On Thursday February 19th numerous residents from all parts of our State got out of bed much earlier than normal, took off from work or school, arranged child-care and headed to the State Capitol. For many, the trip meant flying from the neighbor-islands and then taking a taxi cab or renting a car in order to attend an 8:30am hearing. They were going to offer personal testimony before the House Committee on Agriculture on an issue which directly impacts their lives. As participants in the democratic process, they sought to offer two minutes of testimony on HB1514 a measure that would establish pesticide disclosure and protective buffer zones around schools, hospitals, and homes.
The committee’s treatment of this public was contemptible. While the Hearing Notice clearly said, in bold letters that testifiers would have at least to two minutes to testify, many were not even offered that pittance of an opportunity to participate.
Watch the video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7gUJwUVGfc
It is all on camera. Watch and you will see the House Agricultural Committee engaged in a shameless charade of a public hearing. While the Chair begins the meeting with the appearance of fairness and purpose, by the end it is painfully obvious that he had no intention to afford testifiers the public process of which they are entitled. About midway through, even the pretense of fairness and purpose evaporates as the Chair displays increasing impatience with the large number of community members in attendance. The two minute rule is thrown on the wayside and he rushes residents through their testimony, repeatedly cutting them off after less than one minute and in some cases less than 30 seconds, clearly not listening to what the people were actually saying.
Later, you will also see Committee members taking their time and tossing softball questions liberally to representatives of industry. Never do the Representatives seriously challenge the statements made by industry and never ever do they engage in dialogue or question regular citizens whose health is actually being impacted by the use of Restricted Use Pesticides by these same industry interests.
After over 3 hours of testimony, the Chair recessed the Committee took 2 minutes and 56 seconds to “confer with the committee and vice chair” and then announced his decision to defer and kill this measure.
The conclusion and decision to effectively kill HB1514 by this particular committee was, in retrospect, predictable. Those familiar with the historical conduct of the state House Agriculture Committee, and its flouting of the legislative process in general, would say the outcome was to be expected.
What is particularly deplorable in this incident is the Committee’s blatant charade – disregarding testimony provisions in the hearing notice and shamefully disrespecting a community that had sacrificed so much to be there.
Cynics at the legislature may not understand or care – but the fact remains that the residents who were disrespected and whose opinions were so rudely shunted aside actually came to that meeting believing their testimony could make a difference.
They, of course, have every reason to no longer believe that to be true.
By its actions, the House Agriculture Committee brings real harm upon their communities. Not only do they withhold and block protection for children and schools from harmful pesticide drift, they also greatly diminish public faith and confidence in the core democratic process.
Call or email your Representative today and let them know that the action of the House Agriculture Committee is unacceptable.
Ask them to support reopening the House Agriculture Committee hearing on HB1514. Ask that the public be allowed the courtesy to complete their testimony. Demand accountability and respect for the public process.
They will likely tell you, “House Rules” prevent that from happening. Remind them politely that “they make the Rules” and the rules can be waived or amended at any time should the majority want to do so.
Email the House Representative who represents your district first. Then contact all Representatives at firstname.lastname@example.org