Hawaii County mayor vetoes bill to ban public herbicide use

December 16, 2019 GMT

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim has vetoed a bill limiting use of weed-killing chemicals on public property.

The Hawaii County Council passed the bill in November to ban the use of 30 herbicides over four years, which would have made the ban the first of its kind in Hawaii.

The proposed ban covered parks and areas alongside roads, bikeways, sidewalks, trails, drainage and waterways owned or maintained by the county, officials said.

The list of 23 banned products was arbitrary and raised concerns about removing some of the county’s tools to fight invasive plant species, Kim said.

The veto last Thursday was the first of Kim’s current term.

The Big Island council passed the bill by a vote of 6-3, the minimum needed to override a veto under the County Charter. The council can hold an override vote within 30 days of the mayor’s action, officials said.

Kim’s veto letter sent to the council questioned whether herbicides come under federal, state or local jurisdiction.

“The county does not have the level of expertise to identify herbicides as ‘causing high risk of exposure,’ as ‘dangerous chemicals’ or as ‘harmful chemicals,’” Kim said in the letter. “The bill disregards the national and state regulations in place to ensure the safety of people who use herbicides as well as those who work and play in areas where herbicides are used.”

Kim recommended amendments and said his administration would support a committee to guide the county’s practices in managing vegetation to reduce herbicide use.

Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas, who sponsored the bill, said she thought the mayor’s concerns had been met when they spoke last week.

“I am not alone in my consternation, and I am baffled, confounded, and deeply disappointed with the mayor’s decision to veto Bill 101,” Villegas said. “However, we are committed to persevere with the courage and serious consideration this bill demands.”