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Kauai commission rejects changing petition bar

LIHUE, Hawaii >> A Kauai commission is rejecting two proposals to change how many petition signatures are needed to put public measures to a vote.

The Garden Island reported Tuesday that the County of Kauai Charter Review Commission voted down two proposed amendments that would have evened out the signatures needed for referendums, initiatives and charter amendments.

Right now, petitions signed by 20 percent of registered voters are required for referendums and initiatives, while charter-amendment proposals require signatures from 5 percent of voters.

One proposal would have reduced the votes required on referendums and initiatives to 5 percent. A separate proposal would have required charter-amendment proposals to obtain signatures from 20 percent of voters.

The commission was evenly split on both proposals.

Part of the commission’s discussion about the proposals Monday included testimony from people who brought up a citizen’s initiative aimed at regulating genetically modified organisms on the island. Some people argued the group behind the petition was taking advantage of the rules by defining its proposal as a charter amendment to get fewer signatures.

“It should be harder to amend the charter than it is to qualify an initiative ordinance, or at least as difficult,” Kauai resident Allan Parachini said.

Commission member Patrick Stack said the panel needs to stick to the process and not change things based on individual issues.

“We’re muddying the waters,” Stack said. “We’re clouding the issue by mixing GMOs, pesticides and our job here.”

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