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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.

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.