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Legislative Session Hits the Home Stretch

HHHRC continues to follow a number of bills of interest that are headed into conference, where the House and Senate will settle differences before legislation is either sent to the Governor for signature or does not move forward.

Income is the foremost determinant of health, and measures that would improve the condition of those from under-resourced communities are headed to conference. These include an increased minimum wage (HB 2510) and making the state earned income tax credit refundable and permanent (HB 510).

Due to a positive budget outlook, many bills related to homelessness services funding have been incorporated into the budget bill (HB 1600). Bills to prohibit income source discrimination in rental advertisements (SB 206) and other real estate transaction and to provide incentives to landlords to participate in housing voucher programs (HB 1752) are headed to conference.

A measure that establishes the Hawai῾i State LGBTQ+ Commission (SB 2670), sponsored by the Legislature’s newly formed Equality Caucus, is headed to conference. Other items of interest to sexual and gender minorities are also making progress. These include bill to prohibit exclusion from a jury on the basis of gender identity or expression (SB 2136) and a bill to increase access to gender-affirming care (HB 2405).

On April 18, Transgender Services Manager Maddalynn “Maddie” Sesepasara authored a powerful opinion-editorial in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser on the imperative of increasing access to gender affirming care. She pinpoints the discrimination still faced by trans persons in some medical systems of care:

“Transgender residents should be protected from categorical or blanket gender-affirming treatment denials by Act 135 (2016), but private insurers created a loophole with their own definition and policies about the meaning of medically necessary care, medical necessity, and cosmetic treatments. Essentially, the insurers ignore the majority of medical research around gender-affirming care and say certain treatments or surgeries are categorically cosmetic when that is simply untrue…. For transgender people who do not receive affirming care, care that cisgender people receive, the costs are our mental health, well-being, and even our lives.”

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