Victories Large and Small at the Capitol

At the end of the 2015 legislative session, advocates of children and young adults with disabilities took
a few minutes to enjoy their hard won victories. This was especially true for parents of children with autism
who had brought their pleas for insurance coverage for their children’s complicated medical and behavioral
needs to multiple hearings over the last three or four years. Getting to the finish line felt more like a marathon than a footrace.

The autism bill that emerged from the Conference Committee at the end of the session reflected compromises with the insurance industry. Still, supporters were grateful to have coverage in the near future despite age restrictions and spending caps. Two other groups of advocates– those representing keiki managing diabetes and life-threatening allergies (like an allergy to peanuts) and those seeking added coverage for keiki with facial and oral birth defects–also high-fived each other after a long race. You can read summaries of these bills and others on page two and three. Of course, all bills passed in the last days of the Legislature must also survive the threat of a veto by Governor Ige. He has 45 days from the end of the session to either sign a bill into law, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto (reject) it. Should he veto a bill, the Legislature has the option of gettingback together to try to override the veto.

One other important legislative event worth noting was an informational briefing on the Department of Education’s progress toward special education reforms. Senator Michelle Kidani, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Representative Roy Takumi, Chair of the House Education Committee, heard presentations from Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe and Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) Chair Ivalee Sinclair. The focus was on recommendations made by WestEd, national consultants on education, for improving special education services in Hawaii. SEAC made the point that the performance gap between special education and general education students is actually growing. They asked that the community be included in and kept informed of reform efforts. Learn more by going to SEAC’s website: http://



Autism Health Insurance Coverage

The final version of Senate Bill 791 requires all insurance carriers to cover diagnostic and treatment
services for children with autism up to age fourteen. Coverage for applied behavioral analysis (ABA)
services are capped at $25,000 per year and requires that they be delivered by a licensed provider.
Since Hawaii does not currently have an licensing program, a companion bill–Senate Bill 40–is
establishing a Behavior Analyst Program to license ABA providers in the state.

Orofacial Health Insurance Coverage

Children born with cleft palate and other conditions involving the mouth and teeth often require
orthodontic treatment–like braces– to ensure the best outcome from re-constructive surgery. House Bill
174 requires insurance carriers to provide up to $5,500 per treatment phase for medically necessary
orthodontic services for children born with facial defects that affect eating, chewing, speech and
breathing. Coverage takes effect on July 1, 2015.

Epi-Pens & Diabetes Care in Schools

Students with life-threatening allergies and students with diabetes may need an epinephrine injection
(epi-pen) or insulin to prevent medical complications while at school. House Bill 10 allows school volunteers to administer the
epi-pen when students are unable to do so themselves. It also allows school personnel to assist with the
testing and management of diabetes and students to self-test and self-manage their diabetic symptoms,
when possible. Parents must provide the necessary supplies.

Hawaii ABLE Savings Program

The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, signed into law in December 2014, allows
children and adults with disabilities to have tax-free savings of up to $14,000 a year without losing
Medicaid or SSI income. House Bill 119 creates the Hawaii ABLE Savings Program to encourage Hawaii residents with disabilities
and families of children with disabilities to set up tax-free savings accounts to assist in their support.

Movie Captions in Hawaii Theaters

For movie lovers who are Deaf, hard of hearing or visually disabled, House Bill 1272 (already
signed into law as Act 39) is a big step towards accessibility. It requires movie theater chains who operate in two or more locations to offer at least two open captioned showings of each movie per week (when the movie is produced with
that capability). Movie goers can also request audio description of available movies.

Public Pre-Kindergarten Program

Creating an Executive Office on Early Learning Public Prekindergarten (via House Bill 820) will help to promote high
quality instruction for preschoolers served in public preschool classrooms and charter schools. The focus is on serving four-year
olds who do not have access to quality preschool programs in their community. Children with disabilities are to be included
alongside their non disabled peers in these programs.

Links to Additional Legislative Information

Updates on Governor Ige’s actions on 2015 bills

A full listing of bills that were passed by the 2015 Legislature
(Click on Bills that Passed under Legislature)

A full listing of resolutions that were passed in 2015
(Click on Resolutions Adopted under Legislature)

A Citizen’s Guide to Participation in the Legislative Process

Comments are closed