The Hawaii Senate and House have bridged the biggest gap between their differing versions of what would be the nation’s first statewide fee on single-use checkout bags.

But passage is still not in the bag.

“I clearly feel this bill is going to go down to the wire tomorrow,” House Environmental Protection Committee Chair Denny Coffman told Civil Beat Thursday. “I don’t expect to know until the close of business tomorrow.”

Senate Environment Committee Chair Mike Gabbard started Thursday’s conference committee hearing with a concession to Coffman’s demands: “We are willing to go along with the 10 cents.”

The amount of the per-bag fee had been a sticking point. The original version introduced by Gabbard in the Senate sought a 25-cent fee, and the version passed out of Coffman’s Environmental Protection Committee had it set at just 5 cents. The final House version featured a 10-cent fee, and that was the amount Coffman had been sticking to during negotiations.

But even with the Senate’s concession, Coffman couldn’t sign off on Senate Bill 1363. He said he needed to confer with House Finance Committee Chair Marcus Oshiro, who has been predictably busy in recent days.

Coffman told the conference committee that he needs a green light from Oshiro on one other specific aspect of the bill that was changed from the version passed out of the Finance Committee earlier this month.

The Senate had originally suggested a permanent 20-percent cut for retailers, while the House-approved version would have ended the 20-percent share after one year and given zero thereafter. The proposed CD1 version provided to Civil Beat by Gabbard on Wednesday would provide 20 percent of revenues to retailers for the first year and 10 percent after that.

The Sierra Club estimated in testimony that a 10-cent fee could generate $24 million in the first year. If that value held into the future, the difference between zero and 10 percent would be worth some $2.4 million per year to the state.

Lauren Zirbel, a lobbyist for the Hawaii Food Industry Association that represents food retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers, told Civil Beat Wednesday that her trade organization supported the proposed version that included the 10-percent share.

The bill was scheduled to be heard in conference again on Friday at 3:15 p.m. in Room 225.

Read Civil Beat’s prior coverage of the proposed checkout-bag fee:

Hawaii Checkout Bag Fee Not Yet Wrapped Up
Hawaii Lawmakers Argue Over Checkout-Bag Fee

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