- Associated Press - Sunday, February 12, 2017

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii lawmakers want the state to build more than 22,000 housing units in the next decade to help deal with an affordable housing shortage.

Nearly all the state senators and several other lawmakers co-introduced bills to issue $2 billion in state-backed bonds to develop affordable housing, about 14 times the amount Gov. David Ige requested in his budget.

The proposals call for money for rentals, homes to purchase, transit-oriented development, public housing and shelters.

“Everyone agrees housing is crucial,” Sen. Will Espero said. “We need to build.”

Ige told reporters Friday that he believes building affordable housing is important, but the challenge is that there are many construction needs for state government, including public schools.

“We have been making progress, but $2 billion would really sacrifice a lot of needs for public schools, the university, public hospitals,” Ige said.

The Senate version of the bill will be heard Tuesday. The housing bonds bill and others are up against a legislative deadline.

All bills that are referred to more than one committee must move to their final committee by Friday. Those that don’t will die for the session, unless lawmakers bend the rules to revive them.

Here’s a sampling of the bills that might be heard next week:

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AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

Hawaii lawmakers want to ensure insurers don’t deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, institute lifetime maximums for coverage or strip some of the benefits, such as pregnancy care, that the federal law mandated. They are trying to put what they see as the best parts of the Affordable Care Act into state law. The House version of the bill is scheduled to be heard Monday.

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FISHING LABOR

Lawmakers are exploring what the state can do to help after an Associated Press investigation found fishermen on commercial boats in Honolulu have been confined to vessels for years without basic labor protections. A bill to require fishing boat operators to use licensed commercial agencies to hire workers will be heard in the House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs on Tuesday.


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