Legislative Updates

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE, WINTER 2017

By Lauren Zirbel, HFIA Executive Director

During this fall and early winter, HFIA’s legislative team has been working hard to get ready for the upcoming 2018 Hawaii State Legislative session, while also being engaged with the ongoing activities of all four County Councils. 

Monitoring HSAC’s Proposed Legislation

We’ve been carefully tracking the Hawaii State Association of Counties (HSAC) Legislative package, which contains several bills that could impact members if they pass at the state level. This year’s HSAC Package will include a tax credit for employers who hire a person with a disability and another for those who hire an elderly person. Many HFIA members would be eligible for these credits if these bills are successful.

The 2018 HSAC Package also has a bill asking for the state to provide funds to the Counties to identify more Important Agricultural Lands around the state, which could lead to more farms being able to take advantage of the incentives that come with land being designated as Important Agricultural Land. Fortunately, a proposal to include an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour did not make it into the package this year.

There was also a resolution on Maui to include the $15 minimum wage in the Maui County Legislative package which they submit to the state but it did not make it into that package either. Maui and Kauai Counties are both in the process of finalizing their own Legislative Packages to send to the State Legislature. 

Proposed Maui Ban on Sunblock Ingredients

Maui’s includes a ban on the sale and use of products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. These are two common ingredients in sunblocks, moisturizers, anti-aging products, and other skin care products that have an SPF. Maui County Council has also introduced and advanced a countywide ban on both the sale and use of these products. They invited presentations from two scientists in favor of the ban, but did not invite scientists who have researched the actual causes of coral bleaching, some of whom have publicly stated that the idea that sunscreen is causing coral bleaching is “laughable.” 

HFIA Opposes GET Increase on Maui and Kauai

Late this fall Maui and Kauai Councils each introduced bills to create a 0.5% County GET Surcharge for their Counties. HFIA has submitted testimony in opposition to both measures. 

Hawaii is one of only a handful of states where groceries are taxed and we believe that increasing taxes on necessities like food is a step in the wrong direction for our residents, our businesses, and our economy. Bills introduced late in the year like this have a tendency to move through the County Councils quickly so we’ll be watching them carefully and keeping members updated in the Weekly Updates. 

Potential Tax Credits in Honolulu

In addition to these Maui and Kauai bills, we’re monitoring and working on a number of bills from the City and County of Honolulu. HFIA is tracking several potential expansions to Honolulu’s sit lie ban.

There were a few tax credits introduced at the Honolulu City Council, which HFIA is tracking in the Weekly Update. One bill would give a property tax credit for organic farming, and another would give a tax credit to restaurants that are certified as “ocean friendly” by the Surfrider Foundation. 

Collaborating with Malama808

HFIA has been very pleased to work with Malama808 in support of a bill to reduce litter by applying common sense solutions to control trash, and enable cooperation between businesses, community organizations, and government to address the problem of litter. This is a great example of how voluntary, comprehensive solutions can effectively address a tricky problem like litter, and we’re glad to be a part of the positive effort to get this measure passed.

Reducing Waste

This has been a challenging year for county legislation.  Maui and Hawaii Island passed polystyrene bans; however, they exempted egg cartons and meat trays, an important point in HFIA testimony. HFIA has participated in some great successes this year, including passage of the updated plastic bag ban in Honolulu, which now includes a 15-cent fee. HFIA has worked hard for this legislation, which we know is an essential part of reducing waste. Efforts like this help underscore the importance of HFIA’s ability to provide a unified voice for our industry that lawmakers at all levels can hear. We’ve achieved some great momentum this year and we’re looking forward to carrying that into 2018.