Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Factory fish farm bill allowed to advance without public hearing in Senator Hee’s committee

by Larry Geller

HB2409 could potentially pass through the Hawaii Senate without a public hearing at all. It is scheduled to be “heard” before tomorrow’s Ways and Means Committee, except for the little note on the hearing notice:

Decision making meeting only, no public testimony will be accepted.

The Hawaii Senate leadership is derelict in allowing HB2409 to go forward without having had a public hearing in the subject matter committee (see: Disappeared News asks senators why an industry-favorable bill was heard effectively without a public hearing). As you will recall, the Committee on Water, Land, Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs gave just over three hours notice of their hearing on this bill, but somehow, the industry knew about it in time to submit testimony.

Three hours 34 minutes notice is the same as no notice, since the public cannot find out about the hearing, read the measure, submit testimony and get down to the Legislature to deliver it. So the industry gets its way without having to answer to the public.

A fax I sent to chair Clayton Hee and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa asking why the rules were waived for this bill has not yet elicited a reply, even as the bill is scheduled for a hearing before Ways and Means tomorrow (Wednesday, 3/24/2010).

There are good reasons why the public should be allowed to weigh in on this bill, and why it should have been allowed to do so by Hee’s committee. An alert circulated yesterday by Food and Water Watch calls for this action:

Hawaii has been the testing ground for factory fish farms in the ocean. While the state opened its arms to the indusrtry with promises of great financial returns, each job generated has cost tax-payers $84,000. Now, the industry is pushing the legislature to pave the way for them to receive even MORE government money by extending their leases up to 45 years.

There are responsible ways to farm fish - like recirculating land based systems, traditional coastal fish ponds and aquaponic systems. Factory fish farms in the ocean present a myriad of unresolved problems and should be excluded from having their leases extended.

Take action now. Tell the Hawaii Ways and Means committee to exclude factory fish farms in the ocean from HB 2409.

Regardless of whether you agree with the alert, the bill should have been heard by Hee’s committee, and the Senate needs either to explain why it was fast-tracked for the industry or send it back to him for a public hearing.

The committee report says nothing about excluding the public from the hearing.

This is just one bill, how many other bills does our legislature allow through without public hearings and without a record of what they have done?


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