By Lauren Zirbel
Legislative Update for Summer 2015 Retail Grocer's Magazine
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.
Bottles and Glass
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.
Labeling and Soda Fees
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.
Mahalo to all of our members who helped make this session a successful one for HFIA and we look forward to celebrating with you at our annual convention at Turtle Bay!