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2024 Post-Session Legislative Update: How Our Policy Priorities Fared

The 2024 Session, the second year of the biennium, ended on May 3. This year, the Maui Fires were a considerable part of the state’s fiscal responsibilities and greatly impacted many conversations throughout the session. While the budget was closed earlier than the previous session, it still left little time before the end of the legislative calendar. As a result, several bills were pushed to last-minute votes and a number of hard losses felt as we closed out the final days. 

In January, HIPHI identified several 2024 policy priorities to advance public health in Hawai‘i. Here’s how our policy priorities fared this year: 

Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i

Following a successful 2023 session, tobacco prevention and control bills did not fare as well this year. A bill to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products was only heard by one committee. The bill HB 1778, which would have restored the counties’ authority to regulate the sale of tobacco products, made it through a few committees but ultimately did not make it through the House. HB 982 fully funds the Attorney General’s Tobacco Enforcement Unit, allowing them to continue to enforce the terms of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement and ensuring our state remains compliant to continue receiving payments.

Healthy Eating + Active Living (HEAL) Statewide Coalition

The Healthy Eating + Active Living (HEAL) Statewide Coalition identified three policy priorities for 2024: DA BUX, universal free school meals, and paid family and medical leave. 

For years, HIPHI and several partners have been working to secure permanent funding for DA BUX, which doubles the purchasing power of SNAP recipients when buying locally-grown produce. HIPHI and partners thank the legislature for funding this successful program with $1.5M in the state budget this year and a recurring $1.5M for the next fiscal year. This funding will help ensure the DA BUX program’s continued growth and success.

The HEAL Coalition also championed HB 1775, which would have implemented free school meals for all public school students. The program was in place nationally during the pandemic and effectively supported educational success. Unfortunately, this bill was not taken up by the Senate.

SB 2474, a bill that would have created a Paid Family and Medical Leave Program to support working families, failed again this year. This program would have allowed workers to take time off to care for themselves or family members while still being paid a portion of their regular earnings through an insurance program. 

A final issue that the HEAL coalition began supporting during the session was the “Freedom to Walk” bill, SB 2630. This bill prevents pedestrians from being stopped by a law enforcement officer, fined, or subjected to any other penalty for jaywalking (unless there is an immediate danger of a collision with a moving vehicle). Instead of using our limited resources to penalize pedestrians, which have been unsuccessful at creating safer streets, advocates urged the state to direct resources towards providing infrastructure so that people can safely walk, bike, and roll. The bill made it to the conference committee process, but never received conference committee members from the House and Senate. Without agreement from both chambers, the bill could not pass. This was the first year this issue was introduced and we are hopeful to have more success in the future after more community education.

Hawai‘i Farm to School

Several bills were introduced to support Farm to School initiatives, though unfortunately, none passed. HB 2138 would have created an agriculture education coordinator position within the University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources to ultimately help grow future farmers and an educated agricultural workforce in Hawai‘i. HB 2083 would have established an incentive program to encourage schools to develop a plan to reach the goal of 30% of the food served in schools to be locally-sourced by 2030 and create a pilot program at Mililani High School for a plant-based meal program. HB 2620 would create DOE procurement exemption to increase flexibility for local food purchases from small and medium-sized farmers. HB 1969 would have created a shade trees program within the DOE and funded an arborist position, which would institutionalize programs that have already existed for many years. 

Hawai‘i Alcohol Policy Alliance

The Hawai‘i Alcohol Policy Alliance faced another year of challenges trying to lower the Blood Alcohol Content from 0.08 to 0.05. SB 2384 passed the Senate but died in the House. Community members had a solid showing during the hearings, including support from the Department of Transportation and plan to continue their work on this policy during the interim. 

Hawai‘i Oral Health Coalition

Building on successes from 2023, the Hawaiʻi Oral Health Coalition had a legislative win this year. A bill to support access to oral health preventive services for keiki, SB 2476, passed. This bill ensures that dental hygienists would be able to apply dental sealants in school-based health clinics, increasing access to oral health care for those who need it most. Unfortunately, a bill that would have created a task force to address oral health in Hawai‘i, HB 2744, failed to pass the legislature. 

What’s next?

For a more in-depth look at how public health policies fared in Hawai‘i this year, stay tuned for our 2024 Legislative Recap! First copies will be available on Wednesday, June 26, at our annual Summer Social. We’ll also be sharing a digital copy on our website, hiphi.org, in late June.

Paige-Ka‘ohu Kawakami

Paige-Ka‘ohu Kawakami

Policy and Advocacy Associate
Nate Hix

Nate Hix

Social Impact Policy Manager
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