- Associated Press - Thursday, May 5, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - The 2016 Hawaii legislative session has ended, and Hawaii lawmakers have passed dozens of bills including those to ban sex trafficking and combat homelessness.

Record-high temperatures have left teachers and students in Hawaii’s schools saying they can’t focus because of the heat, so lawmakers approved $100 million to cool 1,000 classrooms. They also gave more money to tackle the highest rate of homelessness in the U.S. - $12 million in new funding, which is the largest amount given in recent years.

“If I was giving this session a grade, I would give it a solid ‘B,’” said Gov. David Ige. “There are so many issues that have festered in our community for such a long time that we were successful in moving forward.”

But hundreds of other bills died when they weren’t passed Thursday, the last day of the legislative session. Among those were measures to regulate fantasy sports, set rules for operating drones and allow women to get birth control from pharmacists.

Lawmakers say they plan to take up many of the proposals again next year, including those to increase police accountability and reduce prison overcrowding.

Hawaii has the highest rate of residents using rooftop solar panels in the nation, and lawmakers wanted to offer incentives or rebates to those who buy batteries to store their renewable energy. But bills to offer those incentives died when House and Senate negotiators couldn’t reach agreement.

“The market is right,” said Rep. Chris Lee. “We’re seeing batteries being installed in Hawaii right now.”

With Hawaii’s prisons bursting at the seams and inmates being sent to the mainland, lawmakers say reducing prison overcrowding should be a priority in future sessions. This year, lawmakers passed a bill to allow incarcerated people who committed misdemeanors to be released early, but they say conditions in Hawaii’s aging prisons still need improvement.

“Our prison systems right now are overcrowded and the key to reduce that and save taxpayers millions of dollars is to reduce recidivism and that’s by training,” said House Vice Speaker John Mizuno. “If we give our people that are incarcerated a trade, a job skill and have them in a strong support group, we can truly reduce prison populations.”

After police reform measures including those to require body cameras and establish a training standards board failed, lawmakers say they plan to consider the bills again next year.

“I think if there’s any opposition, it should be able to get overcome once the fear factor is gone,” said Sen. Will Espero, adding that Hawaii is the only state in the nation without a police standards training board.

Meanwhile, a bill to allow psychologists to prescribe medication passed the Senate but hit trouble in the House. Sen. Rosalyn Baker says Hawaii should focus on addressing a lack of mental health services, especially on rural islands.

“It’s really about access to care to make sure that we have services that are available,” said Baker.

Another proposal to allow terminally-ill patients to try experimental drugs passed both chambers, but was vetoed by the governor. The bill was met with opposition from the Attorney General’s Office who said it would bypass U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules.

“We’re a very liberal state, but were very risk averse,” said Sen. Josh Green. “We need to start being bigger than some of our small-time, provisional approaches to helping people.”



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