The 2021 Legislative Session has passed the halfway point, and with that lawmakers are focusing in on the remaining 738 bills (whittled down from the 2,820 bills introduced). Balancing the state budget in light of the serious economic fallout from COVID-19 and ways to rebuild a better Hawai‘i remain top issues.
At the start of session, HIPHI and its coalitions had many priorities to advance public health in our state. Our priorities that are still moving include:
- SB 512 expands the DA BUX Double Up Food Bucks Program by removing the daily $10 cap and allows healthy local proteins to be included. We are also seeking continued state investment in the program. Double Up Food Bucks programs provides a dollar-for-dollar match on local produce for SNAP recipients at participating retailers. Currently there is no appropriation in the bill to continue state support for the Double Up Food Bucks program.
- SB 1147 enacts comprehensive regulations on e-cigarettes, including taxation, licensing and permitting, restricting online sales, and ending the sale of most flavored tobacco products. We are concerned about the exemption of the flavor menthol and continue to advocate that all flavors should be included.
We are also actively tracking and opposing bills that could harm public health.
- HB 1296 repeals the Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund, which supports critical prevention, education, and cessation (quit smoking) services across the state, saving millions in healthcare costs every year. While the latest draft includes some funding for tobacco prevention and control efforts, it would still lead to over $1M in cuts to existing services and threatens long-term planning and programming efforts.
- HB 476 would reduce the tobacco tax on modified risk tobacco products. The FDA has cautioned that the modified risk designation does not mean that these products are safe or “FDA-approved,” and all tobacco products are potentially harmful. There is no public health reason to lower taxes on any tobacco product.
Unfortunately, our priority bills to enact a sugary drink fee (SB 541/HB 330), increase the liquor tax (SB 1232/HB 771), and restore adult dental benefits for Medicaid enrollees (SB 1294/HB 866) failed to advance.
Beyond our priority bills, the HIPHI is supporting measures related to farm to school, food security, vision zero, complete streets, minimum wage, telehealth, and more. Visit our 2021 Bill Tracker for status updates on all bills HIPHI is tracking. You can sign up for action alerts on our remaining priority bills at act.hiphi.org.