Pesticide Compromise Reached As Conference Committee Time Expires

Measures on medical marijuana and all-mail voting are moving forward before the session wraps up next week.
Honolulu Civil Beat - April 27, 2018
By: 
Courtney Teague

One of the most controversial measures of the Hawaii legislative session cleared a major hurdle Friday.

Senate Bill 3095 calls for mandatory disclosure of pesticide use, a reporting and regulation program and the creation of buffer zones around schools when restricted-use pesticides are sprayed.

It also would ban the use of pesticides containing chlorpyrifos starting in 2019, though there’s some debate about the chemical’s impact on human health. The bill allows the state Department of Agriculture to grant permits allowing its use through 2022.

The department would receive $300,000 to monitor pesticide drift at three schools.

A draft put forward by the Senate passed out of conference committee Friday, where lawmakers from both chambers attempt to resolve differences between drafts.

The bill came down to the wire, its final hearing hours before the end of conference committee.

“We have been slow to act and I apologize for that,” said Sen. Mike Gabbard, a supporter of the bill whose lead author is Sen. Russell Ruderman.

He noted that Hawaii would be the first state to ban chlorpyrifos.

SB 3095 was one of many bills that passed Friday ahead of the conference committee deadline. They include measures related to medical marijuana, unlicensed care homes, voting by mail, paid family leave and sunscreen restrictions.

Most of the measures await final floor votes next week. The session concludes Thursday.

Vaporizers, But No Edibles
A conference committee passed a wide-ranging bill related to the state’s medical marijuana program. House Bill 2729 would allow patients to purchase vaporizers and tourists to purchase the drug while visiting the islands if they are medical marijuana patients where they live.

Patients with chronic conditions would no longer have to renew their cards annually, as the bill would extend certification to three years.

But the bill was stripped of two major provisions: allowing edibles and establishing workplace protections.

Advocates have long called for the sale of edible, cannabis-infused products so patients don’t risk ingesting the wrong dose in products made on their own. Advocates have also called for workplace protections to prevent patients from being punished by employers if they test positive for cannabis. Both of those provisions were removed Friday.

Instead, lawmakers opted to form a working group to study the issues — although a separate working group has already recommended approval of the measures.

Care Home Crackdown
State inspectors would have more power to investigate and penalize unlicensed care homes under House Bill 1911, which cleared conference committee Friday. There have been a growing number of reports about such homes caring for up to 20 people without oversight.

Voter Turnout
All-mail elections would be piloted on Kauai in 2020 thanks to House Bill 1401, which passed out of conference committee. Mail-only voting has been touted as a way to save money and increase voter turnout. An earlier draft of the bill would have implemented the program statewide.

Shortly after the vote on HB 1401, the Hawaii chapters of Common Cause and the League of Women Voters issued a joint press release thanking lawmakers for passing the bill in spite of its changes.

“Vote by mail will provide more convenience for young people, members of our local military, homebound seniors and voters in rural areas who may not be able to visit the polls on election day,” said Janet Mason of the League of Women Voters.

Banning Oxybenzone
Coral-damaging sunscreen would no longer be sold in Hawaii stores under Senate Bill 2571. The bill passed out of conference committee Friday and would prohibit the sale or distribution of sunscreens containing oxybenzone or octinoxate after July 2021.

An earlier draft of the bill would have put the ban in effect two years earlier.

Exceptions are made for people with prescriptions and cosmetic products such as facial sunscreens.

Hawaii would be the first state to ban sunscreen with ingredients that harm sea life.

Paid Family Leave
The Women’s Legislative Caucus drafted nine bills that passed out of conference committee this year.

Among them is a bill to pave the way for a state-run paid family leave program. Some legislators were concerned about how mandating paid family leave could impact businesses with three people or less.

In an effort to close the wage gap, the caucus also gained passage of bills to prohibit employers from asking for a job applicant’s salary history. Hawaii women wouldn’t achieve pay equality until 2051 if trends continue, according to a 2015 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

The caucus also passed bills to protect the identities of women filing domestic violence complaints against police officers, and create a program to keep secret the addresses of women who were victims of domestic abuse, assault or stalking.

Among them was Senate Bill 2996 calling for the establishment of an independent authority to manage Hawaii’s airports.

Instead, the facilities will remain under the Department of Transportation’s control .

Also dead is Senate Bill 2424 to create tiny “micro housing” on the Hawaiian Home Lands. It died Thursday after the House removed the names of negotiators assigned to discuss it.

Three bills related to the state’s Agribusiness Development Corporation also perished.

One measure would have issued bonds so the agency could buy farm lands in west Kauai. A second measure called for a management and financial audit of ADC. And a third would have established an Agriculture Accelerator Program to invest in existing or new agriculture businesses.

Also getting the ax was Senate Bill 2585 to allow University of Hawaii graduate students to unionize. Protesters denounced House Speaker Scott Saiki at the Capitol on Friday for his role in killing the bill:

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