2005 OHA legislative package needs your support


Source: February 2005 Ka Wai Ola Article

`Ano`ai kakou…  The State Capitol is buzzing with activity so it must be that time of the year again.  Here are some important bills from our 2005 legislative package that really need your support at the legislature:

Ceded Land Revenues.  Ever since 2001, we’ve tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation that would reestablish the continued funding of OHA from ceded land revenues.

Act 304, which was passed by the legislature in 1990 to clarify and the State’s obligation to transfer ceded land revenues to OHA, was repealed by the Hawaii Supreme Court in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs vs. State of Hawaii (2001) case involving ceded land revenues derived from the Honolulu International Airport.  

We almost got the bill passed in 2003.  It passed unamended in the Senate but died in the House Finance committee after the committee changed the bill to leave out money from improvements to the land.  In other words, if someone was leasing ceded lands for a dollar, but they built a building on it and was making millions of dollars from it, all OHA would get is 20% of just one dollar (20 cents).  In the end, we were forced to oppose our own bill.

The Legislature must define, once and for all, the revenue stream from public trust lands that is to be given to OHA for the benefit of Hawaiians.  Only by this action will the State finally move towards fulfilling its constitutional obligation to our people.

Hawaiian Representation on State Boards and Commissions.  We have submitted individual bills that would ensure Hawaiian representation on the Board of Land and Natural Resources, the Land Use Commission, the public advisory body for the Coastal Zone Management Program, and the Commission on Water Resource Management by specifying that one member of each body shall be appointed from a list of nominees submitted by OHA. 

The board, commission, and advisory body mentioned above regularly make decisions impacting the rights of Hawaiians.  These decisions often have immediate and lasting impacts on matters relating to Hawaiian cultural, economic, social, religious, political and historical concerns, all of which State law recognizes as being attached to the use and management of Hawaii’s natural resources. 

Despite this recognition under State law, Hawaiians have had no more of a voice on these bodies than any other member of the general public.  Our bill addresses this deficiency in the State’s regulatory scheme with respect to issues involving Hawaii’s land and natural resources.

Kuleana Lands.  Commercial developments have led to sharp increases in taxes on real property, including Kuleana land, throughout the State.  These increases have adversely affected many Hawaiian families who live on kuleana lands because they are unable to pay for the taxes.  Hawaiian families living on kuleana land now face the loss of their land and legacy that took generations to establish and must confront the possibility of homelessness.

OHA’s Kuleana land bill proposes to end this injustice by exempting Kuleana lands from real property taxes if the land has been continuously occupied by the original titleholder.

OHA Budget.  The following organizations have received significant boosts in their proposed budgets:  (1) Na Pua Noeau has gone from $581,948 in fiscal year 2005 to $707,208 in fiscal year 2006 – an increase of $125,360; (2) The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation’s budget has jumped from $776,603 in fiscal year 2005 to $1,184,604 for fiscal year 2006 – an increase of $408,001; (3) Alu Like, Inc.’s budget has increased from $596,000 in fiscal year 2005 to $730,000 for fiscal year 2006 – an increase of $134,000.

I encourage all of you to call or write your legislators and let them know where you stand on all of the issues near and dear to us.  Also, your personal testimony will be very much appreciated when our bills are up for consideration in legislative committee hearings.  I look forward to working with all of you during this session of the legislature.  Imua e Hawai’i nei…