Spring 2021 Legislative Update

Legislative Update

by Lauren Zirbel

This year marks the first ever virtual legislative session. While HFIA is still busy with ongoing working groups related to COVID response, local food procurement, and vaccination distribution via zoom, we can now also add legislative hearings to our virtual to do list! Many issues have taken on increased urgency in the light of post-pandemic economic hardship for businesses and residents.

Unemployment Insurance Fund

Under the current rate schedule, payments made by employers into the Unemployment Insurance Fund are set to quadruple. For some businesses their rates will increase more than tenfold. This would of course put tremendous strain on businesses that are already struggling and likely lead to additional businesses closures. Support of HB1278, HB470, and SB682 which will adjust the rate schedule and prevent precipitous increases.

Minimum Wage

The majority of the minimum wage increase bills this year seek to increase it to $17hr in the next few years, these include HB4, HB21, and HB600. SB285 would increase it to $11 starting January of next year; SB676 would increase it to $12 as of July next year; SB677 would increase it to $15 in June of 2023; and HB1201 would make it $15 in 2024. HFIA opposes an increase. We will continue to work to ensure that if an increase is passed it's kept to a reasonable amount and and implemented over a time period that will help minimize negative consequences for Hawaii businesses.

Local Food Grants and Tax Credits

As a result of the Food and Agricultural COVID Committee, which HFIA participated in, two important food tax credit bills were introduced this year. HB94 Relating to Food Manufacturing creates a food manufacturing tax credit. HB322 Relating to Agriculture creates and Agricultural Import Replacement Task Force and Agricultural Import Replacement Tax Credit to increase agricultural products grown locally. The corresponding Senate Bills are SB496 and SB497. HFIA is in strong support of all these measures.

We are also supporting a range of other measures aimed at incentivizing, promoting and increasing local food production. SB692 and HB1209 will help make sure local meat producers have access to meat processing facilities which we support.

HB1278 and SB512 will remove the $10 per visit cap for SNAP users participating in the Double Up Food Bucks program. HFIA is a longtime supporter of expanding this program.

GET Exemptions and Increases

This year several measures exempting groceries from the GET were introduced. HFIA supports these bills, however passage will be difficult given the budget deficit.

Bills increasing taxes on sugar sweetened beverages and alcohol have also been introduced, HFIA will be opposing these measures strongly. Now is not the time to increase taxes on local businesses already struggling to maintain employment for residents.

COVID-19

HB726 would mandate mask wearing and call for businesses to refuse service to those who fail to comply. HFIA is asking for changes to ensure that the measure empowers businesses to refuse service to those who are in violation of the law, but that it does not require businesses or their employees to take on law enforcement roles.

Leave

A range of sick leave and family leave have been introduced, but have not yet been scheduled for hearings. HFIA will be focusing on educating our legislators about the unintended negative consequences of expanding leave in certain ways.

Bans

Several new plastic bans and new sunscreen ingredient bans have been introduced this year. HFIA continues to oppose unnecessary bans, especially those that increase costs for our local businesses and consumers.

Canned Water

SB348 would allow for water to be canned in the state. HFIA supported this measure last year but unfortunately it failed when session was disrupted due to COVID. When this bill passes, we look forward to a new type of local beverage manufacturing in Hawaii.

Waste and Litter

HFIA will be supporting measures aimed at promoting responsible waste management, such as increasing fines for littering, increasing composting capacity in the state, and growing local recycling.

Liquor

We will continue to oppose direct shipment of liquor.

Flavored Tobacco Bans

Bans on flavored tobacco came very close to passing in 2020. Realistically it’s likely that some form of ban will pass this year. HFIA will be focusing our e orts on making sure that menthol is not included in a ban.

More information on HFIA’s Legislative Platform for 2021 is in our Legislative Day article. As usual we will be posting Legislative Updates in our Weekly Updates throughout session. If members have questions about any legislation, please reach out to us at [email protected] We encourage all members to respond to Action Alerts and submit testimony on key legislation. We are honored to be the voice of Hawaii’s food and beverage industry and when our members testify with us that voice is even stronger.

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