2012 Legislative Wrap-up

`Ano`ai kakou…  Congratulations to all OHA Trustees and staff members for all of their dedication and hard work in getting the OHA/State Settlement agreement passed into law.  The 2012 legislative session will surely be remembered as one of OHA’s most successful.

Legislative Liaison

As Vice-Chair of the Committee on Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment (BAE) and one of two “Legislative Liaisons” for the 2012 legislative session, I had the distinct pleasure working closely with Senators Malama Solomon, Clayton Hee, and Brickwood Galuteria and Representative Faye Hanohano on issues relating to the Settlement and the preservation of Kuleana Lands.

Kaka’ako Makai

Senate Bill 682 proposed to add value to two parcels of land that are among the lands in Kaka’ako Makai that the OHA/State Settlement (Act 015) conveys to OHA.  The right to develop residential structures on these two lots would add significant value and provide much needed revenue for our Nation.

On April 5, 2012, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that SB682 was likely dead in the House.  However, the Senate’s Ways and Means and Judiciary and Labor committees added similar language into a related bill that had already passed the House — HB2819 — so the language for SB682 could still be heard in conference committee.  HB2819 did not pass out of its conference committee before the end of session on May 3rd and will need to be revisited in the next legislative session.

Protecting Kuleana Land Property Tax Exemptions

On November 22, 2011, the Star-Advertiser reported that the Real Property Tax Advisory Commission recommended that the City & County of Honolulu eliminate property tax exemptions for about 150,000 Oahu homeowners, including Kuleana Land owners.

On January 23, 2012, I testified before, the City Council’s Budget Committee hearing on the Real Property Tax Advisory Commission’s Report.  I explained to the members of the committee the heartbreaking history of Kuleana Lands and stressed to the Budget Committee Chair, Councilmember Ann Kobayashi, that OHA strongly opposed the proposal.  Thankfully, the matter was dropped (for now at least).  However, upon Councilmember Kobayashi’s recommendation, I worked to get the State Legislature to pass a resolution supporting the protection and preservation of Kuleana Lands.

On April 10, 2012, the State Senate adopted Senate Resolution (SR) 33 which urged the counties to preserve property tax exemptions for Kuleana Lands.  I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Senator Malama Solomon who introduced SR 33, and Senators Brickwood Galuteria, Gilbert Kahele, Donovan Dela Cruz, and Michelle Kidani for signing onto the resolution.  I would like to give a big Mahalo to OHA staff members Breann Nu’uhiwa, Sterling Wong, Jim McMahon & Luci Meyer for all their efforts to get this resolution passed.

I would also like to send a special Mahalo to Representative Faye Hanohano for introducing House versions of the Kuleana Lands resolutions, House Concurrent Resolution 117 & House Resolution 89, and getting them approved by the House Hawaiian Affairs Committee.  However, both resolutions did not get a hearing in the House Finance Committee despite my repeated requests to its Chair, Rep. Marcus Oshiro.  Neither resolution called for any money to be appropriated so the question is why were they even referred to the House Finance Committee? Aloha Ke Akua.