Legislative updates

By Lauren Zirbel

Posted June 2014

The legislative session is over! Session officially ended on May 1st. HFIA's legislative track record this year was very good considering how many negative bills were introduced. Nearly all of the bills that HFIA opposed did not survive session, from GMO labeling to liquor taxes, and ADF fees to increases in mandatory penalty rates, many harmful bills died this year as a direct result of lobbying from our industry. However, one bill that did pass will have a negative impact on some of our members, the minimum wage. Like many other left leaning states, Hawaii increased our minimum wage to $10.10, echoing President Obama's call to increase wages for the working poor. Estimates provided by the Congressional Budget Office project that an increase in the minimum wage will result in higher unemployment, more part time workers and inflation. This is little surprise to anyone who currently runs a business. Despite the passage of this bill, HFIA is grateful to the legislature for amending the bill to not tie the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and increase the minimum wage slowly over the course of 4 years. Below you will find an overview of some of the more important bills HFIA testified on this year.

Minimum Wage

HFIA opposed SB2609 SD1 HD2 CD1, which increases minimum wage rate to $7.75 per hour beginning on 1/1/15, $8.50 per hour beginning on 1/1/16, $9.25 per hour beginning on 1/1/17, and $10.10 per hour beginning on 1/1/18. Increases the tip credit to 50 cents per hour beginning on 1/1/15, and 75 cents per hour beginning on 1/1/16; provided that beginning 1/1/15, the combined amount the employee receives in wages and tips is at least $7 more than the applicable minimum wage. This bill passed despite HFIA testimony warning of layoffs and increased cost for food and all other items. The bill was amended with many suggestions provided by HFIA such as the suggestion to increase the minimum wage by small increments over a long period of time and the suggestion to not tie the minimum wage to CPI.

ID Verification

HFIA supported HB2666 HD1 SD2, which makes permanent the amendments allowing a business to scan an individual's driver's license or identification card to verify age when providing age-restricted goods or services. HFIA testified that this technology is helpful at preventing sales to underage individuals. This bill passed.

Advanced Disposal Fee

HFIA strongly supported SCR74 SD1 HD1, which requesting an examination and audit of the advance disposal fee program. This resolution does a number of extremely important things that the industry has been advocating on behalf of for years! We are very excited to see the results! This resolution requests the auditor to conduct an examination and audit of the DOH's advanced disposal fee program, including the use of fee revenue by the respective counties and the accuracy of payments made to recyclers from fee revenues. The DOH is requested to meet with the respective counties and other stakeholders to examine the advance disposal fee program to determine whether there are more cost-effective ways of handling recyclable glass, including local alternatives to shipping glass out of the State. This resolution passed.

Another Surcharge Bill

A bill which would have mandated that food establishments to provide consumers with the option of using compostable or reusable disposable food service containers was deferred in committee. I had the chance to be interviewed by Hawaii Public Radio about why this bill makes no sense for Hawaii.  Hawaii has no commercial composting facilities.  Compostable products will meet the same end as polystyrene and cost considerably more. The house committee on energy and environment deferred this bill.

GMO Labeling

There were many GMO labeling bills introduced this year. They all died. It's not practical to expect multi-national corporations to label specifically for a small state. HFIA is advocating for a federal solution to this issue and we discussed this issue with all four of Hawaii's congressional delegation members when we visited DC in early May.

Tobacco Taxes/ Bans

HFIA opposed SB2496 SD2 HD1 which would have imposed an excise tax equal to an unspecified percentage of the wholesale price of any tobacco product, other than large cigars, effective January 1, 2015. This bill did not pass.

HFIA originally opposed SB2495 because it would have stolen retail and supplier license fees and used them for tobacco prevention and increased taxes on e-cigarettes to as much as 80%. These parts of the bill were removed and the bill turned into something that would have prohibited the use of electronic smoking devices in enclosed public areas. This bill did not pass.

HFIA opposed SB2222 SD2, which would have prohibited the sale, offering for sale, or distribution of any flavored tobacco product, including menthol products, within the State. Fortunately, this bill did not pass.

Tax Fairness

HFIA supported HB2507 HD1 SD1, which would have provided an alternative to Hawaii becoming a member state under the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement and directed DOTAX to establish rules to meet minimum simplification requirements for taxing internet vendors who have no presence in Hawaii. This bill did not pass.

Manufacturing Tax Credit

HFIA supported HB2626 HD2 SD2, which would have established an income tax credit for taxpayers who incur certain expenses for manufacturing products in Hawaii. This bill made it to conference but did not pass.

If you would like more information on the many bills HFIA testified on please give us a call or send us an email! Thank you to our Government Relations Committee for providing guidance to the HFIA on legislative issues, your knowledge and expertise are the guiding force of HFIA's government relations efforts!

These are just a few of the bills being discussed this session. Please stay tuned for our “Action Alert” emails which utilize our new Voter Voice platform. This platform allows HFIA members to communicate with the legislature with only a few clicks of a mouse! Thank you for all of your support, your voice matters!

laurenzirbel@hawaiifood.com