Legislative Day 2021

2021 Legislative Day

Zoom meeting screen shot This year HFIA had our first ever virtual Legislative Day. Of course we missed getting to see everyone in person and the great refreshments always provided by Coca-Cola and bentos from Zippy’s, but we did have a wonderful high turnout for both our First Government Relations Committee (GRC) Meeting of the year, and out Legislative Talk Story.

 

GRC Meeting

The GRC approved a platform for 2021 that focuses on proactive support for measures that will have positive impacts for our member businesses, our industry, and Hawaii's economy in general. The GRC also renewed HFIA’s commitment to oppose measures such as product bans and extreme wage increases which would have negative impacts, especially during these economically challenging times.

Some of the Platform’s key support items include:

  • Stabilizing the Unemployment Insurance trust fund to prevent a catastrophically large jump in the cost to businesses,
  • Tax credits and other measures to increase manufacturing, buying, and growing local food,
  • Increasing the City Card Program,
  • Accessing Federal funds for the Made in Hawaii Festival Online Marketplace which had to be launched as a result of COVID-19,
  • Reducing the State’s regressive tax on groceries and essential items,
  • Growing the local meat industry, Consistent and permanent CBD and hemp legislation,
  • Commercial rent relief,
  • Improving the Safe Travels program, and
  • Measures aimed at regrowing Hawaii’s economy with strong local foundations.

Legislative Talk Story

During the second part of our Legislative Day, the Legislative Talk Story, our Panel included Speaker of the House Scott Saiki; Senate President Ronald Kouchi; Joe Carter, Vice President and General Manager, Coca Cola Bottling of Hawaii, and Chair of HFIA; Charlie Gustafson, VP, Store Operations, Tamura Super Market, and Vice Chair of HFIA; and Jason Higa, FHC Enterprises, Inc, Zippy’s Restaurants, CEO. As usual Derek Kurisu of KTA did an excellent job as moderator.Each speaker was given time to touch on their priority topics and then the floor was opened for discussion.

Senate President Kouchi started o the meeting discussing his passion for the Farm to School program. He also talked about the impressive safety measures that many businesses like Zippy’s have taken to increase employee and customer safety, and how such businesses should be allowed to continue to operate safely, even if there are spikes caused by others engaging in unsafe activities.

Speaker Saiki agreed with President Kouchi and spoke about how much he enjoys working with HFIA Executive Director Lauren Zirbel. He discussed the Legislature’s virtual operations this year and stressed the need for people to be vocal and was clear that this year more than ever the legislature needs to hear directly from businesses.

Joe Carter touched on the possibility of sugar sweetened beverage taxes coming up again this year and the ways in which these taxes negatively impact both businesses and consumers.

Charlie Gustafson talked about the importance of ensuring that grocery employees have access to the COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible. This will help ensure the safety of employees and customers, and prevent the shutdown of businesses like Tamura’s Super Market, which their communities rely on for food.

Jason Higa gave a very informative presentation on the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the urgent need for the legislature to take action and prevent drastic cost increases to businesses. If increases do occur it would likely cause more local business closures.

After the presentation we had some audience questions and discussion from the legislators. There was positive consensus around the idea that increasing taxes as a knee jerk reaction to the budget shortfall was not necessarily the right answer. There was also agreement and acknowledgement that businesses do need to be very vocal right now about the negative impacts that certain legislation would have on them, and about what they need to continue to survive and drive Hawaii’s economy.

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