- Associated Press - Sunday, January 31, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii lawmakers are heading into their second full week of the 2016 legislative session, planning to tackle the housing shortage, dental needs for the poor, renewable energy and breastfeeding jurors.

Housing and homelessness solutions will be on the top of the agenda at multiple hearings Monday and Tuesday. Housing developers and representatives from the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, the Public Housing Authority and various agencies will give updates on affordable housing projects in the works. The same morning, the House Committee on Housing will consider a bill that increases the income tax credit for low-income renters and another that aims to reduce homelessness by offering stipends to unemployed people in job training programs.

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Human Services will consider a program that flies displaced homeless people back to the mainland, and another that allows homeless people to replace identification cards free of charge.

On the topic of energy, the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee Tuesday morning will take up a proposal to allow counties to run their own public utilities and another proposal to create tax credits for solar-powered air conditioning units.

On pay equity, the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor will hear a bill Monday morning that would ensure that men and women performing substantially similar work are paid equally.

Restoring basic dental benefits to Medicaid patients will be discussed in the House Human Services Committee on Tuesday morning.

Also on the health topic, the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee will meet Tuesday morning to consider a proposal to allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control. They’re also considering a bill that would exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty - 17 states and Puerto Rico have passed similar laws.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Human Services Committee will meet to discuss a bill that would ban sugary beverages in child care facilities. If passed, it would also limit the amount of natural fruit juice a child could drink.

A bill that would appropriate money to design and build a new state mental health hospital will be heard on Thursday morning in Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee. The bill would give $165 million to replace the Hawaii state hospital in Kaneohe.

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