BY SCOTT FOSTER — The 2012 Legislative Session saw an unprecedented introduction of development “exemption” bills that would have eroded decades of environmental protections and curtailed public participation. Early in the session it became clear that this was a serial attempt to diminish Hawaii’s fragile natural and cultural resources, subvert planning and zoning processes, and deny public participation in land use decisions. Midway through the session the surviving exemption bills became widely known as “The Dirty Dozen.”
The Non-Partisan Hawai`i Ohana, a growing grass-roots public interest group, responded to these bad exemption bills by producing online bulletins with information on the contents of these bills and notices of their hearings for public testimony to help defend Hawaii’s environmental laws in the greater public interest. Thousands of public testimonies were received in opposition to these bills. The Non-Partisan Hawai`i Ohana additionally circulated and presented the Legislature with a mass petition signed by nearly 700 concerned citizens in opposition to eliminating environmental oversight and public participation. The continuing petition can be read and signedHERE, and the poignant video, In Defense of Hawaii’s Environmentmay be viewed HERE.
Certain Legislators elected to uphold the public interest detoured from this obligation by crafting, introducing and furthering the exemption bills. They included Senators Donovan Dela Cruz and Malama Solomon (SB 2927, SB 2366, SB 2360, SB 2381, HB2154 SD2, HB 2398 SD1), and Representatives Calvin Say (HB 1813, HB 1893, HB 2154), Sharon Har and Denny Coffman (SB 755 HD2 gut-and-replace from several exemption bills, HB 2154), and Pono Chong, Ken Ito, Angus McKelvey and Marcus Oshiro (HB 2154).
The Non-Partisan Hawai`i Ohana endorses the following candidates now running for contested seats in the State Legislature, including incumbents and new candidates whose records and responses demonstrate their commitment to uphold the public interest for the present and future generations of Hawai`i Nei.