Winter 2020 Legislative Update

Winter 2020 Legislative Update

by Lauren Zirbel


City Card Program

HFIA is working with the Ofice of Economic Revitalization and other stakeholders on the development of the City Card Program to provide households impacted by COVID-19 with pre-loaded funds on a MasterCard similar to a debit card. City Card will be used for households to purchase groceries, food, household items such as cleaning supplies, prescriptions and pharmaceutical household needs. The value of the cards has not yet been determined but should be between $500 and $1000.

Honolulu Bill 40 Admin Rules

The Honolulu Department of Environmental Services (ENV) is in the process of finalizing the Administrative Rules for the Disposable Food Ware Ordinance (DFWO), which started of as Bill 40 and was passed last year as Ordinance 19-30. Parts of the DFWO take effect on January 1, 2020, including a revised definition of a plastic checkout bag, a ban on plastic service ware (i.e. utensils), and a requirement that non-plastic service ware be provided only upon request or affirmative response from a customer. Draft rules have been released but the hearing had to be postponed and at time of writing has not been rescheduled.

Because of global shortages of various types of single use service ware and food ware caused by the pandemic, HFIA is collaborating with the Hawaii Restaurant Association (HRA) to request an industry exemption to the ordinance. Unfortunately, due to the way the measure was written we are not allowed to apply for the exemption until after the DFWO goes into effect. HFIA and HRA submitted joint testimony for the hearing. Our testimony notes that because of the shortages and because many larger companies order supplies many months in advance, smaller businesses especially may have difficulty complying and that an enforcement grace period is necessary to allow time for the industry exemption to be applied for and granted. ENV has not confirmed a grace period.

We did get clarification on one point of confusion about the measure. ENV has confirmed that if a customer is buying prepared food, an employee may ask "Do you need utensils?" or "Would you like silverware?" or some variation of that, and if the customer says "yes" or otherwise responds affirmatively, the employee can provide compliant disposable service ware.

Honolulu Bill 65

At time of writing Honolulu Bill 65 is still going through hearings at the County. The current version will amend parts of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu relating to the Office of Climate Change. HFIA is working with a coalition of other business groups including the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, the Hawaii Restaurant Association, and others to ensure that our businesses community is part of the conversation on these matters.

Kauai County Polystyrene Ban

In September Kauai County passed a ban on polystyrene food ware. The ban goes into effect in January 2022. One version of the measure would have also banned plastic food ware. HFIA opposed this version noting this is not the time to take any action that will make things harder or more expensive for local businesses. The measure was revised back to a polystyrene-only ban.

The law states that “Food providers shall not sell, use, provide, or offer the use of polystyrene foam food service containers.” It also says, “Polystyrene foam food service containers shall not be offered for sale or sold in the County.”

There are exemptions for “Foods packaged outside the County of Kaua’i; Polystyrene foam food containers used for raw or butchered meats, poultry, fish, or eggs unless provided for consumption without further food preparation (e.g., sashimi and poke); Packaging in situations unique to the food provider, where there is no alternative to polystyrene foam food service containers, provided the food provider applies for an exemption and such exemption is granted by the Director; Packaging in any situation deemed by the County to be an emergency requiring emergency supplies or services procurement.”


HFIA is actively planning our strategies for the 2021 legislative session now. We don’t yet know what form Session will take next year in terms of how hearings will be conducted or how testimony will be heard, but we do know some of the issues that we will likely be working on.

Minimum Wage

The economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has been extreme in our state and we know that many believe the best response to that will be a minimum wage increase. This is especially likely given how far an increase got in 2020. HFIA will continue to communicate with our legislators the importance of keeping any increase to a reasonable level and implementing it over a time frame that is manageable and does not cause drastic unintended negative consequences for businesses or the state’s economy.


Several bills aimed at banning flavored tobacco also made it very far in session last year and may have passed if not the for the COVID-19 interruption. We believe there will be a renewed push for this in 2021 and that there is a strong possibility that some form of a ban will pass. HFIA will maintain our stance that including menthol in these bans is not in keeping with the overall intent of bills and that menthol should be excluded.

Grants and Tax Credits

HFIA has been participating in the House Food Stream and Agriculture Subcommittee with Representative Onishi, several HFIA members, and other stakeholders. This group has been expressly tasked with coming up with legislation that can be introduced next year that will help promote food self-sufficiency in the state. We are still working on specific recommendations and some of the ideas that have been getting a lot of traction are expanding the Double Up Food Bucks program, Manufacturing Grants for local food and for value-added products that use local agricultural products, creating food hubs, and tax credits to incentivize local food.

GET Exemption for Food and Essential Items

In 2021 HFIA will continuing to advocate for reducing the tax burden on Hawaii’s families by eliminating or reducing the GET for food. Hawaii is one of only a handful of States where groceries are fully taxed and we believe now more than ever it is important that food be as afordable as possible for Hawaii residents. The State budget has been drastically reduced this year so any proposals that would cost the state money will be even more of an uphill battle than usual.

CBD and Hemp

This August HB1819 was signed into law as Act 014 legalizing the growth of hemp and allowing the processing and sale of hemp products through State licensing. It has a sunset date of 2022. The Department of Health’s (DOH) current stance is that until they complete rules, CBD products cannot be sold. We have asked the DOH to keep us updated on the status of the rules. In 2021 we will continue to support having a functional and permanent regulatory framework for these products.

Waste Reduction and Plastic Bans

The Plastic Source Reduction Working Group that was convened under Senate Bill 522 last year has concluded. The group came up with eight recommendations and at the final meeting all members of the group agreed to approve the recommendations. The legislature will decide how, when, and whether to use these recommendations. HFIA’s vote to approve the recommendations does not obligate us to take any particular stance on any piece of legislation that may be introduced in the future.


1. Create a uniform statewide plastic source reduction standard.

2. Update the Department of Health (DOH) Health Code as needed to increase the use of reusables in food service.

3. Create a single, inclusive, across the board 15-30 cent user fee on all single-use service ware items and a separate 15-30 cent user fee on all carryout bags (but not cups, lids, and containers).

4. Enact a tax credit for businesses that invest in modern commercial reuse and washing equipment that reduce the use of plastics in the waste stream.

5. Organize, finance, and conduct a pilot project that tests the efficacy and expense of making UV-C or other sanitizing technology available.

6. Establish a 5-year State-facilitated education campaign about waste reduction.

7. Accelerate composting. 

8. Undertake a fair and careful study of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the extreme importance of sanitation in foodservice and the need for single use items in many applications. However, both globally and locally the pandemic has not dampened the public pressure for businesses and governments to take steps to reduce waste in general and plastic waste in particular. In 2021 we believe there may be some attempts at statewide bans or other waste reduction ordinances. HFIA will continue to support incentive-based waste reduction measures as well as responsible and sustainable waste management initiatives, such as local composting and recycling. We’ll also work to ensure that accurate data about the impacts of various measures on our environment and on our local businesses is heard in these discussions.

We will continue to provide updates on these and any other legislative issues in our Weekly Update emails. We will also periodically reach out to members with Action Alerts requesting that you submit testimony or take other action. We’re very proud to be the voice of Hawaii’s food and beverage industry and your participation on key legislation makes that voice stronger.

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