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Hawaii lawmakers mull bills on sugar, homelessness, police

April 9, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii lawmakers are up against a major deadline as they head into the final month of the legislative session.

Bills dealing with homelessness, sugar workers and a slew of other topics need to pass out of the second chamber by Thursday. Otherwise, those policy ideas will die.

Here’s a sampling of the proposals the Hawaii House and Senate may vote on next week:

SUGAR WORKERS

With the upcoming closure of Hawaii’s last sugar plantation, more than 600 workers on Maui will lose their jobs. A bill pending in the Senate would set aside funds for on-the-job training for people who are unemployed and dislocated when Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company closes.

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POLICE BODY CAMERAS

Supporters say a system for police body cameras could protect both the public and police during tense interactions. House lawmakers are considering a bill to figure out how to set up rules and requirements for wearing them. Some police departments oppose the measure, citing financial burdens and other concerns.

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CRIMINAL TRESPASSING

The Legislature is poised to criminalize trespassing on state lands, but homeless advocates worry that could give homeless people a criminal record by expanding the areas that are off-limits to set up camp. The state attorney general’s office says officials are trying to combat problems like copper theft and arson that occur on state land, and the proposed trespassing law would apply to everyone, not just homeless people. The bill is pending in the House.

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WORK FOR A DAY

As Hawaii looks for solutions to its homelessness crisis, lawmakers are considering a program that would help connect homeless people with day jobs, providing lunch and a ride back to a shelter. The bill pending in the Senate would establish a three-year program modeled after a successful program in New Mexico.

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ABANDONED ANIMALS

Thousands of dogs and cats are abandoned across Hawaii every year, which can harm not only the animals but also native wildlife. Lawmakers want to increase fines for animal desertion. A bill pending in the House would make animal desertion a petty misdemeanor punishable with fines up to $2,000 if an animal suffers death or substantial bodily injury.

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ERIN’S LAW

Hawaii lawmakers are considering a bill to curb child sex abuse. The measure pending in the House would establish an “Erin’s Law” task force to start a program in public schools to educate students about sexual assault. The law is named after Erin Merryn, who says she was raped and molested for over six years by a neighbor and a family member. Supporters say the law would help to empower children to recognize and report abuse.

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