Hawaii State Senate and House regularly violate the State Constitution – or not?

At the recently held Hawaii Peoples Congress issues with regards to the “accountability of elected officials” was a hot topic of discussion.

The matter of the Maui County Council flaunting the Sunshine Law was discussed.
http://www.mauinews.com/news/local-news/2016/12/another-complaint-is-filed-against-mike-white/

Also discussed at length was how committees in both the House and the Senate often diminished, ignored or actively blocked the publics participation in the law making process. The “Conference Committee” process and the lack of adequate notice for committee hearings were two of the reoccurring themes.

This conversation led to a close review of the state constitution which appears to indicate both the State House and the State Senate are in violation on a regular basis.

What do you think?

Hawaii State Constitution
http://lrbhawaii.org/con/conart3.html
Article III – The Legislature
Organization, Discipline, Rules and Procedure
Section 12.
3d paragraph

“Every meeting of a committee in either house or of a committee comprised of a member or members of both houses held for the purpose of making decision on matters referred to the committee shall be open to the public.”

Given the above requirement it would seem that both the State House and Senate regularly violates the Hawaii State Constitution.

It is common practice that House and Senate Conference Committee members regularly meet in private “for the purpose of making decision on matters referred to the committee”. They meet in private, negotiate in private and agree on the outcomes in private, emerging from the closed private meetings to announce the outcome and then formally vote at the public meeting. This practice seems obviously to violate the Hawaii State Constitution.

It is also far too common a practice for the various committees of the legislature to provide less than 24 hours notice of a committee meeting. Sometimes less than one hour of public notice is provided. The State Constitution states that a committee meeting held for the purpose of making a decision…”shall be open to the public”. It would seem that a meeting held where it is physically impossible for the public to attend due to basic logistics (time to drive or fly to the meeting once notice is received) also violates the Hawaii State Constitution.

I welcome input from readers (and lawyers) on this. Are there any budding young law school students or aspiring public interest lawyers that want to engage this issue?

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Breaking News: EPA files complaint against Syngenta for farmworker safety violations on Kauai

From EPA – HONOLULU – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has filed a complaint alleging that Syngenta Seeds, LLC violated numerous federal pesticide regulations meant to protect agricultural workers at its crop research farm in Kekaha, Kauai. EPA is seeking civil penalties of over $4.8 million for the violations.

On January 20, 2016, 19 workers entered a Syngenta field recently sprayed with a restricted use organophosphate insecticide. Ten of these workers were taken to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. Restricted use pesticides are not available to the general public because of their high toxicity, potential for harm and impact on the environment.

“Reducing pesticide exposure is a high priority, as it directly affects the health of farmworkers,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA is committed to enforcing the federal law that protects those who spend long hours in the fields. We appreciate working with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture to respond to this serious incident.”

The company named in the complaint does business as Syngenta Hawaii, LLC., a subsidiary of Syngenta AG, a global enterprise that produces chemicals and seeds. The EPA complaint states that Syngenta misused the pesticide “Lorsban Advanced,” and it failed in its duties to adequately implement the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act’s Worker Protection Standard.

Specifically, EPA alleges that Syngenta failed to notify its workers to avoid fields recently treated with pesticides. The company then allowed or directed workers to enter the treated field before the required waiting period had passed, and without proper personal protective equipment. After the workers’ exposure, Syngenta failed to provide adequate decontamination supplies onsite and failed to provide prompt transportation for emergency medical attention.

An inspector from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture was present at the Syngenta facility when the exposure incident occurred, prompting the State’s immediate investigation. In March, HDOA referred the matter to EPA for follow-up investigation and enforcement. In April, EPA inspectors conducted a series of inspections, which led to the complaint.

The active ingredient in “Lorsban Advanced” is chlorpyrifos, which in small amounts may cause a runny nose, tears, sweating, or headache, nausea and dizziness. More serious exposures can cause vomiting, muscle twitching, tremors and weakness. Sometimes people develop diarrhea or blurred vision. In severe cases, exposure can lead to unconsciousness, loss of bladder and bowel control, convulsions, difficulty in breathing, and paralysis. Symptoms can appear within minutes and may last days or weeks.

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Time For Kauai Council To Put Health Over Profits (actually it is well past time)

The proposed repeal of Ordinance 960 formerly known as Bill 2491 is another indicator of the power and influence the west side chemical companies hold in our community. Because the courts have already invalidated the measure, repealing it serves no useful purpose. This is simply a political power play.

The State/County sponsored Joint Fact Finding (JFF) report did an exhaustive review of existing health and pesticide data which this Council has chosen to ignore.

The data gathered during the JFF process indicate that west side residents suffer from numerous health conditions at higher rates than residents living anywhere else on Kauai.

These health conditions/indicators include: Developmental Delay (3 to 8 year olds), ADHD, Easter Seals Enrollment (age 0 to 3), Infant Mortality, Mothers Pre-Existing Health Conditions, Cancer Mortality, Stroke Mortality, Admissions for Bacterial Pneumonia, COPD or Asthma (elderly), Dialysis Patients (per 1,000) and other disabilities.

These are all conditions or health indicators in which the incidence of occurrence by people living on the west side exceed all other Kauai communities.

To be clear we are dealing with small numbers, statistical significance is thus impossible to determine with any certainty and the cause of these elevated rates has not been determined.

This is why it is so important that the Council support the recommendations put forward by the JFF. These recommendations are very similar to what is contained in Ordinance 960 which Council Chair Rapozo and Vice Chair Kagawa are proposing to repeal.

Repealing this ordinance does not provide closure or help at all.

Closure will only occur when the chemical companies fully disclose their pesticide usage, agree to reasonable buffer zones around schools, hospitals, homes and other sensitive areas, and the comprehensive testing of soil, air and water as has been recommended by the State/County JFF report is conducted.

Please offer your testimony (thoughts, ideas, suggestions, feelings) on proposed Draft Bill 2643 in person or via email at counciltestimony@kauai.gov today Wednesday December 14th.

Please ask the Council to set aside the repeal and instead step up to the plate and lend their voice in strong support of the JFF report.

The voice of the community must be stronger than the voices of Syngenta, Dow Chemical, Dupont and BASF. These companies have continued to resist any attempts at increased regulation.

Ordinance 960 simply required disclosure, modest buffer zones and a study of the industry impacts on the health of our citizens. Rather than comply the companies took us to court.

18 months ago the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that glyphosate which is the active ingredient in RoundUp “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Today these companies continue to refuse to disclose the amount of glyphosate used on Kauai. A simple disclosure request of a chemical the companies insist is safe, and yet they refuse to comply.

Syngenta – which is applying pesticides on Kauai’s west side that are banned in their home country of Switzerland – is presently under federal investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to protect its field workers who were hospitalized for exposure to chlorpyrifos a known neurotoxin – widely used on Kauai.

The science is clear. The pesticides and chemicals used by these companies are dangerous; harm at varying degrees is occurring to health and the environment.

The actual degree of harm as a result of both short term and long term exposure has yet to be determined and these companies will do anything in their power to prevent full disclosure and the appropriate testing and studies.

The Joint Fact Finding Group which was sponsored by both the State and the County after extended discussions and review of existing research, issued comprehensive recommendations intended to help move us move forward.

The next step is up to us. Ask the Council today to show they care more about the health of the people on the west side than they do the profits of the 4 largest chemical companies in the world.

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Losing a friend, an election, a court case and the presidency – What’s next?

Aloha,
It has been a rough few weeks. On November 8th Donald Trump was elected to be the next President of the United States and I was defeated in my bid for re-election to the Kauai County Council.

Then on November 18th the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals announced their decision invalidating Bill 2491/Ordinance 960. Also on this same day within hours of that announcement my dear friend and colleague Tim Bynum passed away. Tim was the co-introducer of Bill 2491 and fortunately was unaware of the court decision at the time when he last closed his eyes.

Each incident was like a gut punch. Each seemed impossible to fathom or understand at the time it happened and each has made me more determined than ever.

The chemical companies will rue the day they took on this battle with our community.

This is one of our many Standing Rocks — where corporate power and profit collide with indigenous rights, the rights of communities to determine their future, and people’s determination to protect their land and water.

It would have been much easier for them and for our community if they simply would have accepted the modest provisions contained in Bill 2491 – Disclose to us your pesticide usage, don’t spray next to schools, hospitals and homes and let us do a comprehensive study to determine health impacts on our community.

But instead they have fought us every step of the way.

For the record, I do not support any activities that are illegal or cause physical harm to people or property. However, it is a given that there will be more law suits, more marches, more direct action, more letters to the editor and more people packing the halls of government waiting to testify.

The focus now will be on the Governor and the Hawaii State Legislature to put into place the necessary regulations and conduct the needed testing and studies. Broad-based community actions are being planned now to ensure that message is delivered convincingly, consistently and with impact.

Please help by signing this petition demanding Governor Ige act now: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/demand-the-state-of-hawaii-act-now-to-protect-the-people
My personal commitment to pushing back against the chemical companies is stronger now than ever before. Later this month I return on a personal trip to Basel Switzerland, home of Syngenta. I will continue to work with MultiWatch, a Swiss organization committed to ending Syngenta’s practices in Hawaii that are illegal to conduct in their home country.

This 4 minute video of my remarks to Syngenta Shareholders will help you better understand our situation with this particular chemical company.

What 2017 and beyond will look like for me is still taking shape.

I have the freedom today to make new choices, unfettered in a sense from the bindings of elective office. #hooserunleashed 😉

In addition to persisting in my work to protect people and environment from the chemical companies, I also am committed to helping organize and build a broader movement in Hawaii in support of a progressive agenda grounded in social, economic and environmental justice.

As its volunteer Board President, the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) and mission to “catalyze change and empower communities” will receive my full time attention. http://www.hapahi.org

H.A.P.A. is a strong and vibrant organization and among many other activities is presently supporting two potentially game-changing initiatives:

The Kuleana Academy – A program whose mission is to identify, recruit and train the next generation of grassroots leaders – http://www.hapahi.org/kuleana-academy/

The Hawaii Peoples Congress – A powerful new coalition that will advocate for tangible policies that address wealth inequality, excessive corporate influence and environmental degradation.- http://www.peoplescongresshi.org

However, we/I need more.

H.A.P.A. is a 501c3 nonprofit whose tax exempt status does not allow it to become involved in the full-throated political and policy actions that I strongly believe are needed now. If we are to achieve the bold change required to push back against the growing institutional and corporate powers now in place, we need to step up our game with regards to both policy advocacy and political action.

So while H.A.P.A. can educate, inform and organize which are critical components in the foundation needed for change to happen, other organizations must step up to carry the ball further and more aggressively down the field.

One option is to create and lead such an entity. This could be a 501c4 or otherwise legally structured entity that could engage aggressively in both political and policy advocacy. This would allow me to utilize and leverage the experience and networks I have gained over the years to advocate for progressive public policy while supporting symbiotic community based political action springing up now on all islands.

Another option that remains even now an unresolved thought continuously swirling in my brain, centers on my potential future in public office.

Whether or not my recent loss is the last and final election campaign of my life is a question that I ask myself daily. Serving in elective office, though challenging and somewhat stressful at times, has been incredibly fulfilling.

Future political options primarily revolve around the 2018 election cycle however sometimes “things happen” in mid cycle that create opportunities for appointments and/or special elections.

A potentially YUGE wrinkle in Hawaii’s political landscape is the rumor of U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard leaving her CD2 seat early for a job in the Trump administration. The CD2 is composed of the neighbor-islands (2/3) and rural Oahu (1/3).

Should this happen, a “winner take all” special election will occur giving candidates possibly only 4 months to organize and run a campaign on all islands. Candidates with existing name recognition and established statewide networks would have a clear off the blocks advantage.

Lot’s of choices.

Frankly I want to do it all.

Mahalo to all for your friendship, support and the kind and generous words many have written to me over the past few weeks.

Imua!
Gary Hooser

Please join us in Honolulu this weekend, December 3 & 4, for two days of panels, workshops and speakers that will prepare us to launch the People’s Agenda for real change!

Tim Bynum – Celebration of Life
December 16th, 4:30pm Lydgate Beach Park, Main Pavilion

Article in The Garden Island about a true leader and a dear friend, Councilmember Tim Bynum:
http://thegardenisland.com/news/local/tim-bynum-former-councilmember-dies-at/article_2ccab09d-4bf9-5ad5-8adf-cadfcc678c2f.html

My thoughts regarding the 9th Circuit issue:
‘It’s Time To Visit The Governor”
https://garyhooser.wordpress.com/2016/11/19/it-is-time-to-visit-the-governor/

9th Circuit Court decision regarding Ordinance 960:
https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2016/11/18/14-16833.pdf

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Alan Parachini – is a disgusting man.

It both saddens and angers me to read this morning Alan Parachini’s attack on the character of both myself and former Council Member Tim Bynum who passed from this world only a few days ago. The timing, tone and general message was inappropriate, insulting and void of aloha and sensitivity to the Bynum family and his many friends.

Tim was a friend and a good man who did nothing for political gain. His only motivation with regards to all of his work on the Council over the years was to always simply seek justice and do good for the community.

Mr. Parachini should be ashamed of himself. When his obituary is ultimately written it will indicate somewhere I am sure that he was an arm-chair quarterback who behind the safety of his computer keyboard attacked, demeaned and diminished the actions of others.

Gary Hooser

NOTE: In response to a comments asking about what exactly Parachini wrote – It is in todays The Garden Island, there is a beautiful tribute article to Tim and then Parachini wrote a separate opinion article in the same paper questioning our motives for proposing and supporting Bill 2491 saying that we only did it for political purposes.

It is fine to express different opinions on issues, but questioning motive and intent is the same as questioning character and integrity. Parachini has no clue what is/was in our hearts and minds during the 2491 yet he chooses to paint our intent as selfish and self serving. He insults me, our dear friend Tim Bynum and all who worked hard on this issue for the right reasons – to protect the health and environment of our community.

Then he has the further audacity to brag about how the chemical industry and their supporters won because they got elected to the Kauai County Council an employee of Syngenta. Syngenta’s Kauai operations are presently under federal investigation. Syngenta uses pesticides on Kauai that are banned in their home country of Switzerland. Syngenta sued Kauai County rather than simply comply with the disclosure and buffer zone requirements of 2491, Syngenta who has polluted more drinking water systems in the world than any other company of its kind – now has one of their own sitting on the Kauai County Council and Alan Parachini thinks this is all something we should celebrate.

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It is time to visit the governor.

The much awaited 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision regarding Ordinance 960 was released this morning and while there are positive spots within the decision, the short answer is we lost.

This means that though State government has failed miserably enforcing even the modest regulations that do exist, County governments in Hawaii are prohibited by law from stepping forward to protect their citizens from pesticide exposure caused by Syngenta, Dupont Pioneer, Dow Chemical, BASF, Monsanto and other heavy users of Restricted Use Pesticides.

The good news is that as a result of our communities work in passing Kauai County’s Bill 2491 which became Ordinance 960 significant benefits have accrued:

There is far more public disclosure of pesticide use by the chemical industry today than there was 3 years ago. While the status quo is still woefully inadequate, the community today has far more access to disclosure information than previously available.

The companies no longer plant their GE experimental test fields directly next to schools, hospitals, homes and other sensitive areas. Consequently, residents living in these areas are now likely exposed to far less pesticide exposure than occurred prior to Bill 2491.

The County has reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid property taxes owed by these companies. The net effect is that the approximately $220,000 cost to the County for defending the measure has been more than offset by the companies themselves. The discovery of these unpaid taxes came as a direct result of the investigation leading up to the introduction of Bill 2491.

Syngenta – which is applying pesticides on Kauai’s west side that are banned in their home country of Switzerland – is presently under federal investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to protect its field workers who were hospitalized for exposure to chlorpyrifos.

The State Legislature has appropriated $500,000 to support the implementation of the Joint Fact Finding Group recommendations, which largely reflected the provisions contained within Bill 2491, Ordinance 960.

Syngenta and Dupont have both announced a significant reduction in the amount of land utilized by the GE test crops and consequently there will be significantly less pesticides being used by these companies.

All of the above are a reality because of the work and effort put into Bill 2491. So while the court decision was disappointing, the net results were well worth the effort.

But clearly the challenge of protecting our community against the environmental harms imposed upon us by these large chemical companies has not gone away. The agrochemical industry may in fact become even more emboldened by their perceived win in court and by the election results, both locally and nationally.

You can be sure there were “high fives” all around the headquarters of Syngenta, Dupont and Dow’s west side headquarters when their Council slate, including an employee of Syngenta itself was recently elected to the Kauai County Council. Knowing that a Trump administrations EPA appointments will also likely be tremendously favorable to them, the chemical companies can now rest assured knowing there will be no increased regulation nor even close scrutiny coming out of Kauai County nor the Federal government.

Given the conclusion by the court plus the local and national election results – our attention must now be focused on the State Legislature and Governor David Ige.

The science is clear. The pesticides and chemicals used by these companies are dangerous; harm is occurring to health and the environment. The degree of harm as a result of both short term and long term exposure has not been determined and these companies will do anything in their power to prevent full disclosure which would then allow the appropriate studies and testing to occur.

The Joint Fact Finding Group which was sponsored by both the State and the County after extended discussions and review of existing research, issued comprehensive recommendations intended to help move us move forward, yet the State continues to remain silent and do nothing.

The next step is up to us. For starters, I encourage all to contact Governor Ige directly at808-586-0034 and request that he utilize his executive authority immediately to implement the Joint Fact Finding Group’s recommendations. If you prefer email go here: http://governor.hawaii.gov/contact-us/contact-the-governor/

Next, join us at HAPA http://www.hapahi.org and/or at The People’s Congress http://www.peoplescongresshi.org as we enter the next phase in our battle for environmental and social justice.

Imua!

Gary Hooser

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Post Election – thoughts and feelings

Aloha Friends,

Following the disappointing results of Tuesday night, I wanted to write you this brief note, with a more extended message to follow in the coming days. Many of you have asked about the reasons for our loss, and I will attempt as best I can to analyze and report on that question in the coming weeks.

A message similar to the below was posted on Facebook but I understand all of you may not have seen it. In addition, below also include comments I provided to The Garden Island who have inquired as to “how I am feeling”.

I awoke Wednesday morning at peace with the Council election results, but remain very unsettled by the national situation.

It has been an honor and privilege to serve on the Kauai County Council.  

We ran an incredibly vigorous campaign and I am in awe and deep gratitude to those of you who helped and supported that effort.

My message at the moment is one of gratitude to all of those who have helped me over the past few months. You know who you are.

From the bottom of my heart I thank you for all you have done in support of me and the campaign. I promise you that my commitment, actions and efforts in the future will continue to be focused on helping to make our world a better place.

During the years I have spent campaigning for public office I have lost 4 elections while winning 6, serving so far a net total of 16 years in elective office (including both the Kauai County Council and the Hawaii State Senate).  

The process is such that you give the campaign 110%, the people vote and decide, and then you move forward with the decision made by the voters.  

As the results came in on Tuesday evening, the thoughts that were at the top of my mind were primarily those of not wanting to disappoint or let others down who have worked so very hard to support me and the campaign.  I know and understand that for me personally there are many paths to service and when one door shuts, another always opens

Our island and our State continues to face many challenges and I am committed to remaining engaged in the efforts to resolve them.  My initial plan is to expand my work with the many existing groups and various advocacy organizations and then to move forward in support of independent community based solutions.  

Preserving and expanding the hard won gains in the area of environmental and health protections will remain a top priority.

As I enter the prime of my life, I am excited and somewhat anxious to choose that new path and cross through that new door that awaits me. My goal and hope to all of you who are part of my life and who have been part of this incredible journey, is that we remain connected and continue to work together in our common quest to improve and protect our planet and community.

Imua!

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