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Lawmakers pass aid in dying, Obamacare-type law

March 7, 2017 - 5:02pm

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Senate passed a bill to allow terminally ill patients to receive medical aid in dying, one of hundreds of bills lawmakers passed Tuesday ahead of a legislative deadline.

State Sen. Breene Harimoto voted against the measure after sharing a story about facing the prospect of his own death when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He said he’s glad he didn’t have the option of taking pills to end the his life when his pain and suffering reached a dark point.

“Life is a precious gift,” Harimoto said. “No matter how bad things may seem to be, that sense of hope is what keeps us all going. And unexplained miracles happen.”

State Sen. Rosalyn Baker said the bill is about giving people the choice to die surrounded by loved ones celebrating their last breaths, receiving hospice care or choosing other options.

“That’s the ultimate choice. How are we going to meet our maker?” Baker said.

The following is a sampling of other bills that passed, and a few that died.

Saving Obamacare

On the same day that federal lawmakers introduced a plan to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, Hawaii senators passed a bill to ensure parts of the Affordable Care Act remain in state law. The bill preserves the mandate that individuals buy health insurance and keeps tax credits for people with low to moderate incomes while preserving a host of benefits insurance plans must cover.

Fertility treatment parity

Married heterosexual couples in Hawaii have long enjoyed a law that requires insurers to cover in vitro fertilization under certain conditions. But same-sex couples and single women are excluded from the law. A bill passed by the Senate seeks to extend that benefit beyond heterosexual married couples.

Presidential tax returns

The House and Senate both passed separate bills to require presidential candidates to release copies of federal tax returns after President Donald Trump refused to release his. But some in the House cautioned that the state should carefully choose its battles with Trump.

Sick leave

Employers with more than 50 employees would be required to provide paid sick leave to some service workers under a bill passed by the Senate. Opponents warned of increased costs to businesses.

No smoking here

Smoking in a car while a minor is present would be banned under a bill that passed in the Senate. The bill was supported by health groups and government agencies that want to protect youngsters from secondhand smoke. The Hawaii Smokers Alliance opposed the bill, saying government should not tell families how to raise their children.

Diagnosing homelessness

A bill to classify homelessness as a medical condition and allow doctors to write prescriptions for housing was changed. It now requires the state auditor to study the possibility of using Medicaid funds to provide coverage for the treatment for homelessness. The bill was passed by the Senate.

Protecting birds

Lawmakers want to protect native birds after several albatrosses died in 2015. A bill passed in the Senate would add Hawaii’s indigenous birds to a law that makes cruelty to pets and horses a felony.

Bills that died:

Oxybenzone ban

Lawmakers in the House and Senate proposed bans on the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone, which they believe may be damaging coral reefs. The bills to ban selling those sunscreens died. However, a Senate proposal to ban using sunscreens containing oxybenzone while on the beach or in the ocean survived.

Legalizing prostitution

A bill to legalize prostitution in Hawaii died after it didn’t get a hearing.

Higher wages

Bills to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour also died.

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