A chance to make history in Hawai‘i | Pesticide Action Network
Reclaiming the future of food and farming

A chance to make history in Hawai‘i

Leslee Matthews's picture
Farm in Hawaii

As a former legal intern for one of the State Representatives here in Hawai‘i, I’ve walked the halls of the Capitol, sat in on hearings, listened to constituents share their thoughts and pored over mounds of testimony. Yet I knew this year would be different — Hawai‘i is poised to enact historic pesticide protective legislation this year.

A bill with promise

It was entirely fitting for me to start as Pesticide Action Network’s Hawai‘i Organizing and Policy Fellow on Opening Day of the 29th Legislature here in Hawai‘i. The event coincided with the 125th anniversary of the overthrow Queen Lili‘uokalani and the Hawaiian kingdom, and it was incredibly moving to see the Hawaiian culture lived and honored so proudly throughout the Capitol and at the neighboring Iolani Palace.

The coalition we’re working with started this legislative session tracking several different bills that would take aim at the pesticides that harm the health of our communities. At present, only SB 3095 survives, a bill which aims to protect keiki (children) against harmful pesticides through:

Strong support and weak opposition

Hundreds of people submitted written testimony around their experiences with pesticides and pesticide drift in their communities, and dozens came to the Capitol to deliver their testimony in person. Even more impressive was the number of people who traveled from neighbor islands to make sure their voices were heard. Testimonies were met with a symphony of applause, sounds of affirmation and nods of support.

Hawaii Legislature

As expected, the regular naysayers showed up to object to common sense legislation. Opposing comments started with something like, “We care about children, but…” No substantial argument ever starts with “we care BUT!”

However, our coalition was ready to meet these objections and countered with facts at every opportunity. Even with a few Senators with ties to pesticide corporations making attempts to squash the bill, SB 3095 successfully crossed over to the House, receiving unanimous support during the last hearing. It was encouraging to hear the Senators and Representatives who do see this bill as common sense legislation challenge those in power who should be regulating pesticide use.

What’s next?

We have watched and learned from other states that have successfully enacted no-spray buffer zones around schools, implemented mandatory disclosure and taken great steps to ban chlorpyrifos. Hawai‘i could join them, and make history with a chlorpyrifos ban.

I am hopeful that the endless dedication of stakeholders from all across the Hawaiian islands, along with the collaborative work our coalition is putting in will help us see a victory on SB 3095.

The Protect Our Keiki Coalition is set to hold a Keiki First Rally, lobbying session and community education event on April 9. Dr. Virginia Rauh, lead researcher on chlorpyrifos health impacts on children at Columbia University will be speaking and interacting with a panel of community leaders. You can help support the coalition’s efforts and SB 3095 by inviting friends to join, and tuning into Facebook live.

We are here to stay and #ProtectOurKeiki!

Leslee Matthews
Share this post: 
Leslee Matthews
Leslee Matthews is the Hawaii‘i Organizing and Policy Fellow for PAN and a third year law student at the William S. Richardson school of Law at the University of Hawaii. She is the daughter of a farmworker, advocate for social justice and change, and a Social Worker. Leslee is passionate about advocating for and connecting resources with underserved communities.