Legislative Updates


By Lauren Zirbel, HFIA Executive Director

plastic bagThis summer has been a particularly busy one with a lot of legislative activity from all four county councils. Our biggest challenge this summer came in the form of an updated plastic bag ban, Bill 59 from the City and County of Honolulu, which was initially introduced last year. There were five different versions of the bill, some of which had very problematic provisions, such as not allowing any type of reusable plastic bags at all. 

Our biggest challenge this summer came in the form of an updated plastic bag ban, Bill 59 from the City and County of Honolulu, which was initially introduced last year.

HFIA took a multi-pronged approach to this bill to make sure that we leveraged all possible resources to get the result we needed. We worked with the Government Relations Committee (GRC) to ensure that we had compelling testimony for each different version. HFIA partnered with other stakeholders to respond to negative press with our own editorial in the Star Advertiser. HFIA reached out to our Council members and environmental groups that were pushing the bill in order to work toward a mutually agreeable solution. After several months of hearings, meetings, and spirited debate, we were very pleased to reach an agreement. 

The Council passed a version of Bill 59 that included a bag fee of 15 cents, which will be maintained by the retailers. This was a great success, and we’re grateful for the hard work of the GRC and to those who submitted testimony on this issue. Maui County Council also had a bill this summer looking to update their plastic bag ban. In its original form, it would have exempted some plastic bags but also prohibited businesses from providing plastic bags to customers at any point, not just at the point of sale. HFIA presented testimony on this bill and it was deferred, but we’re continuing to monitor it in case efforts are made to revise this or a similar measure. We would support a bill with a bag fee on all counties. Maui’s bill was amended to a 15-cent fee at one point, but it did not get another hearing. 

Polystyrene bills have emerged in all four counties. Maui County drafted and moved a ban very quickly this spring and summer. The bill was amended to exclude meat trays and egg cartons, and was signed into law. HFIA testified that these exclusions would be mandatory for the bill to be workable. Hawaii Island also passed a polystyrene ban bill which exempts egg cartons and meat trays. Two Kauai Council members expressed some interest in introducing a similar bill. A Kauai bill hasn’t been introduced yet, but we’re closely monitoring their council activities. Honolulu Council and Hawaii County Council both introduced versions of the polystyrene ban late this summer, and have both recently started to get hearings. The Honolulu version is particularly unworkable because it does not exempt egg cartons and meat trays. It is not reasonable or even legal to require a product to be removed from the original packaging it was shipped in once the product arrives at a local grocery store. Other counties that have passed bills have almost always exempted egg cartons and meat trays.

In addition to the bans this summer, we have seen an array of county bills. Honolulu Council heard a bill that attempted to require food establishments to separate their food waste for composting even though we don’t have a composting facility, HFIA opposed this and the bill has been deferred. We also had legislation expanding the sit-lie ban in Honolulu, and funding the redevelopment of the Blaisdell. On Maui, we’re tracking a possible ban on sun block, which may be coming up this year or next, and on Hawaii Island we’ve been keeping members up-to-date on the increase to the fuel tax. 

We’re also closely tracking what counties are planning on including the Hawaii Association of Counties 2018 Legislative Package. Maui is most likely going to include some kind of minimum wage increase bill in the package. We anticipate many minimum wage increase bills next year at the State Legislature. As the summer ends, HFIA will continue to make sure that the voice of Hawaii’s food industry is heard by all of our county councils on these and any other measures that could impact our members.