Doubting State, Honolulu Moves To Add Bag Fee
Citing doubts about the Hawaii Legislature's ability to pass a statewide single-use checkout bag fee this year, the Honolulu City Council Wednesday took a major step forward toward a temporary Oahu-only fee on plastic bags.
Wednesday was a turning point.
Until now, the council had been watching the Legislature to see whether it would adopt a statewide fee.
But on Wednesday a committee voted for a three-cent fee on Oahu, and now the measure needs just one more vote from the full council to become law, possibly before the end of the month.
Council Chair Ernie Martin ignored pleas to defer to the Legislature and instead urged colleagues to take action. He told Civil Beat after the vote that he believes the Legislature won't get the job done this year.
"Based on what they've told me, and it's not just the Finance chair but other members of the House, they're very reluctant to pass any measure," Martin said.
House Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro all but told Civil Beat that the Legislature's not going to pass a statewide fee this year and will instead back off to let the City Council handle it for Oahu.
"At this time, it seems that the various counties in Hawaii have taken the lead in passing legislation tailored to each specific county on single-use checkout bags," Oshiro's staff wrote on his behalf in an email late Wednesday afternoon. "It makes sense to let Honolulu work on this measure, as other county councils have done effectively."
Maui and Kauai already have plastic bag bans in place, and the Big Island's ban takes effect soon. Honolulu is poised to join its sister counties in regulating checkout bags. But unlike them it won't impose a ban. On Wednesday it rejected a ban in favor of a fee.