Summer 2017

Hawaii State CapitolThe 2017 Legislative Session has been a very active and unusual one! For the first time in recent memory two committee chairs switched places in the middle of session. This created confusion for advocacy groups who had previously met will all chairs assigned to their bills at the start of session. Rep. Angus McKelvey was moved from the chair of Consumer Protection and Commerce (CPC) Committee to become chair of Higher Education Committee. Meanwhile, Rep. Roy Takumi was moved from chair of Education Committee to chair of CPC Committee. CPC Committee is an important committee for the food industry. Many bills relating to regulating products, banning products, regulating business practices, signage, labor, and other standards go through CPC Committee. On the last day of session two other major changes happened. The Speaker of the House, Rep. Joe Souki, resigned his position and was replaced by Rep. Scott Saiki, and the chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the Senate, Sen. Jill Tokuda, was replaced by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz.

Although the session had many curve balls HFIA faired well. All but one of the bills we opposed died, and even that bill was amended to be more favorable. On an even more positive note, a few of the projects we supported, and our members directly benefit from, received funding in the budget! We expect next year to be another challenging session, with many of the “dead” bills from 2017 coming to “life” again! Below is an overview of some the big issues we testified on this year.

Labor restrictions, mandates, and limits on employer flexibility

Many bills this year aimed to place new mandates on employers that would have negatively impacted the food industry’s ability to staff stores, provide high quality and low cost food, or generally function at all. Some of these bills include huge increases in the minimum wage, mandates for paid time off for part time and hourly workers, and restrictions on other labor related policies and procedures.

HB 4 Relating to Health would have required employers with an unspecified number of employees to provide accrual of paid sick leave to all employees, including part time

and hourly workers and workers that have multiple employers. It would have been extremely expensive and administratively difficult for businesses to track every part-time and hourly employee for paid time off.  If the employee was not full-time, then they could very likely request to take a paid day off during a day they are not scheduled to work. Paid days off are usually a contracted benefit offered to full-time employees.  Mandating the same benefits for part-time and hourly workers may have unintended negative consequences for all workers. Thankfully, this bill failed to pass out of conference committee by the 6pm deadline on Friday, April 28th.

HB 5 Relating to Labor  would have increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour and tied the minimum wage to the CPA going forward. The House Committee on Labor, chaired by Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson, deferred this bill, along with two other minimum wage increase bills. We are thankful for the chairman’s willingness to listen to the concerns raised by the business community about the impact this bill would have on the price of food and the availability of entry-level jobs.

HB 213 Relating to Family Leave permits an employee to take family leave in order to care for the employee's sibling with a serious health condition.  This bill passed. It was amended to remove some of the original requirements for expansion of leave. HFIA was not in support of this expansion; however, this bill was preferable over some of the other measures, which did not pass. 

Labeling and Taxes

HB 1209 Relating to Health would have required all sugar-sweetened beverages to contain a warning label. HB 1210 Relating to Obesity Prevention, would have establishes a fee on sugar-sweetened beverages. Both of these bills died when they did not receive a hearing by required deadlines. HFIA opposed both of these bills.

Good Programs Funded!

HB 1327 Relating to the High Technology Development Corporation, appropriated funds to the manufacturing development program. HB 595 Relating to the High Technology Development Corporation, appropriated funds to continue the small business innovation research program. HFIA supported both of these bills and although these individual bills did not pass, they were funded in the general budget bill so these programs will continue to exist and help our members! 

Sunscreen Bans

HB 450 Relating to Coral, SB 1150 and 11 other bills aimed to ban the sale of sunscreen, prohibit the application of sunscreen, or study the use of sunscreen. Most bills focused on sunscreen with oxybenzone, but some other bills would have applied to potentially all sunscreens with no specified or standardized scientific process in place for how to determine what would be banned. Opposition, including from some state departments, cited a lack of scientific justification, no funding, and no enforcement. All studies looking holistically at world-wide reef decline do not cite sunscreen as a causal or contributing factor.  Recently the Star Advertiser ran an article entitled “Scientists race to prevent wipeout of world’s coral reefs,” which interviewed many of the worlds leading experts about coral decline.  There was not one mention of sunscreen. The overwhelming consensus is expressed in this excerpt:

Corals are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, and are suffering from rising ocean temperatures and acidification, as well as from overfishing, pollution, coastal development and agricultural runoff. A temperature change of just 1 to 2 degrees Celsius can force coral to expel the algae, leaving their white skeletons visible in a process known as “bleaching.” Bleached coral can recover if the water cools, but if high temperatures persist for months, the coral will die. 

This is something we are all very concerned about, however, we also must be concerned about the health impacts of this legislation. Hawaii almost daily reaches what the EPA classifies as an extreme level of UV radiation.  Banning sunscreen will increase the incidence of skin cancer and deter visitors from visiting Hawaii.  

It is not a reasonable action, especially considering that there is no evidence to support that banning sunscreen will prevent or lessen coral bleaching in any way.

These bills failed to pass out of conference committee by the 6pm deadline on Friday, April 28th.

Bags and Containers at County Councils

At the City and County of Honolulu level, HFIA has been working on a bill to place a fee on all single use checkout bags that are under the existing bag ban. We believe this will help consumers remember to bring a reusable bag, which was the intent of the original bill passed by the city council. Unfortunately, without a fee, the law has simply shifted consumers from taking one type of bag to taking a different type of bag, increased prices and done nothing for the environment.

After all bills banning polystyrene failed at the state level this year, Maui’s council is considering a ban on these products. HFIA submitted testimony in opposition to this bill because biodegradable products are 30% more expensive than polystyrene options and under the current waste disposal system, biodegradable products will meet the same end as polystyrene, as both do not biodegrade in modern landfills.  

We must consider the carbon footprint of shipping supplies from China, given that we have a more economically viable product produced here in Hawaii, which provides 100+ jobs to our residents. These jobs may be eliminated if the Council bans this locally produced, favorably priced, FDA approved product. 

We look forward to providing a final legislative report to our membership at this year’s HFIA Annual Convention at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa! Mahalo for your continued engagement with HFIA! Your voice mattered this year and we need your support going forward to prevent legislation harmful to your business. 

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