LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — The Kauai County Council this month will consider a proposal that would further regulate large agricultural companies.

But there’s disagreement over whether the measure is a charter amendment or ordinance, The Garden Island newspaper reported.

The distinction matters in part because a charter amendment petition only needs signatures from 5 percent of registered voters, while those proposing an ordinance or referendum must collect signatures from 20 percent of voters.

The Kauai County Council voted 3-3, with one council member absent, to receive the proposal submitted by the group Kauai Rising. The split vote means the measure will be reconsidered by the full seven-member council during its next scheduled meeting on July 23.

The measure would require agrochemical companies to prove their operations are safe. It would make companies cover the cost of regulating and monitoring the industry. Supporters say it’s more comprehensive than a new county law taking effect this year requiring Kauai’s largest agricultural companies to disclose their use of pesticides and genetically modified crops.

The county attorney’s office says the proposal doesn’t meet the requirements of a charter amendment. It’s legislation masked as an amendment, said Deputy County Attorney Mona Clark.

Councilmen Tim Bynum and Gary Hooser argued a court should decide which category it falls into, not the council. It should be up to the people of Kauai to vote Nov. 4 on whether they believe the proposal is good for the county, Hooser said.

Kauai Rising said it collected more than 4,000 signatures during its first petition drive. Those signatures were never verified because Kauai County Clerk Ricky Watanabe rejected the petition, citing the group’s failure to use the proper form.

In its second attempt, Kauai Rising said it collected 3,030 signatures within a condensed 18-day timeframe.

Kauai Rising would need at least 2,037 signatures to petition a charter amendment and 8,147 signatures to put forward a referendum or ordinance.

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