Spring 2019

This year, HFIA is very pleased to be proactively championing bills that will benefit our industry and our state. Unfortunately, our business community is once again facing an onslaught of proposed legislation that may have negative consequences. We’re working hard to ensure that we get the most positive outcomes possible on all measures.

HFIA Authored Bills

With the help of Senator Wakai and many other supportive legislators, HFIA introduced a way to immediately lower the cost of living for all Hawaii residents by eliminating taxes on groceries. This is a long - term project that would benefit all Hawaii families, especially lower income families who spend a higher proportion of their income on food. This bill will not pass this year, but we introduced it as a way to start the discussion about how to move Hawaii in line with the vast majority of states that don’t tax groceries. We want to thank Senator Wakai for starting this discussion with HFIA.

Seven States: Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Dakota tax groceries fully. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia exempt most food purchased for consumption at home from a state sales tax. West Virginia is the state that most recently eliminated its tax on food. Six states tax groceries at lower rates than other goods; including Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia. It’s high time for Hawaii to join the vast majority of states by ending the regressive taxation of groceries people need to live!

Additional Bills We Support

A recent survey from the Tax Foundation found that Hawaii has the highest sales tax collections per capita in the nation at $2,269 per year. Employee withholding taxes erode take-home pay, as do sales taxes that Hawaii residents are forced to pay on necessities, such as food. HFIA has authored a resolution to declare September 2019 as Family Meals Month in Hawaii. As we wrote in the last issue of the magazine, meals shared as a family have shown to have a range of benefits, especially for children. This measure allows Hawaii to join the national Family Meals movement.

GET Exemptions:
Bills to exempt local fruits, vegetables and meat products from the GET are a significant first step toward exempting all groceries from the GET. These bills are moving Hawaii in the right direction towards removing GET from basic necessities such as food! Way to go!

SNAP Matching:
HFIA supports measures that would create a dollar-for-dollar matching program for SNAP beneficiaries who use their benefits to buy local produce. These bills allow low-income families to purchase more nutritious local fruits and vegetables, while assisting local farmers and grocery stores. A triple win!

Local Food Safety: HFIA supports measures to establish a food safety certification training program. The Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Certification Program will positively impact local agriculture, assisting small-to-medium sized farms to comply with the United States Department of Agriculture.

Local Food Production Study:
HFIA supports a study to determine how best to measure local food production in our state.

Straw Ban Compromise:
HFIA supports a compromise measure moving forward at the legislature that would result in full-service restaurants offering single-use plastic straws to customers upon request, and not as a standard practice. Bills We Oppose Minimum

Wage Increases:
Quite a few minimum wage increase bills have been introduced this session, and they have received early support. Several are now in the process of being heard and amended. HFIA is working hard to make it clear to our legislators that any increase will disproportionately impact locally owned businesses and may eliminate entry-level jobs. We’re fighting to ensure that if an increase does pass, that it should be implemented in reasonable increments over the span of several years.

Overreaching Bans: These types of bills are presented as a quick fix for environmental problems, resulting in a great deal of public support. We know that on Oahu, items put in the trash end up at H-POWER, so compostable items meet the same end as plastic items. HFIA’s strategy on these bans is to work to stop the most damaging ones, while also seeking acceptable compromises.

Tobacco and Liquor: Several bills seeking to ban or functionally ban cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or flavored tobacco products have been introduced, in addition to measures aiming to increase licensing fees. HFIA is continuing to testify on these measures to let our legislators know how they may negatively and unfairly impact businesses. We’re also in opposition to liquor tax increases and attempts to allow direct shipment of beer and spirits.

Animals in Food Service Establishments:
HFIA opposes bills that would expand the categories of animals permitted in restaurants, as well as a measure that would leave the choice to the discretion of the restaurant. Allowing pets in food service establishments presents a potential sanitation risk, and can create problems for patrons accompanied by service animals.

Shopping Carts:
A new measure was introduced that would allow the solid waste division to confiscate abandoned shopping carts, dispose of them, and levy fines on the business from which they were stolen. HFIA opposed this and it was deferred at its first hearing.

Coffee Labeling:
Bills proposed at the State legislature require coffee blend labels to disclose regional origins and percent by weight of the blended coffees in each bag. They would prohibit the use of geographic origins in labeling and advertising (for either roasted or instant coffee), if the product contains less than 51 percent coffee (by weight) from that location. Listing the provenance of all coffees not grown in Hawaii on coffee blend labels would place a hardship on the blending industry.

The individual coffee components in a given blend may not always be available, due to logistics, crop size and pricing. Frequently shifting supply and sourcing issues would make detailed labeling challenging, and packaging materials would frequently need to be replaced, which would be cost prohibitive to businesses.

In addition to these various issues, HFIA is also tracking measures related to County Surcharge rules, a lottery, shipping, marijuana, hemp, pharmacists, and more. At this time of year, changes at the legislature happen very quickly. We encourage all HFIA members to keep pace by checking the legislative updates provided in our Weekly Update, and to respond to any Action Alerts requesting testimony on bills. Mahalo for all of your support this year!

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