2023 Fall Legislative Update
Though the legislature is currently in recess until 2024, this fall HFIA has been continuing to advocate on several important issues, while actively preparing for next year, and keeping our members up to date on regulatory changes that may impact them.
The Double Up Food Bucks program, known as DA BUX, is part of the Department of Agriculture’s Hawaiʻi healthy food incentives program. DA BUX doubles the purchasing power of those using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to purchase locally grown food DA BUX is administered by The Food Basket in partnership with the Hawaiʻi Good Food Alliance. Funding for DA BUX comes from the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, state funds, and funds matching programs. Many HFIA retailers participate in this important program that is a win for local farmers, SNAP users, and those selling locally grown food.
Unfortunately, DA BUX was not funded at the State level this year. The Food Basket has been able to extend the program to December of this year. HFIA, Ulupono Initiative and others have been working to secure funds for the program through the Governor’s discretionary budget or other means. We’re also planning on including DA BUX funding as part of our positive proactive legislative package for 2024 and we look forward to continuing to educate our legislators on why this is such a valuable program.
CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU LAND USE ORDINANCE
In February of 2022 Bill 10 an omnibus measure to revise and update a wide range of land use ordinances was introduced at the Honolulu City Council. The Bill was initiated by the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP). Since its introduction there have been two approved versions and six drafts of the measure. The most recent approved version is over 200 pages long.
HFIA is working with the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii and a range of other stakeholders who support the intent of the measure, to improve and update the County’s land use ordinances, but who believe that this measure may not be the best vehicle for that process. This coalition of stakeholders will be submitting comments during the next hearing outlining some of the issues with Bill 10. The measure has become unwieldy and difficult to understand for anyone but a land use expert. The Council Member and DPP employee who were the driving forces behind the bills introduction are no longer in the Council or DPP respectively and the DPP is under new leadership.
In the comments the coalition is also suggesting that hiring a third party expert as a possible alternative solution. A third party could help ensure that the public is engaged with the process in a meaningful way and provide oversight of land use ordinance updates. This approach has been used successfully by other counties around the country. HFIA will continue to work with the coalition to communicate to our Council the need the need to update our land use ordinances in a way that is cooperative and functional for all stakeholders, including our food industry. We’ll keep members updated on the Status of this measure in our Weekly Update emails.
MAUI COUNTY GENERAL EXCISE TAX SURCHARGE
In July Maui County Passed Bill 49 to create a .5 percent surcharge in addition to the State’s 4 percent General Excise Tax (GET.) As the bill moved through the Council hearing process HFIA reached out to Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura, Chair of the Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee, to discuss the possibility of exempting SNAP eligible groceries from the surcharge. However, after review of the state laws governing the GET it was determined that a county surcharge cannot exempt transactions if they are subject to the GET.
DEPOSIT BEVERAGE CONTAINER PROGRAM CHANGES
In 2022 Act 12 was signed into law, it “Requires the Department of Health to implement the Auditor's recommendations for the Deposit Beverage Container program, including developing a risk based selection process to select reports submitted by certain distributors and redemption centers for audit.”
One of the changes that this makes for deposit beverage retailers is that they will have to file certain reports and forms with the Office of Solid Waste Management. HFIA has scheduled Kimberly Tamao, Environmental Health Specialist with the Office of Solid Waste Management speak at to our September 26 Online Membership Meeting to provide additional information and answer questions from members about the forms and the program.