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2020 Mid-Session Update

NOTE: The state legislature has gone on hiatus as of March 16, 2020 in response to COVID-19. The recess will go on indefinitely until the state House and Senate leaders decide when the session should reconvene.

We passed first crossover, the halfway point in the legislative process, which means that any remaining bills that have passed all committees in their originating body have now crossed over to the other chamber. Just after crossover, the Legislature hit the pause button due to COVID-19 and is now in recess. We would like to thank all of you for submitting testimony and supporting these issues, and we look forward to working with you to pass these bills, when it’s safe to resume session.

Check out the table below which recaps how several of our priorities have fared so far. You can see the full list of bills we are tracking here.

Table 1: A green bill number indicates the bill is still alive; red text indicates the bill is dead. Green fill means the bill has passed the legislative deadline (see top row), while grey indicates the bill failed to meet the legislative deadline. A “thumbs up” symbol indicates the bill has passed the committee, while a “thumbs down” symbol means it was deferred or did not receive enough votes to pass the committee.

End the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products (Remaining Bills: HB2457, SB2228)

These two  bills would prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol.

Hawai’i has the highest reported e-cigarette use rate among middle schoolers (15.7%) and the second highest e-cigarette use rate among high schoolers (25.5%) in the nation. With over 15,500 flavors on the market, tobacco companies are hooking a whole new generation on nicotine with sweet flavors such as Maui Mango, Cookie Monsta, and Li Hing Mui to mask the harsh taste of tobacco. With 97 percent of youth who vape saying they use a flavored tobacco product, it’s clear that in order to reverse the youth vaping epidemic, we need to eliminate the sale of the flavors that entice them.

E-Cigarette Regulations (Remaining Bill: SB2227)

This bill would subject e-cigarettes to many of the regulations that already apply to tobacco products, which include:

  1. Requiring e-cigarette retailers and wholesalers to obtain a tobacco license or permit in order to sell their products;
  2. Establishing a tax on e-cigarettes; and
  3. Restricting online sales directly to licensed retailers only.

E-cigarettes were deemed to be a tobacco product by the FDA in 2016, but four years later they are still not subject to many of the regulations that other tobacco products must adhere to. Lack of regulation has led to astronomical levels of youth vaping in Hawai‘i. In order to reverse this alarming trend, Hawai‘i must create policy parity and enact laws that create uniform regulations across all tobacco products.

Adult Dental Benefits for Medicaid Enrollees (Remaining Bills: HB2249, SB2459)

These bills would restore preventative dental benefits for the adult Medicaid population.

Adult Medicaid enrollees have no coverage for preventive or routine dental care (only emergency dental services, such as extraction or pain management). Expanding access to dental services to this population would result in reduced emergency room costs to the state (totaled $17 million in 2016) and improve oral health for Hawaii’s families.

Farm to School: P-20 Agriculture Education Coordinator (Remaining Bill: HB2215)

This bill would establish and appropriate funds for the P-20 (preschool to post-secondary) agriculture education coordinator position within the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

Agriculture education at all levels is key to strengthening Hawaii’s food security and food self-sufficiency through the development of future farmers and a supportive citizenry. Fundamental to expanding student interest in agriculture is the infusion of agriculture education into teacher development programs.

You can help move these priority bills forward with your advocacy! Take action by signing up for our action alerts and submitting testimony on these bills. You can also use the Public Access Room website as a great resource for navigating the legislative process. As legislative session (usually) moves quickly, please refer to the HIPHI bill tracker for the latest bill updates. 

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