Update 1/15/2010: On January 14, 2010, on an OHA television infomercial, Senate President Coleen Hanabusa stated that the House version of the Akaka Bill, Hr 2314, did not provide enough powers to a new native Hawaiian government. She stated she fully supported the revised Senate bill, s. 1011, which gave much broader powers to the new government, because that bill was “pono.”
On the same OHA program, Attorney General Mark Bennett made it clear that the Lingle administration could not support S. 1011 because of numerous provisions that would “lead to 30 more years of litigation” on native Hawaiian matters. Bennett demanded that the vaguely worded “inherent sovereignty powers” in S. 1011 be specifically enumerated so that it was clear exactly which governmental powers the new government would or would not have. And he also called for any such powers to be come effective after negotiations with the State and federal governments, not immediately upon enactment of the bill.
Meanwhile a recently released Zogby poll showed that a majority of people in Hawaii opposed even the milder House version of the bill.
Update 12/30/2009: On December 16, 2009, Senator Akaka substituted a drastically revised version of S.1011, the Akaka Bill, into the US Senate. Despite protests from Governor Lingle and Attorney General Bennett that the revised bill raised serious jurisdictional issues, the Senator refused to cancel the revisions and revert to the original bill, which the Governor and Attorney General have consistently supported.
The revised version of S.1011 would treat native Hawaiians as a tribe and give the new native Hawaiian government immediate sovereign powers–executive, legislative, and judicial– as soon as the bill is enacted. The original version of the bill would have required the new government to negoitate with the State and the federal government before obtaining these powers.
A particularly troublesome section of the revised bill gives the new government immediate criminal jurisdiction over all citizens of the new government.
Attorney General Mark Bennett wrote in the Advertiser on December 20, 2009, that the Lingle administration played no role in drafting the amended version, and was not even informed of the amendments until two days before their introduction in the Senate. Bennett commented that new provisions designating native Hawaiians as an Indian tribe never had a public hearing. He expressed deep concern that the new Bill “explicitly states that it gives the State of Hawaii no authority to tax or regulate the new tribe…” and that “Indian tribes and their businesses are generally immune from lawsuits, even from ordinary tort lawsuits like auto accidents and ordinary breach of contract claims.” Bennett also observed that the revised Bill deletes a provision in the original Bill expressly preserving the State’s sovereign immunity, which virtually guarantees new lawsuits against the State.
In the House, Rep. Abercrombie withdrew the proposed revisions and reverted to the original bill, HR 2314, which was passed by the Natural Resources Committee on December 15th and sent to the full House for consideration.
Despite the Governor’s objections, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee passed the revised bill by voice vote on December 16, 2009, and sent it to the full Senate for action.
The House and Senate versions will now have to be reconciled before the bill can become law.