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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.

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.