By Trustee Rowena Akana
January 18, 2002
Source Letter to Editor
On September 12, 2001, the Hawaii State Supreme Court delivered a devastating blow to the Hawaiians when they struck down Act 304, which gave OHA 20% of the ceded land revenues collected by the State to be used for Hawaiian beneficiaries.
Without a steady flow of income to sustain all of our programs, we trustees must now reassess our current programs and look at ways to down size to preserve our trust assets.
While the Supreme Court may have struck down the mechanism for payments to Hawaiians, they did declare that the state still must fulfill its constitutional obligation to the Hawaiian people. They also gave the legislature the charge of amending Act 304. Until this is completed, there will be NO payments made to OHA by the state.
OHA will ask the legislature this year for an interim revenue amount until Act 304 is resolved. Because a formula based on revenues has been so problematic for OHA and the state, we must consider, in the very near future, to settle the ceded land claims with the state. This would allow the Hawaiian people the opportunity to have a land base on which to build our nation.
The second OHA bill asks the legislature to adopt a waiver from the state procurement laws. Because of an attorney general opinion, OHA is no longer able to give money to 501 C 3 programs. OHA is unable at this time to give any grants out to anyone. This opinion has basically stopped all flow of money from OHA to any organization or group asking for funds.
The third bill addresses the need to revisit Act 304 as directed by the Supreme Court of Hawaii.
The fourth bill allows the OHA trustees the ability to join the State Retirement System. For 20 years the trustees have NOT been allowed to join the State Retirement System.
At the Federal level: the Federal piece of legislation known as the Akaka Bill is slated to be heard in the Spring of 2002 in the Congress. While there may not be total agreement on the language of this bill, it is very important that Hawaiians receive federal recognition from the United States. Without this recognition we cannot proceed to nationhood.
On another note: I am happy to announce that within the next 30 days OHA will:
1. Increase out business loan amount to $250,000.
2. Partner in building 45 housing units in Kapolei.
3. Develop a partnership with FANNIE MAE to allow ALL Hawaiians to borrow money for home mortgages for down payments and closing costs at a reduced interest rate below the prime rate.
4. We will continue to work to develop a health initiative for our kupuna.
We ask for your kokua, this legislative session, to help us resolve some very critical issues for our people. Mahalo Ke Akua