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HFIA Government Relations

The Hawaii Food Industry Association serves as your government and industry liaison. Legislative lobbying is our primary purpose and responsibility.


Hawaii State CapitolThe 2017 Legislative Session has been a very active and unusual one! For the first time in recent memory two committee chairs switched places in the middle of session. This created confusion for advocacy groups who had previously met will all chairs assigned to their bills at the start of session. Rep. Angus McKelvey was moved from the chair of Consumer Protection and Commerce (CPC) Committee to become chair of Higher Education Committee. Meanwhile, Rep. Roy Takumi was moved from chair of Education Committee to chair of CPC Committee. CPC Committee is an important committee for the food industry. Many bills relating to regulating products, banning products, regulating business practices, signage, labor, and other standards go through CPC Committee. On the last day of session two other major changes happened. The Speaker of the House, Rep. Joe Souki, resigned his position and was replaced by Rep. Scott Saiki, and the chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the Senate, Sen. Jill Tokuda, was replaced by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz.

Although the session had many curve balls HFIA faired well. All but one of the bills we opposed died, and even that bill was amended to be more favorable. On an even more positive note, a few of the projects we supported, and our members directly benefit from, received funding in the budget! We expect next year to be another challenging session, with many of the “dead” bills from 2017 coming to “life” again! Below is an overview of some the big issues we testified on this year.

Labor restrictions, mandates, and limits on employer flexibility

Many bills this year aimed to place new mandates on employers that would have negatively impacted the food industry’s ability to staff stores, provide high quality and low cost food, or generally function at all. Some of these bills include huge increases in the minimum wage, mandates for paid time off for part time and hourly workers, and restrictions on other labor related policies and procedures.

HB 4 Relating to Health would have required employers with an unspecified number of employees to provide accrual of paid sick leave to all employees, including part time

and hourly workers and workers that have multiple employers. It would have been extremely expensive and administratively difficult for businesses to track every part-time and hourly employee for paid time off.  If the employee was not full-time, then they could very likely request to take a paid day off during a day they are not scheduled to work. Paid days off are usually a contracted benefit offered to full-time employees.  Mandating the same benefits for part-time and hourly workers may have unintended negative consequences for all workers. Thankfully, this bill failed to pass out of conference committee by the 6pm deadline on Friday, April 28th.

HB 5 Relating to Labor  would have increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour and tied the minimum wage to the CPA going forward. The House Committee on Labor, chaired by Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson, deferred this bill, along with two other minimum wage increase bills. We are thankful for the chairman’s willingness to listen to the concerns raised by the business community about the impact this bill would have on the price of food and the availability of entry-level jobs.

HB 213 Relating to Family Leave permits an employee to take family leave in order to care for the employee's sibling with a serious health condition.  This bill passed. It was amended to remove some of the original requirements for expansion of leave. HFIA was not in support of this expansion; however, this bill was preferable over some of the other measures, which did not pass. 

Labeling and Taxes

HB 1209 Relating to Health would have required all sugar-sweetened beverages to contain a warning label. HB 1210 Relating to Obesity Prevention, would have establishes a fee on sugar-sweetened beverages. Both of these bills died when they did not receive a hearing by required deadlines. HFIA opposed both of these bills.

Good Programs Funded!

HB 1327 Relating to the High Technology Development Corporation, appropriated funds to the manufacturing development program. HB 595 Relating to the High Technology Development Corporation, appropriated funds to continue the small business innovation research program. HFIA supported both of these bills and although these individual bills did not pass, they were funded in the general budget bill so these programs will continue to exist and help our members! 

Sunscreen Bans

HB 450 Relating to Coral, SB 1150 and 11 other bills aimed to ban the sale of sunscreen, prohibit the application of sunscreen, or study the use of sunscreen. Most bills focused on sunscreen with oxybenzone, but some other bills would have applied to potentially all sunscreens with no specified or standardized scientific process in place for how to determine what would be banned. Opposition, including from some state departments, cited a lack of scientific justification, no funding, and no enforcement. All studies looking holistically at world-wide reef decline do not cite sunscreen as a causal or contributing factor.  Recently the Star Advertiser ran an article entitled “Scientists race to prevent wipeout of world’s coral reefs,” which interviewed many of the worlds leading experts about coral decline.  There was not one mention of sunscreen. The overwhelming consensus is expressed in this excerpt:

Corals are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, and are suffering from rising ocean temperatures and acidification, as well as from overfishing, pollution, coastal development and agricultural runoff. A temperature change of just 1 to 2 degrees Celsius can force coral to expel the algae, leaving their white skeletons visible in a process known as “bleaching.” Bleached coral can recover if the water cools, but if high temperatures persist for months, the coral will die. 

This is something we are all very concerned about, however, we also must be concerned about the health impacts of this legislation. Hawaii almost daily reaches what the EPA classifies as an extreme level of UV radiation.  Banning sunscreen will increase the incidence of skin cancer and deter visitors from visiting Hawaii.  

It is not a reasonable action, especially considering that there is no evidence to support that banning sunscreen will prevent or lessen coral bleaching in any way.

These bills failed to pass out of conference committee by the 6pm deadline on Friday, April 28th.

Bags and Containers at County Councils

At the City and County of Honolulu level, HFIA has been working on a bill to place a fee on all single use checkout bags that are under the existing bag ban. We believe this will help consumers remember to bring a reusable bag, which was the intent of the original bill passed by the city council. Unfortunately, without a fee, the law has simply shifted consumers from taking one type of bag to taking a different type of bag, increased prices and done nothing for the environment.

After all bills banning polystyrene failed at the state level this year, Maui’s council is considering a ban on these products. HFIA submitted testimony in opposition to this bill because biodegradable products are 30% more expensive than polystyrene options and under the current waste disposal system, biodegradable products will meet the same end as polystyrene, as both do not biodegrade in modern landfills.  

We must consider the carbon footprint of shipping supplies from China, given that we have a more economically viable product produced here in Hawaii, which provides 100+ jobs to our residents. These jobs may be eliminated if the Council bans this locally produced, favorably priced, FDA approved product. 

We look forward to providing a final legislative report to our membership at this year’s HFIA Annual Convention at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa! Mahalo for your continued engagement with HFIA! Your voice mattered this year and we need your support going forward to prevent legislation harmful to your business. 

Legislative Update, Spring 2017 Bookmark

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. OFeb. 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.


Coffee Labeling

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.

Jan 2017 Leg Update Bookmark


HFIA has racked up quite a few miles these last few months traveling to visit our County Councils on the neighbor islands! This fall has been full of progress with regard to waste management and important successes at the county level. At the state level, we are getting ready for the upcoming legislative session, which starts on Jan. 18. We catalog some of the leadership changes in the State House below. Here is the legislation we’ve been actively tracking and working on.


City & County of Honolulu

Bill 59, as introduced, would have prohibited the use of both reusable plastic bags and compostable bags.  The bill seeks to include compostable plastic bags in the existing prohibition on plastic bags and increases the thickness of reusable bags from 2.25 to 3 mils. HFIA submitted testimony in opposition due to concerns about the potential impact on retailers. After unanimously passing first reading on Oct. 5, it was referred to the Committee on Public Works, Infrastructure and Sustainability. It has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. HFIA has serious concerns about this bill, as many of our members have spent years preparing for the conditions laid out in the original ban bill. To change the rules so soon after implementation would have a very negative impact on the ability for retailers of all kinds to adjust. We see this bill as a way to limit choices for consumer. We strongly believe that the proponents should focus on ways to encourage consumers to bring their own bag, not further limit choices and penalize customers.


County of Hawaii

For Hawai`i County, this has been the year of solid waste management as one bill or resolution dies and a similar one is introduced. In August, the Council passed a resolution creating a task force from the public & private sectors to “identify solutions addressing the production and distribution of environmental friendly products and packaging to improve and reduce product and packaging waste from entering our ocean as it has been proven to be detrimental to marine life.”


As a member of Hawaii Island Packaging Sustainability Initiative Stakeholders Taskforce (HIPSIS), HFIA participated in several council hearings as well as three full day taskforce meetings over the fall to discuss packaging issues and waste reduction. HFIA strongly supports better waste management. However, we strongly oppose blaming the food industry for the problem and taxing consumers of food to solve the problem. More than half of the residents of this state live paycheck to paycheck. Taxing food is the most regressive form of taxation and would have serious negative consequences, leading many people to be unable to afford enough food to feed their families.


Along with other business members, we made it clear that we could not agree to any proposed product ban and any proposed tax on food. At the same time, we strongly acknowledged the need for waste diversion from the Hilo landfill and better management of marine debris and litter.


At the end of the HIPSIS taskforce there were some issues that environmentalists and the food industry agreed on. Those issues included urging the County to establish educational programs to reduce land-based contributions to marine debris, urging the County to join Malama 808 (best practices in litter management) and encourage the use of Litterati (a phone app which tracks litter) and requesting the Department of Parks and Recreation to install water bottle filling stations at County of Hawaii parks and recreation facilities.


County of Maui

IEM-56 seeks to prohibit the use of reusable plastic bags. It was deferred at both the Oct. 31 and Nov. 14 committee meetings. At the Oct. 31 meeting, the committee also deferred IEM-05, which sought to prohibit polystyrene foam containers. HFIA submitted testimony opposing both bills.


Hawaii House of Representatives

The House of Representatives recently announced committee assignments for the 2017 legislative session. Rep. Joe Souki remains as the Speaker and Vice Speaker is Rep. John Mizuno. There have been a few changes in committee leadership. Rep. Richard Creagan will be the Chair of the Agriculture Committee and Rep. Bert Kobayashi will replace him as Vice Chair of the Health Committee. Rep. Justin Woodson will be the chair of the Higher Education Committee and Rep. Linda Ichiyama will replace him as Vice Chair of the Consumer Protection & Commerce Committee. Rep. Aaron Johanson will replace Rep. Mark Nakashima as Chair of the Labor & Public Employment Committee.  Rep. Mark Nakashima will become the Chair of Economic Development & Business.


With the 2017 legislative session right around the corner, HFIA is already preparing for a productive season of lobbying and advocacy on behalf of our members.  We look forward to seeing you at the Pau Hana with Legislators meet & greet event at the Hukilau Bar & Grill on Feb 23rd!

Legislative Update – Summer 2016 Bookmark

As this year’s legislative session adjourns, it’s safe to say the 2016 session has been a success. Since the introduction of the first bills in January, HFIA has been actively involved every step of the way. With thousands of bills heard each year and the multitude of rules, the legislative process can be difficult to maneuver. Fortunately, HFIA and its Government Relations Committee have worked tirelessly in identifying, tracking, and lobbying on specific bills that affect our members.

Listed below is a recap of HFIAs priority bills for the 2016 session. For more up-to-date information, access the latest Bill Report through the Legislative Update section of the Weekly Update.



This session, we successfully opposed a number of labor-related bills that did not become law.

Sick leave bills HB1683 and SB2961 included provisions for sibling leave and a family leave insurance program. HB1683 almost made it to the end; fortunately it died on the last day of conference.

SB2313 and HB1909, companion bills related to equal pay and gender discrimination, were problematic for several reasons, including reduced employer flexibility in determining fair wages and a lack of due process for employers. Both died after failing to meet deadlines. We’ll be keeping a close eye out for these issue to come up again next year.

In addition, we helped kill HB953, which sought to increase the amount of monthly compensation required to exempt an employee from minimum wage and other requirements

HFIA worked with the chairman of the House Labor Committee on HB2010, which would have established a special “training” wage for young people to gain work skills. The idea was to allow employers to take on younger workers and provide them with training opportunities. To our disappointment, it was deferred in March. However, HFIA Chair Derek Kurisu spoke to the bill’s introducer and we may try to move forward with a different approach next year.


SB3109 passed and will provide $1 million toward the manufacturing grant program. HFIA strongly supported the passage of this legislation, as well as the legislation passed last year that founded the program.


We opposed all bills seeking to increase the general excise tax (GET). SB2599 sought to increase the GET by 1 percent to fund Department of Education operations, while SB2478 sought to establish a 0.5 percent increase to pay for long-term care. Both were deferred by the Ways & Means Committee.

We also opposed SB2454, which would have increased individual income tax rates. Higher individual tax rates will negatively affect the economy because many businesses operate as sole proprietorships, partnerships, or S corporations, and would be subject to individual income tax rates. SB2454 died after failing to meet the third reading deadline.

Tobacco & E-Cigarettes

There were several tobacco and e-cigarette bills this session. We submitted testimony in strong support of HB1634 and SB2135, which sought to decrease the tax rate on large cigars; however, both failed to meet the third reading deadline. We submitted testimony opposing SB2691 and SB2689, which sought to increase the tobacco retail permit fee. Both bills died.

Alcohol & Bottles

Great news. The legislature passed HB2422, which streamlines the application process and makes it easier for publicly traded companies to apply for liquor licenses. For months, HFIA testified in strong support of this bill; it was signed into law as Act 012.


The disposable bag issue re-emerged this year as HB1507, which established a working group to study methods to reduce the use of all disposable bags. This bill did not pass.

Advance Disposal Fees

HB2251 sought to increase the advance disposal fee. HFIA opposed this bill and it died.

Food Waste

In one of its many forms, HB2648 required retailers to become “zero waste” with no help from the government to provide services to make this possible. The bill would have fined retailers for not becoming “zero waste.” HFIA opposed this bill and it died.


At the end of last session, we reported that SB569, which increased the threshold value for theft in the second degree from $300 to $750, had passed out of the legislature. However, despite the legislature’s intentions, the Governor vetoed SB569. It returned in 2016 as a very small piece in HB2561, a very large bill encompassing over 120 pages. Overall, HB2561 is a good bill except for the clause increasing the theft threshold amount. Throughout session, HFIA testified in opposition to the latter. Although the bill passed, the habitual property theft section was amended so that an individual guilty of three lower value thefts in 10 years would face felony charges.



The 911-surcharge bill returned yet again, this time as SB2805. It mandated that retailers facilitate a 911 surcharge on prepaid phone cards. Each year we oppose the bill because of its financial and administrative burdens. SB2805 died prior to first crossover.



This year, only one GMO labeling bill, SB2577, was introduced. It was never scheduled in committee and died after failing to meet the first lateral deadline.


A huge thank you goes to members who testified on these bills. As always, please let us know if you want to testify on any measure or if you want additional information.


Now HFIA moves on to county bills that impact grocers’ ability to use shopping carts and provide packaging for hot food items. We will keep you updated as these issues progress.

Legislative Update Spring 2016 Bookmark

It is still early in the legislative process and HFIA has been hard at work identifying, monitoring, and testifying on State and County bills that impact the food industry. In addition to legislation, we have been focused on building and strengthening relationships with lawmakers to continue to ensure that our members’ voices are heard. Our annual Legislative Talk Story Panel at the Hawaii State Capitol was a success—the room was packed with lawmakers and staff who listened
to the concerns of our panelists. In addition, we scheduled a Legislator Meet and Greet at Square Barrels restaurant on February 18, where HFIA members had the opportunity to get to know Hawaii’s legislators in a casual setting. 

HFIA’s bi-monthly GRC conference call meetings have been extremely productive, allowing us to work together in building a successful legislative strategy towards achieving desired outcomes on a wide range of bills. 

HFIA’s priority bills for the 2016 session include: 

There are a number of labor-related bills that affect our members, including sick leave, special wages, and monthly compensation. 

HFIA opposes bills that add unnecessary mandates to Hawaii’s sick leave laws, such as HB1683 and SB2456. 

HB1683 permits an employee to use leave under the Hawaii Family Leave Law to care for a sibling. We believe that including siblings in Hawaii’s Family Leave Law is over- reaching and will result in additional costs to employers. On February 12, the Labor Committee passed it with amendments and included an effective date. 

SB2456 requires certain employers with 50 or more employees to provide sick leave to service workers for specified purposes under certain conditions. HFIA opposes this bill because it will hinder employer flexibility in providing sick leave and will result in additional costs. It was scheduled to be heard by the Committee on Judiciary & Labor on February 16. 

We support HB2010 that establishes a first job training program for the employment
of learners, including apprentices; part-time employees who are full-time public or private school students; paroled wards of Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility; and handicapped workers. Participants will receive a special wage lower than the existing minimum wage. The Committee on Labor passed it with amendments from DLIR on February 12. 

This bill was introduced as a result of HFIA’s Day at the Capitol, as Chair Nakashima listened to the concerns of HFIA panelists relating to the increasing minimum wage for entry-level and training jobs. HFIA followed up with a meeting between Nakashima and our panelists, and this legislation was introduced to address some of our members’ concerns relating to minimum wage. 

We oppose HB953, which increases the amount of guaranteed monthly compensation required to exempt an individual from minimum wage, overtime, and record keeping requirements under the Hawaii Wage and Hour Law by way of a formula. On January 29, the Committee on Labor passed it with amendments replacing the formula used to calculate the minimum exempt salary with a at rate of $2,400, which represents a $400 per month increase over the current statutory minimum and changed the effective date to January 1, 2021. 


GET Increases
HFIA strongly opposes any and all proposed increases to the GET, including SB2599, which increases the GET (general excise tax) from 4% to 5% to fund Department of Education operations, and SB2478, which establishes a 0.5% surcharge on state tax to pay for claims for defined benefits under the long-term care financing program. It is still early in the legislative process, and we will continue to oppose these bills. On February 10, the Education Committee passed SB2599 with amendments, and the Committee on Consumer Protection & Health passed SB2478 with amendments from the Department of Taxation. The House of Representatives and the Governor have indicated that they do not intend to pass a GET increase bill. 


Disposable Bags
For HB1507, HD2, which establishes a working group to study methods to reduce the use
of all disposable bags, we submitted testimony in support with amendments. On January 27, the Committee on Consumer Protection & Commerce passed it out and granted our request to be included in the working group. 


Advance Disposal Fee
We support the amended version of HB2251 (HD1), which requires the Department of Health to assess the viability of the glass advance disposal fee program and report to the Legislature on the Department’s progress in adopting the recommendations contained in “A Study to Identify Local Alternatives to Shipping Non-Deposit Glass Out of the State of Hawaii” (Auditor’s Report No. 14-17). 


HFIA supports SB2135 and HB1634, which lowers the taxation rate for large cigars to the lesser of 50 cents for each large cigar or 50% of the wholesale price. We believe this is a fair and reasonable rate for these products and will continue to submit testimony in support. 

SB2135 was scheduled for decision-making on February 17 by the Ways and Means Committee, and HB1634 was scheduled
for a hearing on February 17 by
 the Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce. 

HFIA opposes SB2689, which increases fees on retail tobacco licenses and permits. It passed CPH and will move on to JDL. We will continue to oppose this bill.

We support HB2422, which reduces administrative burdens relating to corporate submissions during the liquor license application process. It passed the Committee on Economic Development & Business as is, and was heard by the Commit- tee on Consumer Protection & Commerce on February 17. 


Food Waste
HFIA submitted comments
on HB2648, which establishes a phased reduction of food waste in the municipal solid waste stream and creates an advisory committee to evaluate solid waste infrastructure needs. We believe it is premature to establish recycling quotas prior to the establishment of an advisory committee. It passed with amendments that HFIA supports from EEP on February 11. 


911 Surcharge
SB2805 establishes a prepaid wireless E911 surcharge of 66 cents per retail transaction of prepaid wireless telecommunications service at the point-of-sale and allows sellers to deduct and retain 3% of the surcharge that is collected. We submit- ted testimony in opposition because the 3% is not enough to cover retailers’ expenses in collecting the surcharge, and retailers are opposed to this funding source due to the administrative burdens associated with it. The Committee on Consumer Protection & Health passed it with amendments on February 11. 


Polystyrene (County of Hawaii)
We strongly oppose Bill 140, which seeks to ban the sale and use of polystyrene containers
in the County of Hawaii. It was heard on February 16. HFIA contacted local food establishments on Hawaii Island and sent out an action alert to members and affected businesses asking them to submit testimony in opposition.
Thank you to all of you who have participated in our GRC and thank you to all HFIA members for supporting HFIA and making our advocacy efforts possible.

Legislative Update - Winter 2015 Bookmark


by Lauren Zirbel


In the past few months, HFIA has been hard at work testifying on county bills and resolutions that impact the food industry. We have attended conferences and community meetings to clarify progress on longstanding initiatives. HFIA is forging a pathway toward new priorities looking forward to the 2016 legislative session.

In mid-October, the Maui County Council heard two bills that are of interest to our members. The first was a resolution to request that the State of Hawaii increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. HFIA submitted testimony in opposition to this bill. HFIA strongly believes that given other high costs local businesses have to endure—such as health insurance premiums, electricity, and shipping costs that continue to increase—legislators should not increase other fixed costs for businesses. Hawaii is in the middle of implementing a minimum wage increase, eventually to $10.10 by 2018. HFIA strongly opposes this additional 48.5% increase. The second bill Maui County heard was one relating to mandating baby diaper changing stations in male or unisex restrooms. This mandate would only apply to new and remodeled locations, the as same as the Honolulu bill which passed recently. HFIA submitted similar concerns to the council about Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.

I recently had an opportunity to attend the State Liquor Commission Conference and was very pleased to learn that one of HFIA’s top priorities outlined in past Last Word articles is being implemented! The Honolulu Liquor Commission will be offering an online application process for liquor licensees. Other counties may implement this change in the future.

We recently held a Government Relations Committee conference call to review HFIA’s 2016 legislative package. Many of our issues remain the same as last year, which was a very successful legislative year. We agreed to move mandatory sick and family leave to the top of our oppose list on this call. Many of our smaller grocers expressed that this bill could actually put them out of business. This mandatory sick and family leave bill, as it was introduced last year, had no HR controls, such as the ability to ask for a doctor’s note, and it included leave for part-time workers. Including part-time workers and having no HR controls leaves employers open to impossible scheduling difficulties and fraudulent claims of sickness on the part of employees. Most companies do offer sick leave to full-time employees. As always, our industry opposes government intervention in private business. HR departments are the best place to determine sick and family leave issues for each company.

If you are interested in joining the decision making process for HFIA’s legislative package, please save the date of January 14, 2016. We will hold our in-person Government Relations Committee meeting at the Hawaii State Capitol at 10:30 am, and our annual Legislative Talk Story Panel at the Hawaii State Capitol at 11:30 am. We hope to see you there! The more members who participate, the stronger our voice will be!

Legislative Update - Fall 2015 Bookmark


by Lauren Zirbel


After a great legislative session of defeating nearly all bills that hurt HFIA members, only one bill on our oppose list passed the legislature. This bill, the theft bill, would have increased the property threshold for theft in the second degree from $300 to $750. We are pleased to announce that the governor has vetoed the theft bill and that HFIA was listed as a major reason the bill was vetoed in the governor’s message. This makes our record for the 2015 legislative session perfect.

In addition to playing a significant role in defeating many bills that threatened our members’ interests, HFIA also helped pass two bills that are of particular interest to our membership. The first bill is the growler bill. This bill allows retailers to sell larger reusable liquor containers, primarily used for beer. This is a growing trend around the country and we are pleased to announce that Hawaii is joining in on this eco-friendly beverage model. The idea is that instead of shipping your beer container to the mainland to be recycled, you can simply wash your growler and refill it at your local retailer! Growlers help to promote the local beer industry because it allows smaller batch brews that were previously only served on tap to be sold for consumption at home, such as Kona Brewing’s Hula Hefeweizen beer. This bill is a win for the environment, a win for retailers, and a win for consumers!

HFIA also helped pass a manufacturing stimulus bill. HFIA supported this bill with strong testimonies at each hearing and encouraged members and Made in Hawaii vendors to get involved as well. This bill provides $2 million to the High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC) to be distributed to local manufacturers who are updating facilities and/ or expanding. The grant monies can also be used to train employees on the use of manufacturing equipment. The rules state that the grant can only cover 20% of the manufacturer’s costs and that the funding can’t exceed $100,000 in any given year per manufacturer. If you are a local manufacturer and are looking to take advantage of this program, please feel free to call HFIA for more information.

There has been a lot of action at the county level post-session, as well as a lot of media attention on HFIA and our members following the implementation of the plastic bag ban on Oahu. HFIA published an article in the Star Advertiser’s Island Voices column, which defended our members’ choice to distribute perfectly legal reusable plastic bags to consumers. In our article, we defended why the bill was drafted to allow thicker reusable plastic bags, which have shown to be just as reusable as 100% cloth bags. Consumers have a choice to bring their own bag and not take any bag at all from the retailer, and this is the most beneficial turn of events for all parties involved.

If you are following your Weekly Update emails from HFIA, you may be aware of bills moving forward at the county level that impact your business, and if you desire, you can submit testimony. We provide links to bills as they progress, as well as a description of what each bill accomplishes. A few bills HFIA tracked post-session includes one that would legalize sparklers, and one that would mandate that any new or renovated facility, including a retail grocery store, convenience store, or restaurant, must place a baby diaper changing station in both the men’s and women’s restrooms, or provide a unisex changing room if public restrooms are provided. This bill does not impact private restrooms used by employees. Changing trays are plastic tables that fold up and down from the wall. Our Government Relations Committee has been discussing this bill and we have some concerns about how it may impact locations with space limitations, and ADA requirements. Council member Trevor Ozawa’s office told HFIA that the baby diaper changing stations would not be required if they interfered with ADA requirements. The fireworks legalization bill appears to be stalled for the time being.

We will keep you updated on the progress of all county legislation that impacts your business in the Weekly Update, so be sure to stay tuned! As always, thank you for your support. Without your involvement, HFIA would not be able to succeed legislatively and defend Hawaii’s food industry from harmful legislation.

Legislative Update - Summer 2015 Bookmark


by Lauren Zirbel


The 2015 Hawaii Legislative Session ended on May 7 and brought to a close a very successful year for HFIA at the Capitol. Our new Proactive Government Relations Strategy was implemented this year and by strengthening our relationships with legislators, increasing member participation through new Action Alerts, and reaching out to a wider audience via social media we were able to achieve our desired outcome on a wide range bills.


This year we successfully opposed six potentially damaging labor related bills. The sick leave bills HB496, SB129, and HB9 included various versions which required employers to provide sick leave to employees, greatly increased the amount of sick leave employees could take, expanded the reasons employees could use sick leave, and sought to create a leave insurance program or trust fund funded by employee withholdings. HB496 made it through most of session and only died when it failed to pass conference in the final week of session so we’ll be keeping a close eye out for this issue to come up again next year.

We also testified against SB234 the state holiday bill which would have mandated that employers pay employees who worked on holidays 3 times their regular wage, and prohibited an employer from taking any retaliatory action against an employee who refused to work on a holiday; SB1122 which sought to increase the amount of monthly compensation required to exempt an employee from minimum wage and other requirements; and HB684 which required employers to implement procedures and training to prevent discrimination.


HFIA supported a very ambitious manufacturing bills in 2015 and we are very pleased to report that after several years, and several versions, a manufacturing incentive program has passed in the form of SB1001. This bill establishes and appropriates funds for the manufacturing development program, through which the high technology development corporation, HTDC, shall distribute grants to Hawaii manufacturers for various activities. This bill has a 2 million dollar appropriation! The grants will be awarded to help manufacturing businesses in Hawaii with certain purchases and employee training. No grant shall exceed twenty per cent of the cost of the mentioned purposes and no grant shall exceed $100,000.


HFIA testified in opposition to SB1032 to expand the definition of tobacco products and increase the license fees, and SB749 to impose on wholesalers and dealers a beach cleanup fee per cigarette, and both ultimately died. This session we supported HB145 and SB401, which sought to cap the tax on large cigars. These bills went through a number of versions with a variety of intents but did not end up passing this year.


Another one of our very positive successes from 2015 is the passage of HB770, which allows retail dealers with a liquor license to sell beer, malt beverages, and cider in growlers.


In spite of strong and consistent opposition from HFIA and many members who responded to our Action Alerts, SB569 was passed. The threshold value for theft in the second degree is now $750, rather than $300 as it was previously. Although this is disappointing we are encouraged that the final version did not include language from previous drafts which would have tied the threshold value to the CPI and increased it every year.


Prior to session HFIA did in depth review and analysis of the Audit of the ADF and were well prepared when these bills came up. On SB1169, which sought to create a working group to discuss the audit, we provided comments explaining the importance of including HFIA in any such group. For SB353, which would have changed the ADF for glass to a tiered structure based on volume, we testified in opposition. And for SB1260, which mandated that the ADF Audit recommendations be implemented, we provided comments explaining why the ADF and HI-5 should not be combined. Though these all died we expect more on the ADF to come up next year at the state level and possibly later this year in some counties. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and ensure that our industry is represented when this issue is addressed.


SB1227, which was deferred, was one of the more baffling bills that got a hearing this year. It attempted to prohibit the disposal of commercial organic material waste at landfills or waste-to-energy facilities and require all generators of commercial organic material to use alternative means of disposal, such as donation or compost. HFIA was of course very quick to point out in our opposition testimony that the State must create a waste distribution system for organic material before it mandates that we use it.


This year saw two plastic bag bills, HB620 to prohibit labeling of a plastic product as "compostable" or "biodegradable" unless it meets appropriate ASTM standards, and HB1507 to create a working group to study methods to reduce the use of all disposable bags. HFIA commented on both and both ended up dying.


HFIA opposed four labeling bills this year and all four died at or before first crossover. HB1428 and SB1270 were both warning labels for sugar sweetened beverages; SB130 was GMO labeling; and SB594 was requirements for geographic labeling of non-Hawaiian coffee in blends with Hawaiian coffee. We also successfully opposed the sugar sweetened beverage tax proposed in SB1256.


The 911-surcharge bill was back this year as SB193, HFIA testified in opposition and the bill died. This bill would have mandated that retailers facilitate a 911 surcharge on pre paid phone cards. Our members opposed this administrative burden and extra tax.