Summer 2019

Summer 2019 Legislative Update - 4 Key Wins for Food Industry

By Lauren Zirbel, HFIA Executive Director

As I write this, we just finished one of the most critical deadlines in the legislative session. Final decking marks the end of the conference committee, a hectic two-week period where the chairs of committees from both the Senate and House try to resolve their differences and come to an agreement on outstanding bills.

All four of the major bills HFIA was tracking during conference committee ended favourably and in accordance with HFIA suggestions put forward in written and verbal testimony.

Double-Up Food Bucks Passed!

HFIA is pleased to report that SB 390 Relating to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Incentives passed! This program requires the Department of Agriculture to create a dollar-for-dollar matching program for beneficiaries of SNAP to purchase Hawaii-grown produce. This bill is a triple win for families, businesses and farmers. SNAP recipients will receive two dollars worth of benefits for each one dollar they spend on local produce at designated retail locations.

This bill establishes a Hawaii healthy food incentive program for beneficiaries of SNAP. Participants who are beneficiaries of SNAP will receive a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $10 per visit, per day, to be used exclusively for the purchase of Hawaii-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. These can be purchased at a farmers’ market, farm stand, mobile market, community-supported agriculture site, grocery store, or other direct-food retailers that participate in the supplemental nutrition assistance program.

A maximum annual sum of $50,000 has been appropriated from the general revenues of the State of Hawaii for each of the fiscal year 2019-2020 and fiscal year 2020-2021. The program has access to these funds or as much as may be necessary for the administration of the Hawaii healthy food incentive program, and to provide matching funds to beneficiaries who participate in the supplemental nutrition assistance program.

This money will be matched by an additional 50,000 per fiscal year specified by the Hawaii Community Foundation. The federal government will match the total amount of money put forward by the State of Hawaii and Hawaii Community Foundation, bringing the total sum to $200,000 per fiscal year for the program. We are thrilled to see this program funded so that we can begin to show the many benefits and the effectiveness of this incentive! 

Plastic Ban Passed as Plastic Working Group

After a much-heated debate about SB 522 throughout the session, this bill passed final decking as a very reasonable and potentially helpful and necessary working group. The stated purpose of the working group on plastic source reduction is to make recommendations to reuse, reduce, recycle, and recover plastic waste.

Clarifying language to improve the usefulness of the task force was added to this bill.

The stated purpose of the working group changed from being about eliminating all single-use plastic to being more focused on reducing and recovering plastic.

The following groups make up the task force: Hawaii Food Industry Association, Department of Health, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii Tourism Authority, four members appointed by the mayors, the state sustainability coordinator, Surfrider Foundation, Zero Waste Oahu, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, Hawaii Restaurant Association, Chamber of Commerce, a representative from the beverage industry, a representative from the plastic manufacturing industry, and a representative of the recycling industry.

The working group is charged with issuing a report on its findings and recommendations. These may include any recommendation for pilot projects for Hawaii businesses to phase out single-use plastic packaging, promote reuse, and find sustainable alternatives for packaging, as well as any proposed legislation to the legislature, no later than twenty days prior to the convening of the regular session of 2021. As such, the working group has two years to complete its work.

Minimum Wage Did Not Increase

At 2:00 p.m. on Friday, April 26, Senator Taniguchi and Representative Johanson stated that there were serious concerns from the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) about the provision in the previous bill providing different rates of increases for employees who are provided health care insurance and those who are not. DLIR advised legislators that this could invite legal challenges.

As a result, a proposal to reach $15 per hour by 2024 was put forward. When the conference commit-tee reconvened at 3:00 p.m., the two conferees discussed that they did not have the necessary support to pass the last minute proposal chang-es and that they would defer the bill and work on an improved measure for next year’s session.

Hawaii Food Industry Association consistently opposed mandatory wage increases throughout the session. We stated that other jurisdictions with $15 minimum wages had experienced adverse consequences for local businesses, workers, and consumers.

Direct Shipment of Liquor Did Not Pass

Throughout session, HFIA testified to remove the direct shipment section of HB 546B Relating to Intoxicating Liquor. In conference committee, HFIA’s amendments were adopted, and the bill was passed. We are very pleased with this outcome. Without HFIA’s amendments, this bill would have allowed direct shipment of all liquor, both from within Hawaii and from out-of-state. Thank you to everyone who responded to our action alerts throughout session. Your elected officials clearly heard your voice. Thank you for your support of HFIA, which allows the industry to present a united voice representing the food and beverage industry.


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