House touts revamped child health-care bill
Democrats say they have addressed Gov. Lingle's concerns
Majority Democrats in the House are bringing back a proposal that aims to provide health insurance for children ineligible for any state or federal coverage.
Leaders say they have addressed concerns that led to Gov. Linda Lingle's veto of the bill last year.
"Our leadership in the House has decided that the most important thing for us to do right now is get health insurance for every single child in the state of Hawaii," said House Health Chairman Josh Green (D, Keauhou-Honokohau). "Not one child should be uninsured."
The keiki health-care bill was among the measures highlighted by House Democrats yesterday as they unveiled their legislative agenda for the 2007 session.
The package also addresses needs in affordable housing, renewable energy and disaster preparedness.
Like last year, the keiki health-care bill would establish a three-year pilot program aimed at providing free health insurance for poor and low-income children who fall into a "gap group" not covered by current programs.
Democrats say the number of children in the gap group could be as high as 3,500, and have touted the program as a first step toward universal health care.
In her veto statement last year, Lingle had said the bill could lead to some families who qualify for existing programs choosing instead to participate in the free program, thus crowding out families who need the coverage.
Under the new proposal, families who qualify for other insurance would be ineligible for the pilot program, Green said, adding that preliminary discussions with the state Department of Human Services have been positive.
"They still will have to look at it close, I know, but I'm completely sure that we're going to pass it this year," Green said.
Lingle said she had not yet seen any of the proposals introduced in the House or Senate in the past two days, but she was pleased with the programs outlined by Democratic leaders Wednesday in their opening-day speeches.
"We're really looking forward to working closely with the Legislature this year because so many of our priorities are in alignment," she said.
Senate leaders have not formally unveiled their legislative package, but have said they expect to find a lot of overlap with the proposals being pushed by their House counterparts.
HOUSE DEMOCRATS ISSUE THEIR WISH LIST
A look at key initiatives being proposed by House Democrats for the 2007 session:
» Keiki Health Care: Establish three-year pilot program to provide health insurance for poor and low-income children who do not qualify for existing programs.
» Permitting: Establish three-year pilot program to exempt affordable housing rental projects on private or state lands from various land-use permitting requirements.
» Anti-speculation tax: Institute a graduated increase in the capital gains tax on properties, depending on the length of time a property is held.
» Planning Commission: Set up a seven-member commission in the Department of Accounting and General Services to develop a disaster preparedness plan for the state.
» Public Utilities Commission: Restructure the PUC to improve its operations, add appropriate staffing and provide funding for the costs.
» Renewable energy: Create the Biofuels Development Revolving Loan Fund to provide seed money for commercially viable biofuel development projects.
On the Net
» State Legislature: capitol.hawaii.gov