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Bills on autism, health exchange advance ahead of deadline

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HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii lawmakers raced to pass bills out of final committees under pressure to meet a legislative deadline Friday night.

Most bills that cleared committees Friday are expected to be approved by full Legislature. Anything that didn't clear its final committee hurdle Friday evening died until the next legislative session. But in some circumstances, bills that fail to meet the deadline find a way of coming back to life.

Here's a sampling of what happened at the Legislature Friday:

— AUTISM COVERAGE: One bill that cleared a committee hurdle Friday would require insurance companies to cover diagnosis and treatment for autistic children up to age 14. Advocates have pushed for the bill for five years. If it passes the full Legislature, the law will be named for Luke Pinnow, who advocated for the bill with his mom for years. But Pinnow is now 15, so he won't benefit from the expanded coverage.

"It really doesn't help him per se, but it helps the rest of the families so they don't have to go through what we went through," said Luke's mom, Gerilyn Pinnow, who tapped into her retirement and short-sold her home to pay for her son's autism diagnosis and treatment.

— HEALTH EXCHANGE MONEY: Another proposal would send $2 million to the Hawaii Health Connector to use for operations, which is less money than the exchange had hoped for. Funding the financially troubled health exchange is important because it could prevent a partial federal takeover of the state-based exchange.

"It's going to put them under a squeeze, but hopefully it will make them get creative about costs," said Rep. Angus McKelvey, chairman of the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee.

— RAIL TAX EXTENSION: Lawmakers advanced a proposal to continue a half-percent general excise tax for another five years to fund building Oahu's rail system. The tax is set to expire in 2022, but with the extension it would continue until 2027. The proposal also would allow the neighbor islands to implement a half-percent tax from 2018 to 2022 to fund transportation projects.

Here are a few of the bills that died Friday:

— FERTILITY HELP: A proposal to expand mandated coverage of in vitro fertilization to women who are not married in heterosexual relationships failed to clear its final committee.

— SMOKING AT HOSPITALS: A slew of bills are passing that expand the many places people can't smoke traditional or electronic cigarettes in Hawaii, but a bill to ban smoking on the premises of Hawaii's public hospitals died.

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