Maui Rep. Angus McKelvey has been removed as chairman of the powerful House Consumer Protection Committee, just days after a House bill to regulate pesticide use was killed in the chamber.
There was no official explanation for the change, but sources say that McKelvey had used his committee to amend the pesticide bill and others, without seeking the support of other chairs.
Sources say it is not a new pattern for McKelvey and a majority of Democrats supported his removal. Supporters of the change said it was not done because of the pesticide bill alone.
But those who support McKelvey, who also asked not to be identified, said the lawmaker was a fair chairman with a challenging committee.
State Rep. Roy Takumi, of Pearl City, will move from his chairmanship of the Education Committee to take McKelvey’s place.
McKelvey will be Higher Education chair and state Rep. Justin Woodson of Kahului will become Education Chair.
The Consumer Protection Committee is considered the third most powerful committee in the state House after the Finance and Judiciary Committee.
It often deals with sensitive and controversial legislation.
Other committee chairs complained when the committee made amendments to several pieces of legislation without consultation.
The pesticide bill proposed buffer zones around fields where pesticides are sprayed and disclosure of pesticides use, a measure opposed by the seed crop industry. The state Senate has passed similar legislation, so the issue will come back to the House.
After the vote, no members would comment on the record.
House Speaker Joe Souki told Hawaii News Now that the committee reshuffle was by mutual agreement and not meant to punish anyone.
“This is a mutually agreeable change in committee chairmanships and all the representatives are looking forward to their new responsibilities,” Souki said, in a news release. “In their new roles the chairs will continue to do the business of the people.”
McKelvey apparently left the state Capitol building and was not on the House floor for the vote and afterward. His office was locked.