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Lawmakers to hold hearings on Hawaii Health Connector

Lawmakers in Hawaii have been pushing and prodding hundreds of bills through the Legislature, and this week is no exception, as the Legislature enters the final month of the session.

In addition to the usual voting and discussion, there also will be several hearings on the Hawaii Health Connector, the state’s troubled exchange under President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul. The exchange is rushing to sign people up for health insurance before a Monday deadline.

Here’s are five things ahead at the Hawaii Legislature this week:

>> Funding the Health Connector: The Senate Ways and Means committee is weighing whether to allow for up to $15 million in support for the state’s beleaguered health exchange. The state would get the money from fees on insurers or general fund appropriations. The committee is planning to make a decision on the bill (HB 2529) Monday at 10 a.m. 

Jan Yamane, Hawaii’s acting state auditor, planned to present preliminary results from an audit of the exchange Wednesday, but the hearing may be postponed until interim director Tom Matsuda returns from a trip to Washington to testify to a congressional committee about the exchange’s problems. Yamane says she has information from the Connector about its finances.

>> Resolutions deadline: Thursday marks a deadline for concurrent resolutions to cross chambers, meaning lawmakers in the House and Senate must vote on whether to send them to their counterparts across the Capitol. Concurrent resolutions in the pipeline include a variety of measures, including one asking state agencies to encourage young voters to register to vote and another asking Congress to make reforms to address sexual assault and harassment problems in the military.

>> Hearings: Lawmakers plan a full slate of hearings to talk about issues on everything from housing to state finances, violent crime and Hawaii’s environment. A joint hearing of two key Senate committees on Tuesday will consider a bill to allow charter school employees to receive state benefits and make it illegal for children under age 18 to use tanning beds.

>> Decking deadline: The deadline for bills to make it through committee in their non-originating chamber (that is, for House bills to get through Senate committees and vice-versa) arrives Friday, ensuring a flurry of last-minute hearings. It’s also an indicator, by what isn’t scheduled, of which bills are going to die quietly after passing one chamber.

>> Capitol artwork: Friday marks the sixth year that the statehouse will open its doors for Art at the Capitol, an evening for visitors to take a free self-guided tour of the Hawaii-made art that hangs throughout the building. Fifty-four offices, including those of the governor and lieutenant governor, will be open for public viewing. Also, there will be snacks.

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Associated Press writer Sam Eifling contributed to this report.

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