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!