Passage of Bill 2491

SUBHEAD: A more detailed account of the events in the council chamber about the pesticide/GMO regulation bill.

By Blake Drolson on 17 October 2013 for GMO Free Kauai -

Image above: Supporters of Bill 2491 who sat through the council meeting. From (

A huge historic victory last night for the people of Kaua'i, by the people of Kaua'i, when at 3:33 AM the Kaua'i County Council, passed Bill 2491 by a vote of 6-1. We are stoked! A big real step in the right direction for the health and well being Kaua'i and its people. A great big mahalo to all our GMO Free Ohana who helped make this happen, and to everyone whose support made this important victory possible.

Here's a very brief recap of the days events, to the best of my memory (it was a long day). The meeting started before it began, as many activists were there quite early, set up and camping in line, through the rain which was sometimes very intense, in order fill the seats inside the council chambers with bill supporters.

Line up and pre proceedings started around 7am, filling the room at 8:45am, and the meeting starting at 9am. There was initial testimony from the county attorney about his legal analysis of the bill. There was then a debate and vote 5-2 to keep the legal proceeding private, in order to not aid the chemical companies in any potential future lawsuit against the county.

After lunch there was then a very lengthy section of public comments on the bill, I would say heavily dominated by supporters of the bill. Much of it was very well spoken with high awareness of the issues surrounding the bill, and some of it got quite passionate and / or emotional. This went close to dinner, with the mayor being the last testimony, saying because of new willingness by the chemical seed companies to work with voluntary measures, he now requested only a one month deferral.

Many felt this was still an attempt to kill the bill, because it would push the bill into a new set of delays surrounding Nadine's replacement on the council in one month. After that the holidays could create another delay , then we would find ourselves in a new year where the state could start new legislation, and bypass Kaua'i with watered down measures in comparison to the mandatory measures in Bill 2491.

After dinner there was a question and answer session with the mayor and the council members, where the need for a deferral was debated. Then we got into a new set of amendments to the bill, with Nadine and JoAnn having a new amendment to replace their previous one, and new amendment suggestions by Gary and Tim. The presentations on these amendments took quite a while with each major point being covered by the introducer while everyone else watched on the document review on a projector and screen.

After this there was a very very long time when we were supposed to return at 11pm after they merged the amendments, but they did not return till like 1:00 AM. Most of Gary's and Tim's amendments were rejected which attempted to strengthen the amendments with tighter language, larger buffer zones , and permitting.

Some buffer zones were significantly reduced to 100 feet around streams and the shoreline, with parks getting bumped back up to 250 feet after much debate, except by Kauai coffee where its 75 feet. There remained good language on disclosure, and the EPHIS study, so that was good. In deference to the mayors request for time, the implementation time of the bill to take effect was changed from 6 to 9 months, ouch.

Finally the amendments were done around 3am, and then there was a motion to defer introduced by Nadine. I think this really surprised some people, and many others were upset at this last minute motion to by her to appeal to her new boss in one month, by requesting a one month delay.

Council debate then started on the motion of deferral, and the emotion in the room got intense. Gary testified he was "flabbergasted" and Tim was obviously emotionally shaken by her motion and told her so. Mel and Ross testified that deferring for one month giving the mayor one month to prepare and try to work with the state seemed reasonable. Jay had gone on record he was not interested in a deferral.

At that point the stakes were very high, and the energy in the room was peaking like crazy, you could feel the tension and electricity in the air. Lots of folks were on edge, and could not believe that were at this point after 4 or 5 hours of debate on amendments to the bill.

At this point the vote seemed like it would be 3-3 from the council members testimony, with the final vote and testimony coming down to JoAnn. This was a very intense moment, and when JoAnn started her testimony about how she wrote an op-ed in that days paper about why a deferral could be good, the place literally exploded with emotion.

Many folks stormed out of the room in mid testimony from JoAnn, and I admit I did too, as I was feeling quite pissed. Many folks remained in the room shouting outbursts and "pass the bill".

One woman reportedly shouted "If you defer this bill you will share responsibility for allowing the chemical genocide of the people to take place". There was a LOUD chant of "pass the bill" coming from outside the building, which was amazing in its volume , especially considering it was 3am!

I managed to gather my emotions into a bit of coherence, and went back into the room, in time to hear testimony begin again from JoAnn. She then testified she was not going to vote for a deferral, and there was a big wave of relief that swept thru the crowd, and many audience members then came back inside.

No one is sure if that was the original intent of her testimony, to come back around to vote against deferral, many felt that the mini riot and strong people presence that broke out in the middle of her testimony may have led her to change her testimony . No one can be sure, except JoAnn, but it really felt like we lost for a few minutes there, it was that close.

 Don't be fooled by the eventual 6-1 vote, its was a down to the wire effort, and many people were still there after close to 19 hours at 3:30 am, to strongly represent for the people of Kauai. The most powerful example of people power that I have personally experienced in my lifetime.

After that the council chair Jay Furfaro asked if anyone wanted to second the motion to defer and no one did, so it was dropped. From there the vote on the bill moved quickly, with each council member giving three minutes testimony before the final vote.

Well spoken closing statements from all 7 members, even from Mel who voted against it. The final vote went quickly to 6 to 1 tally at 3:33am. We all rushed quickly down the stairs and out on the front steps where everyone literally shouted with pure raw elation in the victory.

A sweet sweet moment I will always savor and never forget. Lots of hugs and some happy tears were shared with everyone who was still there. We then closed with a large circle and a sweet pule and then some talk story amongst friends as people shared the pack up duties of the remaining gear outside.

I would say we all went home happy, elated, and quite tired, but wired with excitment at the same time. I know I was like many people that had only managed to get a couple of hours of sleep the previous night, and now it was 4AM. Yet the excitement of the victory, kept me wide awake driving home.

Okay, that's all for my recap, maybe it wasn't so brief after all , heh. Everyone at GMO Free Kaua'i would like to say :

Mahalo to all the ohana of GMO Free Kaua'i, to those that made it there for the days events and to all the list subscribers that keep our movement growing and reaching out to new people and levels of awareness.

Mahalo to everyone from Kaua'i and the Pass the Bill Coalition that made it last night, and to all the previous council hearings on the bill over the last few months.

Mahalo to Gary Hooser for writing the original bill with the help of community members, at their request.

Mahalo to Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum for introducing the bill and being strong champions for it all the way to the end.

Mahalo to JoAnn Yukimura and Nadine Nakamura for coming on board to support the bill in amended form, which was key in the bill getting out of comittee and out to the full council. I know many questioned their actions , but please let us remember that without their support and crafting the bill into a reduced form that they could support, that we would have not passed the bill into law.

Mahalo to Jay Furfaro for acting as a strong and effective council chair, and managing to handle a very boisterous public crowd. Also thanks to him for being a strong advocate for not deferring the bill, if he did not take that position during council deliberations, the bill would have been not passed into law late last night.

Mahalo to Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa for representing the multitude of other views about the bill and helping to bring about a healthy discussion and to show effective democracy in action.
Mahalo to Mayor Bernard Carvalho and his staff for coming down to testify and be part of the process and creating healthy discussion over the bills implementation. The fact that the Mayor and his staff all stayed till 3:30 am showed a true commitment to good governance, even if many did not agree with his request for a deferral.

MAHALO to all the poeple that contributed their efforts in many ways to making this bill a reality. This bill , now law (yes!), came from the people, and it was the movement of the people that made it happen.
To everyone that came to the MANA MARCH, the people that came down to all the other rallies, the people that showed up to all the council proceedings, to the crew of Ohana O' Kaua'i and all our other allies, it was YOUR efforts, that made this new reality possible.

A personal thanks to the core GMO Free Kauai crew that I am always so happy to work with, Jeri DiPietro, Mi-Key, Four Feather, Harvest Edmonds, and my wife Astrid.

Always a big Mahalo to Walter Ritte and his wife Loretta for their strong support. Also a big thanks to our GMO Free Kauai facebook angels Erika Morningstar, Joanna Wheeler, Cristi Demuth , Steve Benjamin, and Brian Henrick.

Also a big thanks to all the other activists that worked so, so hard behind the scenes. Fern Rosentiel, Dustin Barca, Elijah Frank, Jennifer Ruggles, Brent Norris, Andrea Brower, Sol Kahn, Lorilani, Hoku Cabebe, Nomi Carmona, Angela Hughes, Aria Juliet, Larry Schnieder, Ruby, Journey, Tewa, Mahana, Nancy, Louisa Wooten, Chris Kobayashi, Ned Whitlock and Ray Catana.

There were many more people involved and I know I am not thanking everyone, so forgive me if I did not mention you, and know you are all appreciated for all you did to make this great day happen.

I am proud of what we have done. We have made real substantive change happen, and we are celebrating this very important victory. Yes this movement must continue, we must stay on top of the implementation of Bill 2491 and make sure the laws are enforced and the study is done meaningfully., but in this moment we can celebrate.

 Speaking of celebrations don't forget our Halloween costume party at Lydgate main pavilion on Thursday 10/24 at 6:00 PM.

Here are some links covering the news of the bills passing. Enjoy.

Final link is the link to the video proceedings of the council meeting here, in case you want to watch what happened yourself. 18 hours and 37 minutes...

Because I am in a fun mood today, I am linking some fun celebration songs that I personally like below, along with their song lyrics. For me they relate to well to my feelings in the moment. Crank it up and celebrate ! :)

I will close with a quote from Jay Furfaro from his closing statement....
"To the seed companies, I want to make sure you understand that we have to envision the future for our island," said Council Chair Jay Furfaro minutes before the vote. "Your companies have your policies. But we need to envision Kauai in the future and this is a start for us."


1 comment :

Mauibrad said...

Best short video of it have seen yet: Before and After the Vote:

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