Commission Moves DHHL Legislative Proposals Forward
The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has prepared legislative proposals to be recommended for inclusion in the Governor’s next legislative package following a solicitation for public input.
The request for legislative proposals went public in July. Sixteen proposals were received and after DHHL consideration, and ten of those draft proposals were selected. At its September meeting, the Hawaiian Homes Commission approved the legislative proposals to move forward.
Next, the proposals will be submitted for review to the Department of the Attorney General, the Department of Budget & Finance, and the Governor. If approved, the selected proposals will be included as proposed bills in the Governor’s legislative package to go before the Legislature in 2022.
DHHL requested that the proposals be good public policy for the Department and that they “address operations, programs, regulations, processes, budget, and/or resources and create a benefit or an advantage for DHHL, the trust, or trust beneficiaries, or otherwise correct a deficiency.”
Proposals not included in the package range from items that already have governing legislation, items where legislation is not required, and suggestions already implemented or that are in the process of being implemented or reviewed by the Department.
“Over 100 years ago the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act began as a legislative resolution from native Hawaiian community leaders,” said Deputy to the Chair Tyler Iokepa Gomes. “DHHL’s process to bring forward proposals to the legislature mirrors the efforts of those leaders who got us here today. We look forward to working with the beneficiary community in advocating for these measures in the next session.”
A summary of the ten included proposals is provided below, courtesy DHHL.
Proposal HHL-01(22): RELATING TO INDEPENDENT LEGAL COUNSEL
This proposal allows the Department to retain independent legal counsel to be paid by the State and use the services of the attorney general as needed when the interests of the State and the department are aligned.
DHHL has a trust duty to its beneficiaries and in the fulfillment of its trust obligations, the department may at times be at odds with the interests of the State. It is at these times the Department must be assured that its counsel provides legal guidance strictly in the interest of its client. Independent counsel, hired and retained by the Department, eliminates any cloud of uncertainty that there is a conflict of interest should the Department be represented by the Attorney General’s office when they also represent the State.
This measure has not been part of the Administration’s legislative package but has been introduced by several legislators over the past few years and has not passed.
Proposal HHL-02(22): RELATING TO THE COMMISSION ON WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
This proposal adds the Chair of the Hawaiian Homes Commission or the Chair’s designee to the Commission on Water Resource Management.
The Water Code requires that planning decisions of the Commission on Water Resource Management ensure sufficient water remain available for current and foreseeable development and use of Hawaiian Home Lands. In order to further the interest of beneficiaries, the Chair of the Hawaiian Homes Commission or the Chair’s designee should serve as an ex officio voting member of the Commission on Water Resource Management.
This measure has not been part of the Administration’s legislative package but has been introduced and has not passed.
Proposal HHL-03(22): RELATING TO TAX EXEMPTION
This proposal exempts any homestead development for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands from general excise taxes.
The Department provides homesteads for native Hawaiians at affordable rates when compared to similar development available in Hawaiʻi. In order to further the interest of beneficiaries, any homestead development for the Department should be exempt from general excise taxes.
A similar measure was included in the Administration’s legislative package but may continue to be impacted by provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Proposal HHL-04(22): RELATING TO CESSPOOLS
This proposal establishes a low-interest loan program to offer financial assistance for lessees on Hawaiian Home Lands with cesspools to be upgraded or converted to septic systems or aerobic treatment unit systems, or connected to existing sewer systems or any other wastewater treatment systems approved by the Department of Health.
Cesspools are a nonpoint contamination source of great concern. Collectively, the State’s cesspools release more than 53 million gallons of untreated sewage into the ground each day. In response to the State’s cesspool pollution problem, legislation was enacted in 2017 requiring all cesspools not excluded by the Director of Health to be upgraded or converted to septic systems or aerobic treatment unit systems, or connected to sewage systems or aerobic treatment unit systems, or connected to sewage systems by January 1, 2050. In order to work toward meeting this deadline, cesspools on Hawaiian Home Lands could be a good place to start.
This measure was approved by the Hawaiian Homes Commission but withdrawn after discussion with the Department of Health to await recommendations from the Cesspool Conversion Working Group. Nevertheless, beneficiaries are being impacted with increasing costs to upgrade, convert, or connect to existing sewer systems in the meantime.
WITHDRAW Proposal HHL-05(22): RELATING TO THE COUNTY BOARDS OF WATER SUPPLY
WITHDRAW Proposal HHL-06(22): RELATING TO THE COUNTY BOARDS OF WATER SUPPLY
Proposal HHL-07(22): RELATING TO COUNTIES
This proposal requires the Counties to maintain infrastructure on Hawaiian Home Lands that were built to County standards.
The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands complies with County requirements when developing subdivisions, yet the maintenance of roads, sewers, sidewalks, and other improvements are often still the responsibility of the Department.
This measure was included in the Administration’s legislative package but has not passed.
Proposal HHL-08(22): RELATING TO HISTORIC PRESERVATION REVIEWS
This proposal allows the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to assume review of the effect of any proposed project on historic properties or burial sites for lands under its jurisdiction.
Instead of requiring the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to consult with the Department of Land and Natural Resources regarding the effect of a project upon historic properties or burial sites, this proposal would streamline the process by allowing the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to assume this review.
This measure was included in the Administration’s legislative package but has not passed.
Proposal HHL-09(22): RELATING TO GAMBLING
This proposal authorizes the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to commission a study on the feasibility and revenue to be generated by limited casino gaming and address the public health concerns.
Proposal HHL-10(22): RELATING TO INTERIM RULES
This proposal creates a new section of the HRS that allows DHHL, after consultation with beneficiaries and organizations representing beneficiaries, to issue interim rules which shall be exempt from the public notice, public hearing, and gubernatorial approval requirements of Chapter 91 as long as the interim rules shall be effective for not more than eighteen months.
The department is currently authorized to adopt rules in accordance with Chapter 91, HRS, which can be a lengthy and time-consuming process when you factor in that the Department conducts consultation with beneficiaries and organizations representing beneficiaries prior to initiating the rule-making process. This amendment will enable the Department to move quickly in issuing interim rules after consultation with beneficiaries and organizations representing beneficiaries on important programs and services while preserving public access by ensuring that the interim rules will be made available on the website of the Office of Lieutenant Governor.
The eighteen-month limitation on the life of the interim rules will further ensure that the Department has adequate time to adopt permanent rules through formal rulemaking procedures.
This measure was approved by the Commission but has not been part of the Administration’s legislative package.
Proposal HHL-11(22): RELATING TO COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT ON HAWAIIAN HOME LANDS
This proposal establishes a compliance and enforcement program within the Department to investigate complaints, conduct investigations, and cooperate with enforcement authorities to ensure compliance with the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920, as amended and rules adopted thereunder as well as all other state laws and rules, and county ordinances on Hawaiian Home Lands.
Illegal activity occurring on Hawaiian Home Lands threatens the health and safety of the community, this proposal is modeled after HRS Chapter 199 (Conservation and Resources Enforcement Program) as a means to respond to the concerns raised by beneficiaries about criminal activity impacting the community.
Proposal HHL-12(22): RELATING TO ADOPTION
This proposal allows an adopted individual to benefit both by relationship through a natural parent and through an adoptive parent in a disposition or other designation provided for in accordance with the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920, as amended or administrative rules while also allowing the adopted individual and individual’s natural family to continue to have the same familial relationship.
The effect of adoption impacts the ability for an adopted individual to succeed to a homestead lease or the applicant’s application rights on the DHHL Applicant Waiting List, so this proposal is aimed at resolving this by allowing the adopted individual to benefit from both adoptive and natural relationships.
For a full draft of the bills and justification, visit dhhl.hawaii.gov/government-relations.