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 HFIA’s 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.
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.