Maui News

Akaka Bill Gains Passage in the U.S. House

February 23, 2010, 4:12 PM HST
* Updated February 24, 8:48 AM
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By Wendy Osher

The U.S. House passed the Akaka Bill yesterday in 245-164 vote.  The bill, also known as the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, seeks to create a process for establishing a Native Hawaiian government that would represent Native Hawaiians in negotiations and discussions with federal and state agencies. 

Congressional Representatives Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii who introduced the house version of the bill, were among those who voiced support for the measure.

“After all the years of work and compromise on this bill, this should be the year that Congress finally seizes the opportunity to provide long awaited justice to Native Hawaiians,” said Rep. Hirono during testimony on Tuesday.  “We all know that the previous administration did not support the Akaka Bill, and a presidential veto was likely; but now we have the support of a President who understands and supports the indigenous people of our state,” said Rep. Hirono.

Meantime, the Bill’s namesake and author, U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka congratulated his colleagues on a successful vote calling it an important milestone.

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“We have a moral obligation, unfulfilled since the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani, that we are closer to meeting today.  I thank and congratulate Representatives Abercrombie and Hirono for their leadership and work to bring about today’s successful vote.  Neil’s unwavering support for federal recognition of Native Hawaiians over the past decade is greatly appreciated.  I am optimistic about bringing the bill to the Senate floor this year.”

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Prior to the vote, Governor Linda Lingle said she opposes the latest version of the bill saying it starts with broad governmental powers instead of negotiations first.  The Akaka Bill must still be passed in the Senate and signed by the President before becoming law.

Akaka said that although the Governor had some reservations, he is certain that it protects the interest of all people in Hawaii.  “The bill passed today specifically says ‘members of the Native Hawaiian governing entity will continue to be subject to the civil and criminal jurisdiction of Federal and State courts.’   The native governing entity cannot regulate non-Hawaiians.  The native governing entity will need to enter into negotiations with the State of Hawaii and the United States, and all three parties will want to be in good standing and comply with existing law.  Any agreements on transfers of authority or land will require the approval of the state legislature.”

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