Hawaii lawmakers tackle health exchange, sex trafficking, autism and smoking ahead of deadline



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HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers are tackling proposals that aim to fix the troubled health exchange, ban sex trafficking and prevent youth from smoking. Here's a sampling of the hundreds of bills that were passed on Tuesday:

— HEALTH EXCHANGE — The Hawaii Health Connector estimates it will need about $28 million over the next several years to break even and become profitable. But without a plan to achieve profitability, the federal government could assume responsibility for some functions of the troubled health exchange. A bill that may enable ways for the exchange to make money, SB 1028, passed in the House.

— SEX TRAFFICKING— People forced into prostitution would be treated as victims instead of criminals under SB 265, which was passed by the House.

— UNDERAGE SMOKING — They may be allowed to fight to defend their country, but youngsters between 18 and 21 years old would no longer be allowed to smoke traditional or electronic cigarettes under SB 1030, which was passed by the House.

— AUTISM COVERAGE — Insurance companies in Hawaii are not required to cover autism treatments, and SB 791, which was passed by the House, seeks to change that by requiring coverage for diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

— HOSPITAL HELP — The Maui region of the Hawaii's public hospital system would be able to enter into a public-private partnership to help run one or more of its financially troubled facilities under HB 1075, which was passed by the Senate.

— RAIL TAX — Honolulu's proposed rail transit system is facing a potential $900 million shortfall. A bill passed by the Senate, HB 134, would shuffle more money to the rail by extending a county surcharge on a state tax by five years and giving the Legislature the option to extend it again for two additional 10-year periods.

— GENDER IDENTITY — It may be unnecessary to have gender reassignment surgery to change the gender marker on a birth certificate in Hawaii. The Senate passed HB 631.

— TAXI TROUBLES — Alternative transportation companies like Uber and Lyft are popular among smartphone users who can call for a ride with a click of a button. But companies like Uber and Lyft are operating with little regulation in the state. A bill to change that, SB 1280, was passed by the House.

— BODY CAMS — Body cameras would be ordered for about 100 Honolulu police officers for a pilot program under HB 365, which was passed by the Senate.

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