Winter 2019

Bill 40

This fall, all of HFIA’s legislative efforts have focused on Bill 40, the Honolulu plastic ban. This bill is so horrifically drafted that it has united the food industry in a way we have never seen before. We look forward to seeing what the local jobs for local food coalition will accomplish in the future.

The original version of this measure made changes to the bag ban, which prohibits plastic checkout bags for baked goods and prepared foods. This change has been included in all subsequent versions with an effective date of January 1, 2020. This ban would go into effect less than a month after the bill would potentially be signed into law, leaving no time for the department to even inform businesses that they are breaking the new law. 

The original bill, which HFIA only submitted comments on, also banned plastic straws and utensils and seemed intended to ban polystyrene, but the language didn’t effectively do so.

Two other drafts, which represented reasonable compromises supported by HFIA and introduced by Councilwoman Fukunaga, did not pass. These bills included incentives for using compostable containers or offering recycling, as well as a ban on polystyrene and incorporated a provision similar to Portland’s bill, which would mean plastic straws and utensils could only be supplied upon request. We want to thank Councilwoman Fukunaga for looking for a win-win solution early in this process. Unfortunately, Councilman Waters did not accept her bill amendments.

The next version of the bill put forward by Councilmember Manahan was a sweeping ban on almost all plastic food packaging used in Honolulu County. Such a ban would have negatively impacted not just restaurants, convenience stores, and retailers, but also all food manufacturers. The worst part was that it put local food manufacturers at a considerable disadvantage to their mainland counterparts.

Food industry members submitted more than 1,000 emails opposing Bill 40. Many others called or sent direct messages. More than two hundred food industry members rallied outside Honolulu Hale to oppose this disastrous bill! Our calls for help did not fall on deaf ears. Councilmembers Fukunaga, Kobayashi, and Tsuneyoshi have all expressed to us in meetings that they care deeply about NOT disadvantaging local food industry businesses. They expressed their desire to find a win-win solution that will advance the cause of reducing plastics without steamrolling local food industry businesses. Please let these Councilmembers know you appreciate their thoughtful approach to legislating!

At the latest hearing on November 14, 2019, Councilmembers Manahan and Waters released a new draft one minute before the hearing, allowing testifiers no time to review the proposed legislation. This new bill contained a confusing mix of unusual language and new definitions. They stated that the bill is intended to ban plastic takeout containers for prepared food. However, it is exceptionally difficult to decipher how the language in this bill would be implemented in a practical sense. The bill does not use industry-standard terminology, and no federal or state standards are in place to explain or define how to comply with the terms used in the bill.

The most recent version of Bill 40 bans polystyrene containers and non-compostable plastic silverware, straws, lids, stirring sticks, and more “service ware” on January 1, 2021. It. prohibits plastic containers by January 1, 2022. The bill allows for exemptions in cases where there are no alternatives. Exemptions must be applied for through a hardship clause. This Frankenstein bill passed Councilmember Water’s committee with three yes votes from Councilmembers Menor, Waters and Manahan. There were two no votes from Councilmembers Fukunaga and Tsuneyoshi, who expressed at the hearing that they want to work with the industry on a win-win solution.

HFIA has been working since the introduction of this bill to advance a win-win solution on this issue. We’ve testified, conducted interviews, participated in press conferences and rallies, drafted editorials, and worked within the larger "Stop Bill 40 "coalition to make sure that the food industry’s voice is heard and prioritized in the process of creating legislation that impacts our businesses.

In the future, we plan to organize the food industry to provide more support to candidates that are open to listening to the concerns of our industry. We all lose when we have elected officials who refuse to listen to very reasonable concerns from their constituents. Many of these food industry businesses are too busy trying to make payroll to go down to the city council to testify at lengthy, five-hour hearings. However, they took the time to write and call their councilmembers. It’s tragic to see our local businesses being disrespected by some at the council.

Hawaii State Legislature 2020

Plastic

The Plastic Working Group created by the State Legislature last year had its first meeting this November. We believe there is a lot of potential in this group to find workable solutions to making our packaging more sustainable. However, the opening statements by some of the groups involved in this working group are extremely troubling. They clearly stated that their intention is to ban all foods packaged in plastic and to not address other industries which are more responsible for ocean plastic because “the food industry is an easy target”.

We anticipate that there will be more plastic bans introduced at the state level this year. Some members of the Plastic Working group are even proposing EPR, a tax on all food products and packaging to pay for the cost of recycling the item. Such a tax would devastate our economy and our food supply.

We hope that the Plastic Working Group has a chance to make progress. on initiatives that advance businesses and the environment. We hope our lawmakers will see the value of working collaboratively with industry, and not impose mandates that harm our businesses and our economy. We fully support incentives that would help local businesses “go green”.

Family Leave

The Paid Family Leave Impact Study, which was mandated by Act 109 in 2018, was just released. We believe there will be renewed attempts to enact some form of paid family leave in the state in 2019. HFIA is reviewing the study now to determine what types of legislation this is likely to influence and how to best respond to various proposals.

Minimum Wage

Several minimum wage increase bills made it very far in session last year. There is still pressure nationally for a $15/hour minimum wage, and testifiers in Hawaii last year discussed $20/hour or more as a “living wage” in our state. 

We know that an unreasonable minimum wage eliminates training opportunities and entry-level jobs, increases food prices and the cost of living makes local food and locally-made products more expensive and discourages businesses from. working here in Hawaii. HFIA will continue to work to educate our legislators on the negative impacts of an excessively high minimum wage.

Vaping

We anticipate a range of regulations. related to vaping, flavored tobacco products, and tobacco sales this year. For more information see our coverage on page 22 of the Winter 2019 issue of Hawaii Retail Grocer Magazine.

HFIA 2020

HFIA is in the process of establishing our 2020 Legislative Agenda. We will continue to proactively champion favorable legislation for our industry, such as creating statewide preemption for food packaging regulations, reducing taxes on groceries, and promoting incentives for businesses to “go green.” 

One of our biggest lessons from Bill 40 has been how impactful it can be for state lawmakers to hear directly from our members. It was truly inspiring to see more than 200 industry members rallying for their cause on the lawn of Honolulu Hale this November. In many of our meetings with Councilmembers, they noted the volume of calls and emails they’d been receiving from our members, their employees, and customers. This kind of action is impossible for our lawmakers to ignore. HFIA will continue to inform our members and enable them to take direct action to influence the legislation that is important to our industry.

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