request for an opinion through Senate leadership. She also recommended that Hawaii County consider a task force on the issue.

From the senator:

l have forwarded to leadership of the Hawaii State Senate a request for an opinion as to the separation of jurisdictional power in regard to regulation of agricultural farm products. lt is the contention that a county bill would pre-empt the State Department of Agriculture's jurisdiction.

Is it within County jurisdiction to regulate agricultural products? Does the County regulating agricultural products violate any inter-state commerce law?

No matter the outcome of these questions, it would behoove the County of Hawaii to consider a task force to address all of these concerns as well as those stated in the attached resolution that failed to pass.

17 Responses to “Opinion”

  1. Gale:

    Every time Malama Solomon sticks her foot in more cow pies, I always think that she would not have been in the Senate again but for Neil Abercrombie.


  2. Al:

    I agree with Sen. Solomon and thank her for her leadership in asking the Attorney General's opinion on this matter. it makes sense to ask the basic question. It's important that we have a statewide uniform laws and regulations that is consistent with federal laws. These county bills has created unnecessary fears in the community. County task force is the way to go to gain more information.


  3. Judi:

    Mahalo Senator Solomon for keeping the interests of farmers and ranchers at the forefront. Hawaii County bill 113 violates the rights of Hawaii Island Ag producers to feed us safely & cost effectively and also to make a living. There are state and federal regs in place for a reason.


  4. Lorie:

    Senator Malama Solomon always tries do to whatis Pono. She was right in raising this issue.
    Mahalo Senator for trying to do what is right for the Farmers of Hawaii!

    There are several real questions does Hawaii County have the expertise and funding that will be reguired should they pass Bill 113? Not very likley, I didn't see an extra 1 million in the last budget.

    Is Hawaii County prepared to defend the potential legal implications of Bill 113 with taxpayers money? Just because the AG doesn't desire to step in does not mean the County of Hawaii has the right to do this; in fact I would say its quite the oposite. Maybe the Ag doesn't wish to get on this trainwreck of a Bill.

    Pass a study Bill or do a taskforce and figure this out before you force Farmers and Ranchers to defend whatthey do in public hearings! Get educated, understand agriculture and lets do this right!

    Malama was doing what is right and what is Pono and I applaud her for trying, Alwaya one to fight the tough battles; no matter the heat. She retains my vote and support!


  5. Kolea:

    The industrial agricultural companies, through their paid agents: certain politicians, public relations shills, and their employees, are working to gut the ability of county governments to pass laws to protect the health and safety of their citizens. While the state was "controlling" regulations over the use of pesticides, there was only one Ag Department employee on Kauai to inspect the use of pesticides, neither the State north companies were willing to disclose which pesticides were being used, in what amounts or at what time. Appeals from Kauai residents and their elected officials for disclosure were met with resistance or silence.

    As the state is trying to rob from the counties the ability to protect the health of their residents, are the agribusiness interest will to stipulate they are WILLING to submit to state regulation or is this a dishonest dodge? These companies have previously argued the states have no authority to regulate their activities, that the state's authority is pre-empted by the federal government. These companies are "venue-shopping," seeking to find whatever level of government is most subservient to their interests.

    When a doctor in West Kauai, whose patients live near the pesticide-intensive operations of the genetic seed corn companies, notices high levels of health problems, but is unable to draw conclusions about the possible cause because he is denied access to the basic information on which poisons to test for, he --and the parents of the afflicted child--MAY have some influence over the county council members, as they need his vote and he can take off time from work to raise his concerns and give public testimony at the County Building. Kauai residents have almost NO INFLUENCE at the State Capitol in Honolulu, even if their reps and senators might be pressured to introduce bills or resolutions doomed to go nowhere.

    The further the decisionmaking gets from the local community, the weaker the influence of the average citizen and the greater the relative influence of the wealthy, transnational corporations. Syngenta and the other companies have a great deal of influence on Kauai, but there organization of outraged Kauai residents has still been able to assert itself and fight them to a stalemate. The Governor has swooped in to help the companies change the venue by trying to transfer control to Honolulu, where the citizen mobilization against those companies has less influence than the hundreds of thousands of dollars the companies have invested in buying legislators.

    Malama Solomon has never been shy about serving as a tool for large corporations in exchange for "consideration." We saw that when she and Donovan Dela Cruz tried to push through the PLDC, another powergrab by the state government to deprive the counties of "Home Rule" on important matters. But if Monsanto and Syngenta encounter citizen resistance at the State Capitol, they will gladly seek to deprive the State of any authority and demand the Federal authorities set policy, not the State. And the federal officer they would seek to put in charge is the FDA, where Michael Taylor, a former vice-president of Monsanto, is now Deputy Commissioner for Foods. All three branches of the federal government are filled with people with close ties to the biotech industry. This includes elected and appointed officials from both political parties.

    But Monsanto and Syngenta have yet another ace in their sleeve. They are helping fashion the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in secret, which would remove the "Home rule" of state and national governments on matters affecting the profits of corporations, transferring that power to an unelected, international tribunal controlled even more by the large corporations. Democratic control of county, state and national governments can regulate corporations and interfere with their profits IF the public shakes off our stupor and mobilize. But these corporations can simply deny the authority of each level of government IF it becomes influenced by public mobilization. Each government official who aids in this evasion of popular control is betraying their citizens and democracy itself as they dodge and weave to please the mega-corporations. Some of the Kauai council members are active betraying the people of Kauai in today's council meeting as I write this, as is the Kauai mayor. The Kauai state representatives and senator, are working overtime to appease Syngenta and the other businesses as they argue this should be handled by the heretofore negligent state. The Governor has acted as a tool for the agri-business giants, who have poured money into his campaigns and can be expected to do the same this year.

    And, at the national level, President Obama, like Bush before him, has shown himself to be a complete stooge for Monsanto and the others, both by opposing minimal regulations of the companies and by insisting upon the adoption of provisions into the TPP agreement which would elevate their interests above the health and safety needs of the AMerican people and our "right to know" what is in our food, what poisons are being put into the air we breathe, the water we drink and swim in, the soil from which our food comes.

    I survey the corrupting influence of the agri-chemical giant companies, I prefer to pin my hopes upon the aroused people of Kauai and Hawaii counties, who have been able, through the exertion of extra-ordinary efforts, to pressure their local elected officials to listen to them and hear their concerns. I do not agree with some of the absolutist statements I have heard against the science of genetic engineering. But because I believe in democracy and oppose both corporate domination and those politicians who offer themselves as LACKEYS of the corporate masters, I am rooting for democracy to win out.

    Folks unfamiliar with the nuances of local language should locate a good pidgin-English dictionary. They will find a picture of Senator Malama Solomon under the entry for "no shame."


  6. Hoonani:

    I think its great that people feel passionately about things that are important to everyone, but I really don't think its fair to slam Sen. Solomon. All she did was ask for a legal opinion, which is reasonable and rationale and not necessarily taking anybody's side. She doesn't deserve to be called nasty names for this. If anything, I appreciate that she's being level-headed. There's too much anger and not enough aloha in this issue.


  7. Keith Rollman:

    The bottom line is that Kaui county does not have the resources to police environmental laws should it choose to pass them. Not only would enforcement of agricultural regulations be redundant with State and EPA authorities, the county has no means to any inspections or monitoring. Mayor Carvalho said there is no money and no personnel available under current budgets. This is simply political pandering to the anti-GMO crowd with little chance of actually accomplishing any good. Solomon has a valid point in asking whether or not the counties are overreaching their jurisdiction.


  8. Auto de Fe:

    This is an opportunity for the State to extricate the weaklings on the Kauai and Hawaii Co councils from their current predicament at the hands of hordes of eco-religious fundamentalists...


  9. DBS:

    Why would anyone be opposed to having the Atty General opine on this? What are you afraid of? Laws are what govern our country, uphold our freedoms, and provide the structure for a consistent econimc environment that makes living in our Country/State what it is - a place we love. Don't stifle the freedom of speech because you don't agree with it. Thank you Senator Solomon for stepping out and encouraging some levity in this situation!


  10. Especially Incognito:

    "opinion". Word should mean assumptions and approximations.

    No politician in office is without strings. They get paid
    to be a marionette. They enjoy being used. Money
    talks and makes politicians walk.


  11. Raymond Foster:

    Thanks you Senator Soloman for a voice of reason and analysis in the face of serious craziness!


  12. Puuloa:

    I'm impressed with Sen. Solomon. She has no skin in this game. She only wants what's best for the people of the island especially the locals. And she has always been a strong advocate of agriculture unlike Sen. Rudermann whose "all natural" anti-GMO store which sells oxielite pro supplements. He would oppose regulation of these snake oils but opposes biotechnology just to make a few bucks. Can you say conflict of interest? Mahalo to Sen. Malama Solomon for always putting the people first.


  13. Kolea:

    I am waiting for a "conservative" to step up to defend the notion that power belongs to the level of government "closest" to the people. But I won't hold my breath.

    Clearly, the rights of large, transnational corporations like these biotech companies are more worthy of support that the rights of people to use local, accessible government to protect their interests. In theory, conservatives pretend to favor county governments over state governments for making decisions. And state government over the Feds.

    But in the actual issue before us, all those platitudes melt onto air, as the REAL guiding principle if modern conservatism emerges, exposed for all to see. Whatever serves the interests of the corporate masters trumps the rights of citizens, consumers and employees.


  14. ohiaforest3400:

    In the perfect world, the federal government would have its act together, balancing food productivity with consumer safety using good science. They have been lax for a variety of reasons, ranging from corporate influence on politicians and regulators, diminished resources attributable to right-wingers trying to save us from big government (while tossing us to corporate wolves), and the tendency to view all things agricultural thru the lens of apple pie and motherhood.

    In a functioning federalist system, the states still have a role to play in local regulation. But the State has been lax for the same reasons that the feds have been.

    That leaves the counties. Woefully unprepared in terms of resources, expertise, you name it. But guess what? They're closest to and most likely to respond to the people. And, yes, the squeakiest wheel gets their oil, including some pretty far out there ant-GMO, anti-SuperFerry types. But they have as much right to speak up as anyone else and, if the folks with the bucks and other resources can't answer their questions (since throwing money at them has no effect, unlike throwing money at politicians), then this is what they get!

    Study, stall, delay, waffle, that's all the state and feds know how to do anymore. And it's their fault. If they'd been doing their job in the first place, none of this would have been necessary.


  15. Damnant Quod Non Intelligunt:

    Thank goodness someone is getting the attorney general's office involved. The farmers and ag workers are tired of being harassed by these anti-GMO mobsters. Farmers are tired of being told how to farm by these ignorant people. If they don't like how someone grows produce, grow it yourself and let the rest of us enjoy it. These people demanding these laws are the same ones who read and the BS from bogus websites and can't tell what is real and what isn't. Let's not forget too that they promote stuff like burning crops under the paranoid ideation that they are being poisoned. Do ignoramuses need to be making laws here or shall we stand by the evidence? Unless you're Hooser, Bynum, Ruderman, Wooley, and the Gabbards, yes, ignoramuses rule here in Hawaii.


  16. Especially Incognito:

    Dante's Divine Comedy.

    People are dying to get into the "perfect" world.
    Imagine when one dies, no government.

    Other than the "perfect" world, when one dies
    they get to chat with government leaders.
    Getting poked in the posterior with their pitches.


  17. Goober:

    Maybe one should ask a conservative named
    lindsey graham. One is without breath anyways.


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