The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii
e-Voice of Business
February 12, 2014

In this February 12, 2014 edition:

President's Message
Update on 2014 Legislative Session
U.S. Military Must Remain "Out and About"
Boost Your Company Recognition with Business After Hours

President's Message

Aloha Chamber Members:

The Legislature's first major deadline, First Lateral, is tomorrow, which means that for bills to remain alive, they must pass out of the first assigned committee. So far, the Chamber has testified on nearly 100 bills relating to employer mandates, land use, taxes, education, infrastructure, economic development and others. A couple of bills that have garnered the Legislature's attention relate to the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) and minimum wage.
This past Saturday, the Chamber testified on a number of bills relating to HCDA, a state agency. One of the bills proposed to repeal HCDA. We opposed it because HCDA, which was originally established in 1976 to redevelop substantially undeveloped, blighted or economically depressed areas, serves as an entity to work with different stakeholders to bring the redevelopment plan to fruition. After 40 years of public investment in infrastructure based on the plan, projects are being realized. If HCDA were to be repealed, it would raise legitimate questions on the type of business climate the state is creating if investors and developers have no predictability or certainty when a state agency is overseeing redevelopment efforts. Read more about it here, as reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
In other news relating to legislation, yesterday, the House Labor Committee heard a number of bills relating to the minimum wage. After hearing testimony from both opponents and supporters, the committee passed HB 2580 unamended. This measure deletes the tip credit, increases the wage by 75 cents from 1/1/15-1/1/17 and, thereafter, requires DLIR to tie the wage to the Consumer Price Index, which means that wages would automatically increase every year.
While the Chamber recognizes that, at some point, an increase should occur, we are deeply concerned about this bill. We do not believe that businesses can sustain a huge increase at a time when the economy is slowly recovering, coupled with significant increases in Prepaid Healthcare costs.
The Chamber sent an Action Alert on the minimum wage to our membership, asking you to submit testimony to the committee through an easy and convenient system. Although a number of our members responded, we still need more voices. The Chamber strongly urges you to make your voice heard as legislators need to hear from businesses in numbers and volume to truly make an impact. Please sign up to receive our Action Alerts by emailing Jenny Lee with our Business Advocacy department.
We will continue to send these Alerts when we need your input. Please visit the Chamber's new Legislative Action Center to obtain updates on bills and other important information. Let's build a better business climate together.

Laulima & mahalo,
Sherry Menor-McNamara
President & CEO

Update on the 2014 Legislative Session 

Minimum wage and many other bills are moving through this session. The House Labor Committee just passed out a bill that would:

-Raise the minimum wage 75 cents each year, beginning in 2015, for three years
-Remove the tip credit from state law 
-Tie annual minimum wage increases to the Consumer Price Index
We, along with many other businesses, testified against several of these large increase bills, as they would hurt businesses and their employees. We are also testifying on many other bills that could adversely affect business. These include bills that would increase mandated benefits in prepaid healthcare, make changes in the workers’ compensation law that will increase costs and many others. Some of the major points of our testimony:
  • Hawaii is different from all other states:  we have Prepaid Healthcare mandate on employers.
    • The current minimum wage, with the employer share of an employee’s health insurance is, on average, anywhere from $9.79/hr. to $12.43/hr., depending on how many hours the employee works. This factor already makes Hawaii the state with the highest minimum wage rate in the county.
    • If the minimum wage was increased to $8.75/hr., the cost, including health care, would range, on average, from $11.26/hr. to $13.91/hr.
  • Economic data shows both job losses and increases when the minimum wage is increased.
    • After the minimum wage increase in 2006 and 2007, there was an overall increase in jobs (2%-5%). In the category of food and restaurant, there was a growth of 1%.  However, among certain low wage food industry sub-categories, there was a job loss of 4%-15%. Keep in mind that these statistics are not part of an overall study, but are snapshots of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that express some business concerns. 
While the Chamber understands that the minimum wage should be increased at some point, it is not clear whether a large increase will help minimum wage earners. These bills that are intended to help minimum wage earners may, potentially, even hurt those they are trying to help. 

At the same time, there are some positive bills moving through session. Our manufacturing tax credit was approved by the subject matter committees in the House and the Senate and now moves onto the money committees. Also, we launched our manufacturing portal, our first step to provide pertinent information in one place to help manufacturers. Please click here to access the site.

U.S. Military Must Remain "Out and About"

Speaking in Tokyo at a media forum sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Admiral Samuel Locklear, III, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command in Honolulu, reiterated that the key to succeeding with the U.S. security strategy in the Pacific is to ensure that our security forces are “out and about.” Admiral Locklear pointed to the success of U.S. humanitarian assistance in Operation Damayan following Typhoon Haiyan as a prime example of the leverage that a forward deployed presence can provide. 
“So, why did we do well? Well, first of all, we were here – we were out and about,” said Admiral Locklear. His comments pointed to the importance of a forward deployed U.S. force in meeting the security goal of responding to requests for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. 
The future of U.S military presence in the Asia Pacific lies in continuing to develop ties with the nation’s allies and partners. The Asia Pacific is a region where 80% of the world’s natural disasters occur. “When you have a disaster that occurs and you can get on it quickly and you can get human suffering to a minimum, it underpins security and prosperity,” Locklear said. “The U.S. rebalance to the Asia Pacific has many aspects to it, and it’s not just the military – it’s economic, it’s social, it’s diplomatic…It’s about how we collectively ensure security in this part of the world -- how we build prosperity for our children and grandchildren.”                  

Boost Your Company Recognition with Business After Hours
The Chamber’s Business After Hours (BAH) provides members an evening of networking, exchanging of information and friendly conversation in a fun, relaxing atmosphere. This popular event also offers sponsorship opportunities available exclusively to Chamber members. BAH sponsorships are flexible with options to sponsor food and beverage and/or host the venue. BAH’s have been hosted by members at a wide variety of locations including onsite at car dealerships, restaurants, hotels, retail stores, museums and office locations.

A BAH sponsorships also includes a variety of avenues to boost your company’s profile through pre-event promotional materials, online promotion through our weekly e-Voice of Business newsletter and our website, onsite exhibition space and speaking time during the program. Complimentary passes to the event are also included. To sponsor a BAH and for additional information, please contact Kyle Okamura at (808) 545-4300 x317 or email him. You can also learn more about additional sponsorships by clicking here

Our most recent BAH, held last week, drew more than 80 business professionals who enjoyed a lively beach-themed event at the Airport Honolulu Hotel. Guests had the opportunity to win great prize giveaways, including tickets to the Harlem Globetrotters and buffet dinner gift certificates, sample delicious cuisine and receive a personal tour of the Airport Honolulu Hotel’s well-appointed facilities. To view photos from this event, please visit our Facebook page here. We look forward to seeing you at our next BAH, which will be held April. 
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