January 2012 KA WAI OLA COLUMN
`Ano`ai kakou… I started off 2011 with a continued hope that there will be positive changes at OHA. While not always positive, the year was definitely one of major transition for OHA as we: (1) Approved a monumental law which will establish State Recognition for Native Hawaiians; and (2) Received an offer from the Governor to finally resolve the claims relating to OHA’s portion of income from the public land trust between 11/7/1978 and 7/1/2009.
After being one of two Trustees appointed as a “Legislative Liaison” representing OHA for the 2011 session, I focused my many years of lobbying experience and strong relationships with legislators on two important issues: (1) Establishing state recognition for Native Hawaiians; and (2) Resolving the past due ceded land payments from the state.
Thanks to the hard work of the Native Hawaiian Caucus, Senate Bill (SB) 1520 was approved by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Neil Abercrombie. SB1520 establishes a new law that recognizes Native Hawaiians as the only indigenous, aboriginal, Maoli people of Hawaii. It also establishes a process for Native Hawaiians to organize themselves as a step in the continuing development of a reorganized Native Hawaiian governing entity and, ultimately, the federal recognition of Native Hawaiians.
A special Mahalo to Senators Malama Solomon, Clayton Hee, and Brickwood Galuteria, and Representative Faye Hanohano for their tireless effort to get SB 1520 passed into law.
PAST DUE CEDED LANDS SETTLEMENT
In the 2009, SB 995 (Introduced by Senator Colleen Hanabusa by request and supported by Senator Hee) sought to have the State resolve its long overdue debt to OHA resulting from public land trust revenues unpaid from 11/7/1978 to 7/1/2010 by offering OHA $251 million in cash and 20 percent of the 1.8 million acres of ceded lands. The proposal died in the House and went nowhere in 2010. In the 2011 Legislative Session, SB 984, part of the OHA Package of bills, died after it was deferred by the Senate Hawaiian Affairs and Judiciary committees.
However, on Nov. 16, 2011, Governor Neil Abercrombie offered OHA property in Kaka‘ako as payment to cover the settlement of past due amounts. The Governor should be commended for his bold offer. OHA has lobbied many Governors in the past with nothing to show for it. Now, for the first time, Governor Abercrombie is making OHA an offer that could potentially generate all of the revenue OHA needs to operate indefinitely and would give our future nation the concrete assets it needs to serve the Hawaiian population.
Although there is a lot work ahead of us in the upcoming legislative session, I feel more confident than ever that OHA, on behalf of our beneficiaries, will finally prevail. An important part of that will be educating our elected officials and the community about this opportunity.
OHA must also do everything in its power to successfully lobby the State Legislature and convince any naysayers to have a change of heart. In this effort, we will need your support to effectively solidify the settlement. OHA will be taking this proposal to community meetings around the state so that our beneficiaries will understand it. I look forward to 2012 with great hope and anticipation that our efforts to resolve this long standing issue will finally be put to rest.
I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a most prosperous New Year.