Heroes of SB3095 – This is what democracy looks like


By now, most of you have heard that Governor David Ige has signed into law SB3095.

Yes, we won.

It’s amazing really. 

The real story of course is about how it happened. How a small group of dedicated citizens in the middle of the Pacific ocean, took on the largest chemical companies in the world, and won.  

4 years ago Syngenta, Dow, Dupont and BASF successfully sued Kauai County for the right to spray poisons next to schools, and not tell us about it.  Today, as a result of the passage of this measure they can no longer do this.  Plus, over the next 4 years the Restricted Use Pesticide  (RUP)and neurotoxin chlorpyrifos, will be phased out and its use totally prohibited.  

Though other States have tried, none have been successful and Hawaii is the first.

The credit goes to a handful, and to thousands.  As in any achievement of significance, it required both.

In this case a small group of committed, talented and incredibly tenacious individual citizens, mostly from the neighbor islands of Kauai, Maui and Hawaii County, joined with a handful of organizations in partnership with an even fewer number of legislators in the Hawaii House and Senate, to make this happen.  Governor David Ige, capped it all off on June 15th when he signed it into law.  

This win is an important moment in the longer arc of the movement towards food justice in Hawaii. Many individuals and organizations have paved the way, stepped up along the timeline of this longer arc, and each of their contributions made this win possible. The legal support from Earthjustice, the early educational efforts of HawaiiSEED and the Mom’s Hui, and the street movement and grassroots organizing on Kauai led by Dustin Barca, the provocative and unapologetically radical work of Babes Against Biotech, Hector Valenzuela, Dr. Lorrin Pang, Walter Ritte, Jeri Di Pietro and so many others – ALL elevated this issue and ignited community engagement across Hawaii.

The Hawaii Center for Food Safety’s key report “Pesticides in Paradise” in 2015, provided an invaluable contribution by bringing key peer-reviewed scientific studies, rigorous data driven research on agrochemical footprint and pesticide usage in Hawaii to bear on state-level policy work. The HCFS team laid the groundwork for an informed and rigorous discussion of these issues and took on much of the heavy lifting throughout the state legislative process.

It is clear to me that SB3095 would not have passed into law without the phenomenal work, and the personal commitment to the cause made by Tiare Lawrence, Autumn Rae Ness, and Lauryn Rego (Maui) and Keani Rawlins-Fernandez (Molokai). 

I will never forget one particular incident, when I ran across this group accompanied by handful of other women from Maui while walking the halls of the state capitol.  I commented to Autumn, “I see you brought the big guns today.”  Without missing a beat Autumn replied, “We don’t have any little guns left.  All we have left are the big guns.” 

As the women from Maui, represented the thousands who are responsible for passing the “Maui Miracle” ballot initiative that also strove to regulate this industry, Fern Holland another wahine powerhouse likewise represented those many Kauai residents who stepped up to create and carry Bill 2491 through the Kauai County Council process.  From Hawaii County Councilmember Jennifer Ruggles also symbolizes the commitment and effort from that far end of the island chain.  On Oahu suffice it to say that Mae Fuimaono, and Mary Laques can hold that space today.

When all is said and done, SB3095 passed unanimously in the House and the Senate because of the pure force of will and commitment made by a relative handful of committed local residents who worked tirelessly, often at great personal sacrifice because they believed in their cause and refused to give up or back down.  Yes, they had science and the testimony of the American Academy of Pediatrics on their side.  And yes, their fundamental cause was a righteous and urgent one.

But make no mistake about it, laws are not passed based on the cause being a righteous or urgent one.  Unfortunately, they are also not passed just because a prestigious group of physicians provide incontrovertible evidence of a substance’s harm.

Passing a law of any significance, requires a marshaling of forces to push and pull and cajole and threaten if needed (in a political election year sense), until the critical majority vote is achieved. There are always forces “on the other side”, pushing back. The larger the stakes, the greater the push back and the tougher the fight.

Nothing is ever cut and dried.  There there are always “experts” who will testify in opposition to the other “experts”.  There are always reasons that “now is not the time” to pass any and all measures that are introduced each year.

It is only through the marshaling of broad-based, strong, unrelenting community support that SB3095 was able to be passed through the legislature.

It was 4 women from Maui and Molokai combined with a handful of other likeminded friends on Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island who by their sheer force of personality and will, made this happen.  They showed up.  They reached out to their networks.  They asked for help.

And then from all corners or the island chain others stepped up to give that help.  Friends and relatives and neighbors and co-workers inevitably would respond,“Ok, I will send yet another email of testimony in, and yes I will also make a call or two to my legislator.”  

Over and over this cycle would be repeated.  The voice mail of the legislators would be full of messages from district constituents when they came to work in the morning. The incoming email would be non-stop, and daily they would see those 4 women from Maui walking the Capitol halls, often with friends from Kauai, Oahu and Hawaii Island.

Next came the teachers in support, then the Sierra Club and then other disparate groups committed to protecting health and environment, and to fighting back against the abuses of large corporate agriculture.  All the while, the testimony of the American Academy of Pediatrics stood as the bedrock of legislative justification.

And then we won. 

Unanimous votes, in the House and in the Senate.  Who would have thought?

First they ignore you.

Then they laugh at you.

Then they fight you.

Then you win.

Mahatma Gandhi* (question as to attribution)

Mahalo to Governor Ige for capping off this effort by signing SB3095 into law. 

He could easily have sidestepped this politically sensitive issue, but instead he showed courage and leadership by putting his name on it in support.  Please take a moment and read my remarks about his support.  

Senator Russell Ruderman as the primary introducer of the Bill, and Senator Mike Gabbard who shepherded the measure through the committee process deserve the lions share of the credit in the Senate.   

In the House, Representative Chris Lee and Representative Richard Creagan are to be especially thanked for their leadership.

There are many legislators and individuals who deserve thanks and who stepped up at key moments.  My listing of a few names here is meant to especially acknowledge the handful who, if not for their individual efforts, this measure would not have passed.  These individuals symbolize and represent many others, that space will not allow me to list today.  And yes, I know I risk leaving key people out, but I do not want that fear to keep me from recognizing those who especially deserve it.

Is this the end of the journey? Absolutely not. We have more work to do. But Act 45 represents a significant and meaningful step in the right direction. For the many who have contributed in small and large ways, take a moment to savor this win. Let us also take a moment to rededicate ourselves to work of protecting what we love.

In solidarity,

Gary Hooser – Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA)

Note: The provisions of SB3095 and a short history of the 5 year journey can be found here. 

Please take 4 minutes and watch this very brief excellent, high quality video for some historical context:

P.S.  Some had indicated that the link to this previously posted piece was not working so am reposting:  “Bad News: Waiting For The Other Shoe To Drop – Winter is Coming”

Below are national/international news stories about the passing of Bill 2491:

The Nation: Hawaii Just Made A Brilliant End Run Around Scott Pruitts EPA


The Ecologist: Hawaii Bans Harmful Pesticide


Think Progress: Hawaii Becomes First State To Ban Pesticide Linked to Brain Damage


Civil Eats: Hawaii Shows States Power To Regulate Pesticides


About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) www.hapahi.org I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - http://www.garyhooser.com/#four “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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4 Responses to Heroes of SB3095 – This is what democracy looks like

  1. Reblogged this on Dawn Morais and commented:
    Thank you, Gary for your own leadership in helping all those who worked so long and so hard on this issue, navigate the legislature with the benefit of your inside knowledge and experience of the tools for leverage and the protocols that needed to be respected. If every state had an expert navigator like you, HI’s win could possibly be replicated across the nation. Maybe we can “rent” you out!


    All I gotta say is thank you Gary for being the pit bull in this fight. You are my hero for being the face of this action. I am overwhelmed with your perserverance and the line -in -the sand that you drew. Social justice and the health of all people is what is at stake. Thank you for the beautiful partnerships you made and all the hard work everyone did to make this a big victory for everyone. I know we are not done.

    in such gratitude, pamela burrell


  3. Pingback: Heroes of SB3095 – This is what democracy looks like · Ceres Trust

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