By Gloria Taafe, Undergraduate Intern
We are approaching "first crossover," the halfway mark of sorts for the 2015 Legislative Session. As bills race to make this deadline, we wanted to help you get more familiar with the process and how we work.
The relatively new Capitol website makes it very easy to find any bill by keyword or bill number search. On this site you can also find, bills that became law in previous years, the legislative calendar, and the contact information for all of your elected officials. This website is a major public service for the people of Hawai`i.
But even with this high-tech tool, the legislative process is complicated and stressful. It helps to have friends and work together. That is why The Outdoor Circle works closely with the Environmental Legislative Network. The ELN is made up of many environmental organizations in Hawai`i and each work together to follow and support legislation that protects our important natural resources.
Before the start of the legislative session the ELN meets to share ideas and discuss upcoming legislation that could affect our environment. This year, important discussion revolved around small scale farms, smoke-free beaches, pesticide use, and native plants, outdoor advertising. As the session begins the ELN keeps in contact, relaying new information on hearings and progress daily. This has proved extremely beneficial in 2015 as we work together in opposition to Governor Ige’s appointment of Carleton Ching as Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The opposition to this nomination is gaining serious momentum.
Teamwork and effective communication within the Environmental Legislative Network are essential in Hawaiian politics as each organization does everything possible to help keep our land “clean, green, and beautiful”!
Stay tuned to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for legislative updates, links to the MoveOn petition, and other ways to help our environment this session!
On January 24, 2015, members of The Outdoor Circle met with Dr. Vandana Shiva, Dr. Andrew Kimbrell and Ashley Lukens of the Center for Food Safety a lunch hosted by the North Shore Outdoor Circle. The purpose of the event was to share and discuss sustainable farming practices and the impact of pesticides on land, food production, and human health.
At the meeting, Alexandra shared that India has an environmental court system similar to the statewide environmental court adopted in Hawaii last year. The Outdoor Circle, together with Keep the Hawaiian Islands Beautiful (a chapter of the national Keep America Beautiful foundation), worked together to pass the bill establishing the court by July 1, 2015.
Alexandra explained to the group of 30 community leaders that this law will have a similar historic effect as the signs law which The Outdoor Circle helped establish so many years ago. She explained how the Environmental Court will help ensure the protection of our environment through better enforcement of existing environmental laws. It will guarantee that all court staff involved with environmental cases are well-trained in the laws protecting our environment. The new court will also provide a mechanism for violators to remedy the harm of their actions through community service opportunities directly benefitting the environment. The Environmental Court would also provide a venue for raising significant environmental claims in the future. Dr. Shiva, as well as the local and national leaders of the US Center for Food Safety, were very happy to hear this and spoke about the ways in which this new law can be practiced to benefit public health and the health of the environment. They asked questions and gave ideas about how The Outdoor Circle can take the lead regarding pesticide use in Hawaii.
This year, bills dealing with pesticides and GMOs are being introduced separately in our legislature. These bills which are being introduced by Representative Chris Lee and Senator Josh Green, will require pesticide buffer zones around sensitive areas of our community such as hospitals and schools, as well as further disclosure regarding the current usage of these harmful toxins in Hawaii.
The topic of food security is a clean and green issue as cash crops are phasing out farmland that focuses on food production. Vandana went into detail on the topic of intensive chemical farming and how this sector has hidden costs which are, as of yet, not included in the financial analysis of current agricultural practices in Hawaii. Andrew Kimbrell finished the discussion by looking ahead to the future and stated that "fossil-fuel-based agriculture is a zombie technology that will not be around in 50 years”.
We look forward to learning more about these pressing issues. If you are interested in learning more and getting more involved, please drop us a note here.
As of Fall 2014, The Outdoor Circle has a new team member, Gloria Taaffe! As an events and legislative intern, Gloria works with our team on various projects ranging from Tree Giveaways to following and supporting environmental bills. Gloria is a Senior at UH Manoa majoring in Political Science. She was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. While interested in politics, her passion is protecting the environment and she helps us do so everyday. She likes coffee, co-ops, and consonance (ok that last one we just made up for effect).
The Greenleaf is the online newsletter and blog of The Outdoor Circle. Here you will find updates on the projects and accomplishments of our many branches throughout the state, as well as programs with statewide impact.