As I write this, we are in the heart of the legislative session with First Decking on March 3rd, the deadline for bills under consideration for crossover to the other chamber to pass all committees in their house of origin and be submitted to the clerk of the originating chamber, one short week away! HFIA’s Government Relations Committee conference calls, which happen every two weeks, focus on identifying and targeting legislation impacting HFIA members. A huge part of HFIA’s success is due to members coming together to share how specific bills affect employment opportunities and operations.
It is still early in the session and we are busily tracking and testifying on numerous bills affecting the food industry. Friday, Feb. 17, was First Lateral, the deadline for bills with multiple referrals to move to their final committees in the originating chamber. We are happy to announce, that many “bad” bills died, including the majority of the onerous and unfounded labeling and ban related bills. It appears that all sugar-sweetened beverage bills are dead for the session. There are several months left in the legislative session, which adjourns on May 3rd. HFIA is focusing on defeating harmful legislation, such as paid sick leave for part-time workers (an administrative nightmare), minimum wage (an end to training level jobs and a guaranteed way to cause inflation), and the remaining ban/labeling bills (bills that remove needed products for the shelves).
HFIA’s priority bills for the 2017 legislative session include:
This session, there are several labor-related bills that threaten to directly harm our members, most prominently, minimum wage and sick leave for food service workers. HFIA opposes legislation we know will increase food prices and decrease the ability for employers to flexibly staff their businesses.
We began the session with nine bills relating to minimum wage. Thanks to our efforts in helping to get the bills deferred, there is currently only one minimum wage bill moving forward.
SB 107 increases the minimum wage to $10.50 per hour in 2018 and $12 per hour in 2019, $13.50 per hour in 2020, and $15 per hour in 2021. The bill increases the tip credit to an unspecified amount of cents in 2018. It requires the department of labor and industrial relations to annually calculate the adjusted minimum wage rate to the nearest 5 cents using the Honolulu region CPI-W. On Feb. 14, the Senate Judiciary & Labor Committee passed it with amendments. HFIA testified that employers are already struggling to pay for employee’s rapidly increasing health insurance premiums and that increasing the minimum wage so dramatically would force employers to look towards technology to fill low skill jobs, effectively eliminating the ability for employers to bring in unskilled labor from the local high schools and train these individuals for leadership roles.
Another contentious issue we are battling is paid sick leave for food service employees, specifically, HB 1434 and SB 425, which would require food establishments to provide paid sick leave to food service workers, including part time and hourly workers. HFIA testified that the public health concerns raised in these bills are addressed in the State of Hawaii’s food safety code. It is currently illegal for employers to allow sick individuals to work in food service and all food service employees are aware that they are not to come to work when they are sick. HB 1434 died when it was not heard by Judiciary Chair, Representative Scott Nishimoto. We are thankful that Chair Nishimoto took the time to meet with HFIA and take our concerns to heart. SB 425 passed out of Senate Judiciary & Labor Committee on February 14th. It must pass out of the committee on Ways and Means by March 3rd in order to cross over.
HFIA opposes these and other bills that add unnecessary mandates to Hawaii’s sick leave laws, such as HB 4 and HB 213. On Feb. 22, the House Finance Committee passed both bills unamended. HB 4 requires employers to provide a minimum amount of paid sick leave to employees to be used to care for themselves or a family member who is ill or needs medical care, including part time and hourly workers. HB 213 permits an employee to take family leave in order to care for the employee's sibling with a serious health condition or upon the death of an employee's child, spouse, reciprocal beneficiary, sibling, or parent. While employers offer sick leave to full time workers, the concept of having to track accrued sick leave for part time and hourly works is extremely burdensome and does not make sense because the worker could take a sick day on any day they chose to not be scheduled to work. No employer would want a part time worker to come to work when they are sick.
Another hot issue this year are bills seeking to ban the sale of oxybenzone, a popular sunscreen ingredient, due to concerns raised by one study about the sunscreen ingredients impact on coral bleaching. This FDA-approved and dermatologist recommended ingredient has been used commercially since 1980 to protect against skin cancer. It is one of very few ingredients that protects against UVA and UBA radiation. It is also one of the few ingredients approved for UVA and UVB that rubs in clear and is easy to wear every day. HFIA opposes these bills because we believe a prohibition is extremely premature, in light of growing evidence that water temperature, not sunscreen, is the cause of coral bleaching. Although scientists are still monitoring this issue, evidence points to the fact that the ocean temperature is causing coral bleaching. Reefs that have almost no human interaction are experiencing bleaching. Storm water runoff from industrial and agricultural land uses has a far greater impact than sunscreen, which is necessary to prevent skin caner in humans.
Some lawmakers at both the county and state levels are seeking to ban polystyrene foam containers. HFIA opposes these bills for several reasons, including the lack of a viable, affordable alternatives that provides comparable structural and food safety integrity. Alternative “compostable” products will only decompose in a specialized composting facility, which Hawaii does not have. As a result, higher cost “compostable” food packaging, if properly disposed of, will either be burned at H-Power or will accumulate in landfills on neighbor islands. SB 1109 would prohibit the use of polystyrene foam containers by food vendors.
Bill 13 (Hawaii County Council) seeks to prohibit the sale and use of foam containers. In a 5-3 vote, the Environmental Management Committee voted to move it forward. It will be heard on the March 8th agenda. This bill is extremely unusual and problematic in that it appears to not be limited to prepared food or polystyrene. The way it is currently drafted it would ban all food packaging in general that is not “recyclable” or “compostable”, despite the fact that they do not define recyclable and there is no place on the island where compostable products can compost. This bill will have a very negative effect on local food packaging. It would cost grocers millions of dollars in new equipment to find ways to safely package fresh meat, fish and egg products if this bill is not amended. This will drive up the cost of local beef, poultry, fish, eggs and produce and make it even harder for local food products to compete with mainland food products. Food products packaged outside of Hawaii County are exempted from the legislation due to interstate commerce issues; which puts all foods packaged inside Hawaii County at a price point disadvantage.
Bill 16-204 (Maui County Council) has the same intent and purpose as Bill 13. On Dec. 16, 2016, it passed first reading and could be scheduled at any time.
In general, HFIA opposes labeling mandates because they are overreaching and should be handled at the federal level. Unfortunately, HB 256, a coffee labeling bill, was passed out of the House Committee on Agriculture. As currently written, it requires coffee blend labels to disclose regional origins and per cent by weight of the blended coffees and prohibits using geographic origins of coffee in labeling or advertising for roasted or instant coffee that contains less than 51 per cent coffee by weight from that geographic origin. We oppose HB 256 because current labels already clearly list the percentage of local coffee in a package. Additional labeling requirements of this nature are unnecessary and can become a deterrent to marketers and vendors who want to sell and promote our local product here in the islands and on the mainland. It would also be very difficult if not impossible for retailers to know exactly what percent by volume is included in each blend.
Technology & Manufacturing
HFIA supports bills seeking to appropriate funds for the continuation of programs that encourage and foster the development of local manufacturing and small businesses. Since inception in 2016, the Manufacturing Development and the Small Business Innovation Research Grant programs have been valuable to our state and industry and several HFIA members have participated. We are pleased that three bills continuing these efforts are moving forward. SB 764appropriates funds to the High Technology Development Corporation for the Manufacturing Development Program. HB 1327 appropriates funds for the Manufacturing Development Program. On Jan. 8, the House Economic Development & Business Committee passed it with amendments. HB 595 appropriates funds to continue the Small Business Innovation Research Program within the High Technology Development Corporation.
We are concerned about HB 1081, which would require individuals selling or demonstrating beauty products or techniques for promotional purposes to adhere to licensing requirements. The bill, whose intended target is the cosmetology industry, inadvertently encompasses all retailers, including grocers and pharmacies, that sell personal care products (e.g., cosmetics, shampoo, hair dye). If passed in its current form, the bill would require that all sales clerks who handle a personal care product, either at the register or in passing, be licensed cosmetologists. HFIA has submitted testimony opposing this measure.
Plastic Bags (Honolulu & Maui Councils)
HFIA opposes bills seeking to ban reusable plastic bags, as they offer convenience and service to customers.
Bill 59 (Honolulu City Council) seeks to prohibit the use of both reusable plastic bags and compostable bags by including compostable plastic bags in the existing prohibition on plastic bags and increases the thickness of reusable bags from 2.25 to 3 mils. On Feb. 8, Bill 59 was deferred by the Committee on Public Works, Infrastructure & Sustainability. It appears the plan is to amend the bill to include a minimum 10 cent bag fee, which HFIA supports. We are so very grateful to Chair Carol Fukunaga for listening to stakeholders and addressing the issue with a fee.
IEM-56 (Maui County Council) seeks to prohibit the use of reusable plastic bags. On Nov. 29, 2016, the Chair of the Infrastructure & Environmental Management Committee recommended that it be referred to the council chair for the 2017 term. As a result, it could be scheduled at any time in 2017.