Maui News

Historic $1 Billion secured for Native Hawaiian projects and initiatives

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The Native Hawaiian Legislative Caucus announced today that the Hawai’i State Legislature has appropriated over $1 billion in funding to projects and initiatives set forth by the caucus.

Compared to 2021, where more than $78 million was appropriated towards Native Hawaiian initiatives, the $1 billion funded this session is historic.

“While the $1 billion of funding and other bills was a ‘banner year’ for Native Hawaiians, I’ve
always said that justice delayed is justice denied, and I see it as finally paying what has been
due for generations,” said Representative Angus McKelvey of Maui, who serves as a member of the Legislative Native Hawaiian Caucus.

Co-chaired by Senator Jarrett Keohokalole (Senate  District  24 -Kāne‘ohe, MCBH, Kailua, He‘eia and ‘Āhuimanu) and Representative Daniel Holt (House District 29 –Kalihi, Pālama, ʻIwilei and Chinatown), the Native Hawaiian Legislative Caucus’ priorities included addressing the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands waitlist, settling the Kalima Case, and planning the Mauna Kea Stewardship and oversight authority.

“We are on the precipice of celebrating the most consequential legislative session in 100 years,” said Senator Keohokalole. “Regardless of what community or island you represent, the issues that we were able to address this session truly impact us all. This is a great starting point for addressing many issues faced by our state and sets the stage for what we need to address going forward.”

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“We want to be sure that we thank everyone who advocated for these issues for decades,” said Representative Holt. “We aimed to do the best that we could to keep these issues in the forefront as we moved through this year’s session. It was truly a collective experience between community advocates and legislators, and we encourage people to keep engaging with this process so that all of our voices are heard in the years to come.”

Bill highlights from the 2022 session:

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HB 2511: Appropriates $600 million to DHHL to pursue a multi-pronged approach to eliminating its waitlist. 

Hawaiian Homes Commission Chair William J. Ailā, Jr. responded to the passage of HB2511 saying, “This historic infusion of funding to the Department comes at a critical time, as we humbly recognize the centennial year of the Hawaiian Home Commission Act. For the entirety of the program, the Department has persevered along underfunded, struggling to act on the fulfillment of Prince Kūhiō’s vision from a century ago. As we look towards the next hundred years, it was critical that the State acknowledge its responsibility to the beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act and its implementation.

“A commitment of this type demonstrates that the Legislature clearly heard the Department’s call for funding to build out infrastructure to create homestead communities and provide mortgage and rental assistance, ultimately returning native Hawaiians to the land. I’d like to commend the legislators of the 31st Legislature for this acknowledgment and bold decision-making to act on this great need.

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“With over 28,000 native Hawaiians awaiting a homestead lot the work only begins here. We look forward to the future with anticipation that the need for funding continues to be prioritized and that the voices that stand with us today continue to be bold tomorrow. 

“The Department is ready to dig into its shovel-ready projects and will continue its path of innovative and diversified lot options to return native Hawaiians to the land,” said Ailā, Jr.

SB 3041: Appropriates $335,557,607.93 for the Kalima Case vs. DHHL. 

SB 2021: Appropriates $64 million to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for a portion of the income and proceeds from the public land trust.

HB 2024: Appropriates $14 million for the startup and transition planning costs for the Mauna Kea Stewardship and oversight authority. Appropriates $350,000 for K-12 public education programs in astronomy-related fields of learning.

HB 1600: Included in the State Budget is:

  • $38 million to address staffing recruitment, training, and provide Hawaiian language immersion for students in DOE schools. Also includes classroom renovations.
  • $10,000,000 for Planning and Development for Hawaiian Homesteads.
  • $10,000,000 for capital improvements to Bishop Museum.
  • $7,500,000 to support programming and operations of the Bishop Museum.
  • $2,889,496 and 14 positions for the ‘Imiloa Immersion Program at UH Hilo.
  • $400,000 in additional funding for operating expenses at the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve.
  • $200,000 for the Aha Moku Advisory Committee.
  • $117,019 for Papahana ‘o Kaiona Alternative Learning Program. Papahana ‘o Kaiona integrates both traditional and culture education where class is taught in the classroom setting and at various sites like the kalo farm.

HB 1894: Allows the use of both traditional Native Hawaiian burial practices and environmentally-friendly burial practices by including water cremation in the treatment and disposal of human remains.

HB 1768: Exempts traditional and customary kalo cultivation practices from the existing process for disposition of water rights.

HB 2466: Taro cultivation tax exemption. 

HR 130: Apologizing to the Native Hawaiian people for the prohibition in Hawai’i schools of the instructional use of the Hawaiian language from 1896 to 1986.

SCR 121: Urging the counties and the State to work with Huamakahikina and kumu hula to establish policies protecting hula.

“Funding wasn’t the only accomplishment this past session as we passed bills to help advance
strong policies for our Native Hawaiian communities,” said Rep. McKelvey. “Next year, there is much more to do, but this sets a solid foundation to continue to right past wrongs and move forward together.”

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement Chief Executive Officer Kūhiō Lewis released a statement saying, “Decades from now, we will look back on the 2022 Legislative Session as a watershed year for Native Hawaiians. With more than a billion dollars approved for Native Hawaiian programs – the most the State of Hawaiʻi has ever provided to Native Hawaiians in a single year – this is the kind of funding that will result in generational and systemic change for our people.”

He said the Legislature was also able to pass a bill that will dramatically improve the state’s management of Maunakea, which has been one of the most pressing issues for decades. Lewis was among those who is urging the governor to sign the bills into law.

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