LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - By a margin of 5-2, the Kauai County Council voted to override Mayor Bernard Carvalho's veto of Bill 2491, which would force farmers to disclose pesticide use and regulate farmers who grow genetically modified crops.
Council members took the vote Saturday, two days after hearing from more than 100 people Thursday on the controversial measure.
The bill passed last month by a 6-1 vote in the council. Today's vote came a day after Mason Chock selected to fill a vacancy on the council created when Nadine Nakamura was appointed as the county's managing director.
The meeting included an appearance by Carvalho, who defended the veto and cautioned against possible litigation against it.
"Should you decide instead to override the veto, I will continue my consultation with various departments on how to best implement the bill," the mayor told the council. "However, we all know there's a high likelihood that the new law will be challenged in court."
Council member Mel Rapozo raised concerns about having a new member vote on the override, but Chock said he consulted with his family, county attorneys and the mayor before deciding to vote to override the veto.
"Some people had requested my recusal," said Chock. "I don't think that is an option within this office, and neither an option for me. If I've been given the opportunity to make a difference in the health of a child's life, I'm going to take it."
Opponents of the bill, including the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, expected the override. But HCIA Executive Director Alicia Maluafiti said she supporter the mayor's position to have voluntary disclosure of pesticide use and genetically modified crops. She also pointed to a new state program that's taking effect shortly.
"If the county council members had recognized the governor's program, the Department of Ag pesticide program, that that is going to be implemented December first, they could actually address the health and safety concerns expressed by the community immediately," said Maluafiti.
As for the possibility of court challenges, council member Gary Hooser dismisses the possibility.
"I cannot imagine these large corporations suing a tiny county like Kauai for the right to spray poisons next to schools," he said.
Council members Jay Furfaro, Tim Bynum, JoAnn Yukimura, Hooser and Chock voted in favor of the override. Rapozo and Ross Kagawa, who originally voted for the bill, voted no.
Hooser and other bill supporters say at least four environmental attorneys have offered to defend the county for free if there is litigation. Barring legal challenges, the measure will take effect in nine months.