Agreement reached on Akaka Bill

July 7, 2010, 3:31 PM HST · Updated July 7, 3:53 PM
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An agreement has been reached on the Akaka Bill, also known as the Native Hawaiian government Reorganization Act (NHGRA). 

Today U.S. Senators Daniel K. Akaka and Daniel K. Inouye announced that they have reached an agreement with Governor Linda Lingle that will secure the Governor’s full support for the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act.  Senator Akaka spoke with Attorney General Mark Bennett late Friday and with the White House this morning before announcing the agreement.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs today commended the Hawaii Congressional Delegation, Hawaii’s governor and the state Attorney General for agreeing to new clarifications that are expected to help facilitate the bill’s passage in the U.S. Congress. 

Senators Akaka and Inouye will offer an amendment that will make changes affecting the powers and authorities of the Native Hawaiian governing entity during the period before legislation is enacted to implement agreements reached during three party negotiations.  The changes clarify that the state laws – as well as health and safety regulations – will apply throughout the negotiation process between the Native Hawaiian governing entity, the State of Hawai‘i and the U.S. government to determine powers and authorities among the three governing entities.  It also makes clear that the Native Hawaiian governing entity’s officers and employees will not be immune from the state’s criminal laws.

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“After a thorough review of the State’s most recent proposal, I determined that the changes will not diminish the bill’s intent to establish a federally recognized government-to-government relationship with the United States.  I believe these changes will help secure additional votes in the Senate to overcome procedural hurdles and receive an up-or-down vote on the bill.  We need to act quickly to ensure the bill passes the Senate and is signed into law this year.  I remain optimistic that the United States will finally extend federal recognition to Native Hawaiians and end over a century of inequality in its treatment of its indigenous peoples,” Akaka said in a press release issued this afternoon.“We are very pleased that the clarifications being made will allow all of us to move forward, in the Senate, on what we expect will be swift passage of this landmark bill,” said Haunani Apoliona, Chairperson, Office of Hawaiian Affairs in a press release issued by the agency this afternoon. 

“We commend the members of Hawai‘i’s congressional delegation, Senator Akaka, Senator Inouye, Governor Lingle, Attorney General Bennett and the Obama Administration for agreeing to work together to ensure NHGRA moves a step closer toward successful passage,” said OHA Chairperson Haunani Apoliona.  “Thanks to their leadership and vision, the Hawaiian people will have a process for a government-to-government relationship to speak with a collective voice and greater political strength to protect our lands, our culture and our way of life.  This is a long awaited opportunity for ALL Hawaiians, wherever they may reside, to participate in the process and to make a difference for both now and future generations,” Apoliona said.

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