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Hawaii News

Bills on energy and health care keep breathing

After a major legislative deadline, the number of bills still alive in the state Legislature has dwindled. Proposals to boost the use of batteries for renewable energy and take parts of the federal Affordable Care Act into state law have survived. But the variety of unusual proposals for solving homelessness — from setting up sanctioned campgrounds to allowing people to live in driveways — had a mixed fate.

Here’s a sampling of what survived and what died. The bills marked “dead” are technically done for the legislative session, unless lawmakers bend the rules to bring them back to life.


>> Welfare wages — Taking aim at companies where a majority of workers receive public assistance, HB 1458 would have meant a higher tax rate for companies with more than 20 employees, the majority whose wages are at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level. But the bill didn’t get a hearing. Another bill that died would have boosted the tax rate for companies whose highest-paid employee’s salary is 20 times employees’ average salary.

>> Electric vehicle parking — To boost the adoption of electric vehicles, advocates want to increase the number of charging stations required in a parking lot beyond 1 per 100 spaces. But proposals in the House and Senate didn’t meet the deadline.

>> Driveway living — As part of an effort to find creative solutions to the homelessness crisis, a bill would have allowed people to rent space in their yards or driveways to people in need of a home. But the bill didn’t make it out of enough committees to survive.

>> Urine-free zones — Rep. Gene Ward and others wanted to declare bus stops, parks, playgrounds and parking garages “urine-free zones” and levy fines up to $2,000 for a third offense for urinating or defecating. But the bill failed to get a hearing.


>> Prescribing housing: A bill to classify homelessness as a medical condition with the goal of allowing doctors to prescribe housing is alive. But instead of requiring health insurance companies to provide coverage for the treatment of homelessness, the bill, SB 2, was amended to direct the state auditor to study using Medicaid funds to cover the treatment of homelessness.

>> Homeless safe zones: Hawaii is exploring allowing homeless people to camp in designated “safe zones” despite opposition from Gov. David Ige. Proposals in the House and Senate are still alive.

>> Renewable transportation: About one-third of Hawaii’s fossil fuel consumption comes from ground transportation, according to the Blue Planet Foundation, a renewable-energy nonprofit. A bill that would set a goal for all ground transportation to get 100 percent of fuel from renewable sources by 2025 is still alive.

>> Energy storage: Hawaii leads the nation in residents installing solar systems. But incentives from local utilities have changed, so it takes customers longer to pay off new systems. Bills in the House and Senate would offer rebates or tax credits for installing energy storage systems, to encourage customers to store solar energy for use at night, becoming more self-reliant and helping to stabilize the grid.

>> Hawaii’s Obamacare: Republicans in Washington are working on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Hawaii lawmakers want to save the parts of the law, such as requiring insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions. Bills in the House and Senate are still alive.


>> Higher minimum wage: A House bill to raise the minimum wage — now $9.25 an hour — to $15 by 2021 died in the House, but a similar proposal is still alive in the Senate.

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