By Derrick DePledge
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.