At a Honolulu City Council meeting Wednesday, District 7 Councilman Romy Cachola said that if a single change were made to the 2011 Hawaii State Association of Counties Legislative Package, the entire resolution would have to be scrapped.

Is he correct?

“This is the Hawaii State Association of Counties legislative package for 2011,” Cachola said, referring to Resolution 10-290. “It’s all in one measure. For us to go down on the bill means killing everything that’s in there.”

By going down on the bill, Cachola was talking about removing one of the more controversial aspects of the resolution. Specifically, Item 2, which says the council approves for inclusion in the package, “A proposed bill to increase the regulation of aquarium aquatic life collection in order to protect Hawaii’s aquatic life and the marine environment.”

The 2011 package is essentially an agreement by Hawaii’s four counties as to what the legislative priorities will be for the year. All counties must approve of the package before it’s presented to the state Legislature for consideration.

There has been some resistance to the aquatic provision in the council, as the bill would substantially increase regulation of those individuals and businesses that collect fish and other aquatic species.

In written testimony to the council in opposition to the bill, 23 individuals representing Wayne’s Ocean World in Aiea said, “There is no scientific merit for this resolution. It is solely based on emotion. This industry is sustainable based on DLNR statistics and catch reports. This resolution would only benefit one special interest group. It will completely shut down this industry, which would cost many people their jobs. During such a time when so many people are already unemployed due to the economy this would be extremely detrimental for our local economy. Not only for our industry here locally, our employees, but also for the local suppliers who count on us, also for the airlines that we ship with daily, and the many importers on the mainland as well, and other businesses.”

Several other entities wrote testimony opposing the aquatic measure.

The bill, if enacted, would determine how much of a species could be collected in a certain area. The Department of Land and Natural Resources would be called to create a “White List” of aquatic species in each county. Only aquatic species that appear on the White List would be allowed to be bought and sold in the state. The bill says that any persons who collect species that aren’t included on the White List would be fined and possibly receive jail time.

For a first offense, a fine of up to $1,000 could be charged “for each specimen collected or sold.” The penalty could also include up to 30 days in jail.

For a second offense, the fine can go as high as $2,000 per specimen and up to 60 days in jail. Third and subsequent violations call for up to $3,000 per species and up to three months in jail.

Cachola is correct that if the resolution is altered, the whole package would have to be re-approved in its new form by the three other counties.

“If the original package has been altered in any way, even if you amend the bill and it’s still in the package and didn’t remove it, what you need to do is go back to the respective councils again and get the package approved in its final form,” said Council Chair Nestor Garcia. “If you remove a bill, remove two bills, amend the bill, whatever, you need to go back to each of the counties and each of the counties have to have the newly reconfigured package, whatever form it takes, whatever bill is removed or amended, you need to go back. That’s the way it’s set up.”

Garcia said the council is “under the gun” to get the package into its final form for introduction of new bills to the state Legislature in January.

If the resolution were to be changed, it could delay getting a bill ready for the Legislature. The bill was introduced by Maui County, where any changes to the aquatic provision could be expected to be challenged.

Garcia told Civil Beat that he did not anticipate the push back he’s seen with the bill. He said he’s had no history with issues such as the aquatic provision.

Technically, the council could approve the resolution with objections. Councilman Ikaika Anderson told Civil Beat that one option would be to agree to all of the package but send it to the Legislature asking the body not to approve it.

“There are a number of remedies that they could propose to address the concern,” Anderson said. “If the package passed and away it goes across the street to the state Legislature, you would have members of the City Council writing to the Legislature letting them know that, yes, we supported the package. However, we do not support this particular piece of the package.”

If the council chose to go with that method, the resolution wouldn’t die because nothing would have technically changed. But Garcia did not see the purpose of such a move.

“Doesn’t that sound weird to you?” Garcia asked. “If you were the Legislature, what would you think? Why even introduce the bill? If you want to back the legislation, you have to back it.”

Garcia said that if a change is made, it is only fair that it be returned to all the counties for review. He admitted the process is cumbersome but said that, “we speak with one voice, we speak with one package.”

Regardless of how it’s done, Cachola was right. If a change is made, the resolution, for all purposes, would die. And it would need to be resurrected in a new form to be passed by the council.