INDEX OF TRANSITIONAL ITEMS; FULL TEXT IS BELOW THE INDEX IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
November 7: Ken Conklin publishes major essay in Hawaii Reporter online newspaper describing the likelihood the Akaka bill will be passed and signed into law early in 2009, in view of election results; but offering hope that it might be defeated, and reminding readers that civil rights activists have traditionally used the courts to defend against executive and legislative violations of civil rights.
November 18: "The Hill" (Washington D.D. newspaper dedicated to covering Congress) says "Hawaii stands ready to become the Big Kahuna in Washington" and "The Hawaiian punch in Washington is about to get a lot stronger." because of Senator Inouye's great seniority and power, and the larger Democrat majority.
December 8: Honolulu Advertiser Washington D.C. reporter says chances of enacting Akaka bill are very favorable in 2009. [This newspaper itself is very favorable to the bill, so has biased its report. But see December 9]
December 9: The Maui News carries an Associated Press report, distributed nationwide, saying that Obama's election and larger Democrat majorities in Congress will make it easier to pass the Akaka bill in 2009; but there will be fierce resistance from Senate Republicans who might actually be able to block the bill with a filibuster.
December 22: Honolulu Advertiser reports "The arrival of a new Democratic administration in Washington, coupled with Democratic control of Congress, has given renewed hope to supporters of federal recognition for native Hawaiians." But Grassroot Institute President Emeritus says Congress will be focused intently on the economic issues, and Democrats won't want to waste their political capital on akaka bill until late 2009.
December 24: Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D, HI) says the new Democrat President and larger Democrat majorities in Congress make it likely the Akaka bill will pass; but the very large number of newly elected Representatives give her a big job to "educate" them about the bill.
December 29: Honolulu Star-Bulletin editorial makes a guess about how many votes there will be in the Senate for cloture on the Akaka bill in 2009, and then concludes the bill's backers should press for early action.
December 30: Richard Rowland, founder of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, short commentary says Akaka bill is going to become law in 2009. It is vague, but one thing for sure -- it will establish a new government in Hawaii, and our people should be allowed to vote on it before it is done without their consent.
Hawaii Reporter, November 7, 2008
Looking ahead to 2009 -- The Akaka bill and Hawaiian racial separatism in view of election results from November 4, 2008
by Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.
The election of 2008 produced results disturbing and disheartening to supporters of unity and equality. Hawaii civil rights activists are facing an uncertain future. Both federal and state results are troubling. But all is not lost. Hope lives on. Let's look at how Congress and President Obama are likely to deal with the Akaka bill, what's happening inside Hawaii, and how the courts will play an important role. It's important to realize that civil rights are not only for African-Americans, or ethnic Hawaiians -- civil rights are for Asians and Caucasians as well. The essence of civil rights is that fundamental principles and laws should apply equally to all people regardless of race. Obama seems to agree, if we take his rhetoric seriously.
CONGRESS AND THE AKAKA BILL IN THE COMING YEAR 2009
The Hawaiian Government Reorganization bill, known informally as the Akaka bill, seems likely to be enacted and signed into law early in 2009.
The U.S. House passed the Akaka bill on October 24, 2007 by a vote of 261-153, which included every Democrat voting in lock-step plus a surprising number of left-leaning Republicans.
The Senate has never voted on the Akaka bill directly, throughout the entire history of the bill from 2000 through 2008. However, in June 2006 the Senate voted on a cloture motion to stop a Republican filibuster against the bill. Every Democrat Senator voted in favor of stopping the filibuster, plus several left-leaning Republicans (not counting a few Republicans who were bound by a vote-trading agreement from 2005 to vote in favor of cloture). There were 56 votes in favor of stopping the filibuster, but 60 votes were required; and as a result the bill remained bottled up. In 2007 the Akaka bill passed the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, but has never been scheduled for floor debate (because of holds initially placed on it by Republican opponents and failure later to schedule it for a vote).
As a result of the election of November 2008, the Democrat majority in the House seems likely to increase by about 20. There's no way to stop the bill in the House in 2009.
It appears there will be at least 55 Democrat Senators, plus two independents who have always caucused with the Democrats. Three of the four Republican Senators whose contests for re-election remain too close to call the day after the election are actually co-sponsors of the Akaka bill: Norm Coleman (Minnesota), Gordon Smith (Oregon), and Ted Stevens (Alaska). So it would seem to make no difference for the Akaka bill whether those three so-called Republicans are re-elected or replaced by Democrats. Add the two RINOs (Republicans in name only) from Maine (Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe), and it might seem likely that the 60 votes needed for cloture will be available in 2009, even without a couple of other Republicans who previously voted for cloture. However, the Democrats newly elected in 2006 are thus far untested on the Akaka bill -- they and the Democrats newly elected in 2008 might be open to persuasion. There were also a few Democrats who voted in favor of cloture in 2006 but who indicated informally at that time that they might oppose the bill itself if it came to the floor. Senators Coleman and Smith might also be educable, because it was never clear why they originally agreed to co-sponsor the bill and they might not know very much about it.
Considering all the evidence, there is a small but significant possibility that cloture on the Akaka bill can be defeated in 2009 in the Senate, even with the increased Democrat majority.
If there wasn't already enough to worry about, consider this. The Akaka bill that passed the House and stalled in the Senate in the now-concluding 110th Congress was not the most dangerous version of the bill. The current version resulted from "negotiations" during 2005 and 2006 between the Bush administration's Department of Justice and the bill's supporters. The current version includes language that limits the powers of the proposed Akaka tribe in ways not found in previous versions. It says the Akaka tribe must get the approval of the state Legislature before it can get legal jurisdiction over any lands, or build a gambling casino; and that it cannot make claims for land or jurisdiction against military bases. It imposes legal restrictions prohibiting the federal government from "taking land into trust" and prohibiting Hawaii land from being treated as "Indian country." Considering how the state Legislature and Governor have always given the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Kamehameha Schools whatever they want, these restrictions might not have much real effect in limiting tribal power. But previous versions of the Akaka bill were less restrictive. The version to be introduced in 2009 is likely to be much more "muscular" than the current one, or even more muscular than any previous version; because the increased Democrat majority in Congress and President Obama's pledge to support the bill will embolden the racial separatists to "shoot the moon" or "go for broke".
PRESIDENT OBAMA AND THE AKAKA BILL
Senator Barack Obama has repeatedly made public statements supporting the Akaka bill. During the debate on the cloture motion in June 2006 Obama made a short speech on the Senate floor supporting the bill. And during the primary campaign of early to mid 2008 he repeated his pledge to support the bill if elected. But consider Obama's publicly stated basic beliefs, below, which are clearly contrary to the Akaka bill. Is he a hypocrite, making pretty speeches whose principles he does not actually support? Or does he really believe in his statements of principle? Could he be persuaded that the Akaka bill is morally wrong? Here are some things Obama said publicly on two important recent occasions.
In Berlin in July 2008, in a speech attended by 200,000 cheering Germans in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, Obama said: "... the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another. ... The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down. ... Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid."
In his election victory speech in Chicago's Grant Park on November 4-5, 2008, televised to all America and around the world, Obama said: "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. ... more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. ... The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there. ... I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. ... In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. ... Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity. Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. ... This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time, to ... reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can."
It is inconceivable that a President who truly believes in these fundamental principles could allow the Akaka bill to become law. Regardless of our misgivings about his true beliefs, we civil rights activists in Hawaii must take President Obama at his word and work to persuade him to oppose this racist, terribly divisive bill.
HAWAII ELECTION RESULTS SOLIDIFY RACIAL SEPARATISM
The already-huge Democrat majority increased: it will now be 45-6 in the House in 2009, and 23-2 in the Senate. Not all Democrats are racial separatists. Several have said privately that they oppose the Akaka bill but dare not say so publicly. However, it doesn't really matter what they believe in their hearts or what they say privately -- what matters politically is only what they say in public and how they vote on bills and resolutions. The Hawaii Legislature has repeatedly passed resolutions supporting the Akaka bill unanimously except for one or two votes on one or two occasions. Governor Lingle (a RINO) has zealously pushed the Akaka bill, and has two more years in office. OHA has adopted a policy of pursuing "Plan B" -- a plan for implementing the Akaka bill inside the State of Hawaii, creating a state-recognized tribe, even if the bill does not pass Congress. The legislative and executive branches have repeatedly passed bills, resolutions, and amicus briefs giving land, money, power, and political support to racially exclusionary institutions and programs.
The state Constitution forces the government to put on the ballot once every ten years the question whether there should be a state Constitutional Convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution to be ratified by the people in a later election. In November 2008 the voters had a chance to force a Con-Con. But powerful groups including labor unions and Office of Hawaiian Affairs opposed it, and persuaded voters that a Con-Con would cost too much money and would endanger their "rights." A Con-Con might have abolished the office of Hawaiian Affairs. It might have proposed amendments such as: "no public lands, money, or legal jurisdiction shall be given to public or private institutions which are racially exclusionary"; or: "the public lands of Hawaii belong to all the people of Hawaii without racial distinction." But the opportunity for a Con-Con has now been lost and will probably not be offered again until 2018.
Four incumbent trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs were on the ballot for re-election. Three of them had opponents. The chairperson of OHA, Haunani Aponiona, had the strongest opponent she has ever faced. Colin Kippen ran on a platform opposing OHA's expenditures for lobbying the Akaka bill (although he favors the bill itself) and opposing OHA expenditures for advertising for the Kau Inoa racial registry; and pledging to clean up the corruption and nepotism at OHA. Kippen had numerous ads on TV, radio, and newspapers. But in the end all four incumbents won re-election by wide margins.
Hawaii election results said "Don't rock the boat" and "Give us even more of the same."
THE COURTS, AND MAINLAND INSTITUTIONS, OFFER HOPE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN HAWAII
The civil rights movement on the mainland, from the 1950s through the present, relied heavily on lawsuits. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that schools in the South must desegregate, several Southern states resisted mightily. Governors "stood in the schoolhouse door" to stop black students from entering. Legislatures tried to convert public schools into private schools to avoid desegregation. The public used the power of the ballot to elect racist legislators and to exercise initiative or referendum to create racist laws. But courts ruled that segregationist laws were unconstitutional. In later decades Northern cities, where local school districts were all-black or all-white because of neighborhoods that were racially homogeneous, were ordered by federal judges to use buses to send children long distances across district lines in order to promote racial integration.
Courts have authority to overturn both executive decisions and legislated laws, if they are unconstitutional. When Southern state legislatures passed laws, or governors created regulations or administrative procedures, to protect segregation, courts over-ruled them. In recent years it has become more difficult for courts to intervene, because of increased restrictions on who has "standing" to bring lawsuits. It has become fashionable for some judges to dismiss civil rights lawsuits on grounds that certain issues are "political questions" where the courts must give way to decisions made by voters or legislatures. In a recent lawsuit to dismantle OHA, a misguided federal judge actually dismissed the case by ruling that the mere fact that the Akaka bill was sitting in Congress awaiting possible action made the existence of OHA a "political question" which the court should not consider. Nevertheless, the Marbury v. Madison Supreme Court decision from 1803 established the right of courts to review and overturn executive and legislative decisions; and such judicial review has a long and distinguished history of protecting civil rights. No matter how large a majority might try to strip groups or individuals of their civil rights, the courts have the authority to protect those rights.
In February 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Rice v. Cayetano that it was unconstitutional for the State of Hawaii to prohibit people with no Hawaiian native blood from voting for trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Thus the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a provision of the Constitution of the State of Hawaii that had been approved by a vote of the people on a ballot proposal coming from the state Constitutional Convention of 1978. Later in 2000 a federal court took another piece out of the state Constitution by ruling that race cannot be used to prohibit someone with no native blood from running as a candidate for OHA trustee. That should have been obvious from the Rice decision, but OHA and the state government fought tooth and nail against it until rulings came down from the U.S. District Court in Honolulu and, on appeal by the State, from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco).
On December 5, 2002 Hawaii circuit court judge Sabrina McKenna ruled against OHA, concluding that the State of Hawaii has a right to sell ceded lands. OHA appealed Judge McKenna's decision. On January 31, 2008 the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled 5-0 that Judge McKenna was mistaken. The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the State of Hawaii is permanently prohibited from selling any ceded lands until such time as a settlement has been reached regarding the claims of Native Hawaiians, as suggested by the apology resolution passed by Congress in 1993. The State of Hawaii filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to review and overturn the state Supreme Court decision. Twenty-nine other states shortly thereafter filed an amicus brief supporting Hawaii's petition for certiorari. On October 1, 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court granted the petition for certiorari, and will probably hear oral arguments (and perhaps issue a ruling) during the term that ends in June 2009.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision desegregating voting for OHA trustees, and federal court decisions on candidacy for OHA trustee, and Supreme Court decision to make a ruling in the ceded lands case, show that federal courts will come to the rescue to protect civil rights in Hawaii even when the voters, the state Legislature, or state Supreme Court try to violate those rights.
Mainland law firms and institutions have become increasingly involved in supporting civil rights in Hawaii. Local civil rights activists lost the Rice v. Cayetano voting rights case at both the U.S. District Court in Honolulu and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Fortunately a mainland law firm led the way to victory at the U.S. Supreme Court. In the followup Arakaki lawsuit regarding candidacy, the Pacific Legal Foundation headquartered in California provided an important amicus brief. Mainland law firms and institutions helped with the Kamehameha Schools desegregation lawsuits. Attorneys General of 29 states filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to take up the ceded lands case. U.S. Senators and Representatives have spoken against the Akaka bill and have fought valiantly to defeat it. The Heritage Foundation has repeatedly helped. The U.S. Civil Rights Commission held hearings and published a lengthy report opposing the Akaka bill. Numerous nationally syndicated magazine and newspaper writers have published articles opposing it.
The willingness of federal courts and mainland institutions to intervene on racial issues in the State of Hawaii shows an understanding that a violation of civil rights anywhere in America is a matter of great concern for all America's people. Civil rights activists in Hawaii do the same thing civil rights activists have done elsewhere: we speak truth to power and use the courts when necessary to defend our rights.
So even if the Akaka bill is enacted by Congress and signed by President Obama; even if the state Legislature tries to recognize an Akaka tribe or hand over money, land, and political power to a racially exclusionary government; we will fight in the courts and can reasonably hope to win. We will never give up. As OHA chair Haunani Apoliona wrote in a song she composed with opposite intent (E Mau Ana Ka Ha'aheo: Let the Pride Endure Forever): "E ho'a kakou i ka lama kupono no na hulu Hawai'i. E kukulu a'e kakou no ke ea o ka 'aina, me ke aloha a me ke ahonui." (Let's light the torch of justice for Hawaiians. Let's build up sovereignty, with love and patience.)
The Hill (Washington D.C. newspaper solely covering Congress)
November 18, 2008
LEADING THE NEWS
Hawaii stands ready to become the Big Kahuna in Washington
By Walter Alarkon
The Hawaiian punch in Washington is about to get a lot stronger.
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) is taking over the gavel of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D) and Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) have begun to wield the legislative clout that comes with seniority. And Barack Obama, a native son who understands the 50th state’s needs and reflects the Pacific islands’ multicultural ethos, is about to become the 44th president of the United States.
The power shift for the Aloha State, among the nation’s smallest with 1.3 million people, is poised to win more federal money and gain influence it has long lacked.
Having the added clout could result in the federal government footing a portion of the estimated $5 billion cost for an elevated rail project approved through a voter referendum this month. With Obama headed to the White House, Akaka and Inouye may finally win the recognition for Native Hawaiians that had been opposed by the Bush administration and stalled by Republican senators. And federal money can also serve to boost the state’s year-round tourism industry and its attempts to buffer itself from rising oil costs.
“To have a president that has that background and understanding and [for Inouye] to have the most powerful position in the Congress legislatively ... that combo is incredibly powerful,” said Abercrombie, a founding member of the House Progressive Caucus who emerged this Congress as a bipartisan broker on energy legislation and war funding in Iraq.
Inouye’s new post will help him increase the substantial amount of money from Washington that he and the rest of the delegation win. In fiscal 2008, Hawaii received $283 million in earmarks, or $221 per capita, the second most of any state, according to Citizens Against Government Waste. As the successor to Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) as Appropriations Committee chairman, Inouye will often have the final say over other lawmakers’ earmark requests. The only state to receive more earmark money per person, Alaska, is likely to see its leverage decrease now that Sen. Ted Stevens (R) is on the verge of being ousted from the Senate and possibly going to jail.
Hawaii can also benefit from a president who understands the state’s issues. Obama, who went to high school in Honolulu and lived with his grandparents there, has already come out in support of efforts to win federal recognition for 400,000 Native Hawaiians, some of whom have pushed for sovereignty.
An Akaka-sponsored bill that would grant that recognition had passed the House but stalled in the Senate under opposition from Republican lawmakers and the Bush administration. The new administration and a larger Democratic majority in the Senate could get the issue moving again.
Another priority for the state is reducing its dependence on oil, which fuels 90 percent of Hawaiians’ electricity, said Ira Rohter, a University of Hawaii political scientist. High oil prices this summer and the troubled economy prompted Gov. Linda Lingle (R) to tell her department heads to expect 20 percent cuts in their budgets.
Abercrombie pushed for an energy bill that would allow some of the offshore oil drilling that Republicans hankered for while providing more money for renewable energy sources and coastal states. A watered-down version of the bill, which lacked the provision sending money from oil companies to states, passed the House with bipartisan support in September but stalled in the other chamber.
But legislative victories are not the only benefits of having influence in Washington. Hawaiians see an Obama presidency as great publicity. The election of a black man to the White House is symbolic for the whole country and a milestone for African-Americans. For Hawaiians, Obama shares their roots and is of mixed race, like one-fifth of the state’s population.
“It’s not just a question of [Obama] being born here,” said former Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii). “It’s also having been raised here during his formative years, having absorbed Hawaii’s view of the world.”
Honolulu Advertiser, December 8, 2008
Chances of passing Hawaii's Akaka bill are better than ever
It'll again come down to whether Senate Republicans block vote
By DENNIS CAMIRE
Advertiser Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — With a larger Democratic majority in the new Congress and an incoming Democratic administration headed by a Hawai'i native, the Akaka bill seems to have its best chance yet of passage.
But supporters of the bill also fear that Republicans may erect procedural roadblocks that they have used before to prevent the full Senate from voting on the bill since it was first introduced in 2000.
"I can say we're hopeful" about passage, said Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs. "It's an improved situation and it gives us more optimism."
The Akaka bill, nicknamed after its lead sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai'i, would create a process for a Native Hawaiian government to get federal recognition.
Akaka said he was optimistic about the country's direction under the new Congress and President-elect Barack Obama, who spent most of his childhood in Hawai'i.
"I am optimistic about working with President-elect Obama, who supports federal recognition and understands Hawai'i's unique history," Akaka said.
Akaka and Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, the lead sponsor in the House, are expected to introduce the legislation in the new Congress, which begins in early January.
Abercrombie said he has "every expectation" that the House will approve the bill. The chamber did so in 2000 and again last year, only to see it stall in the Senate.
"I think some of the barriers that have been put up in the Senate can be overcome this time," Abercrombie said.
If Congress approves the legislation, Obama is expected to sign it, a commitment he made during his presidential campaign.
"This is an important bill, and if it is not signed into law this year, I commit to supporting it as president," Obama said back in January when he was campaigning. As a senator, Obama voted in 2006 to bring the bill up for a debate and vote.
But with Congress focused on reforms for the nation's financial system and other pressing issues, Abercrombie and Akaka are not expected to push for action on the bill right away.
The bill creates a process for reorganizing a Native Hawaiian government, including development of a roll of Native Hawaiians and election of an interim governing council. Once the government receives federal recognition, negotiations could take place on disposition of Native Hawaiian land, natural resources and other assets.
Abercrombie said he was reviewing the most recent version of the bill with his staff to see if any changes are needed.
Many changes were already made to the bill to deal with some of the Justice Department's concerns. Among the changes, the current version would prohibit Native Hawaiians from bringing land claims against the United States and bar a Native Hawaiian government from authorizing gambling.
Ira Rohter, a political scientist at the University of Hawai'i, said the current bill has problems, and needs to be reassessed and discussed at new public hearings.
"It has changed enormously from when it was originally introduced," Rohter said. "A lot of people in the Hawaiian community who were proponents have peeled away from it."
Abercrombie defended the bill, saying "it's fundamentally the same bill in the sense of trying to enable Hawaiians to be able to organize themselves into a governing instrument that will allow them to address the question of their assets — the land and the funds."
The only time supporters had a chance to overcome the procedural obstacles that blocked full Senate consideration of the bill was in June 2006.
They needed 60 votes to bring the bill up for a vote, but fell four short in a 56-41 tally. All Democrats in the Senate united behind the bill and 13 Republicans joined them. All the votes against were from Republicans.
In the new Congress, Senate Democrats will have at least 56 seats and can usually count on the support of two independents who caucus with them.
One of the independents, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who was a Democrat in 2006, supported the bill at the time. The other independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, was a House member when the 2006 vote was held.
In the new Senate, Republicans will have at least 41 seats, enough to block legislation if all vote together.
But nine of the Republicans who voted for the bill in 2006 remain in the Senate, and some may support it again.
For example, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has co-sponsored the bill several times and voted to bring it up for Senate debate. Another Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, is leading in a recount of ballots in a close Senate race with Democratic challenger Al Franken.
Toni-Michelle Travis, a government and politics expert at George Mason University in Virginia, said she thinks the chances of the Akaka bill getting through the new Congress are "pretty good."
"I think that climate of opinion is such right now that this is the kind of bill that would go through," she said. If the Senate did block it again, she said, "it would be a huge embarrassment" for Obama.
The Maui News, December 9, 2008
Native Hawaiians bill could pass in 2009
By HERBERT A. SAMPLE, The Associated Press
HONOLULU - The political stars for long-stalled efforts to boost the status of Native Hawaiians appear to be aligning nicely.
With Barack Obama set to take over the White House and Democrats ready to claim larger majorities in Congress next month, legislation to create a governmental entity to represent Native Hawaiians could finally win passage.
''I am optimistic about working with President-elect Obama, who supports federal recognition and understands Hawaii's unique history,'' U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, the bill's main's sponsor, told The Honolulu Advertiser. Critics agree that the Akaka Bill has a better chance of passage next year after being opposed by most Senate Republicans and the Bush Administration in recent attempts to get it through Congress.
But they insist that if it gets far in Congress next year, a furious reaction from conservatives and other critics will force Democratic leaders and the new Obama administration to hesitate about pursuing its approval.
''Why would the national leaders like (Senate Democratic leader Harry) Reid (of Nevada) or Obama be willing to spend three days, a week, whatever it will take, to get through this,'' asked Todd Gaziano, director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
This year's version of the measure would set up a process for Native Hawaiians to participate in the creation of a permanent entity similar to Native American tribal governments.
That entity would be empowered to represent the interests of Native Hawaiians and negotiate on their behalf with local, state and federal officials.
The legislation would bar establishment of a reservation or gambling operations. It also would ban the taking of private property and exempt the Defense Department from its provisions.
The bill was passed by a Senate committee in 2007, but when the Bush Administration made clear that the measure would be vetoed, Reid shelved it.
November's elections, however, changed the political dynamics in Washington. For one, Obama during his campaign committed himself to supporting Akaka's bill as president.
Akaka is expected to reintroduce the measure again next year in the Senate, though it may be months before it moves very far in a Congress confronting difficult economic and military issues.
The House may not be much of a problem, said Hawaii Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who will reintroduce the bill there. The House passed previous versions in 2000 and 2007.
A dozen Senate Republicans and most Democrats backed the measure in an unsuccessful 2006 vote to get it onto the Senate floor. At least four of those Republicans will not be in office next year.
Still, Abercrombie told The Advertiser that ''some of the barriers that have been put up in the Senate can be overcome this time.''
But Gaziano said in an interview that if the bill appears on track for passage in the Senate, critics will gear up to force a delay. While it is strongly supported in Hawaii, it is not a hot-button nationwide, he contended.
''It would be different if this were a major priority of Obama's,'' such as health care reform, Gaziano added.
''I could tick off 10 more important issues. This is one that fits a different category,'' he said. ''It will be intensely opposed, at least by a minority, but it doesn't really do a lot for the broad-based liberal constituency or for a number of Americans.''
But Akaka spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke said there are influential interests supporting the measure, too, such as the American Bar Association.
''Rush Limbaugh might go ahead and oppose it again,'' Broder Van Dyke said. ''But he opposes a lot of good things up here.''
Broder Van Dyke said Akaka will settle on the precise version of the bill to pursue next year after meeting with fellow Hawaii delegation members.
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Monday, December 22, 2008
Akaka Bill backers like the new odds
The U.S. Senate's 58 Democrats should lift the measure's chances
By B.J. Reyes
The arrival of a new Democratic administration in Washington, coupled with Democratic control of Congress, has given renewed hope to supporters of federal recognition for native Hawaiians.
"The results of the presidential and congressional elections open a window of opportunity for native Hawaiian initiatives and Hawaii initiatives," Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said in her recent State of OHA speech. "Based on previous expressed support for the Akaka Bill by President-elect (Barack) Obama, a smoother and timely passage and enactment of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act is anticipated."
During his campaign, Obama said he would support native Hawaiian recognition if a bill were to reach his desk.
The legislation would allow for the formation of a governing body for native Hawaiians, similar to that of American Indians, that would negotiate with state and federal governments over land and other resources.
Opponents say the measure is racially discriminatory and divisive. Native Hawaiian sovereignty groups also oppose the legislation, saying it does not go far enough to grant Hawaii independence from the U.S. government.
To date, no version of the Akaka Bill -- named after its primary sponsor, U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka (D, Hawaii) -- has made it out of Congress.
Although the U.S. House this year approved a version of the bill, it stalled in the Senate, where Republicans have stalled the measure time and again. Additionally, President Bush has opposed the legislation.
Two years ago, Akaka attempted to bring the bill to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote by the full chamber. The motion fell four votes shy of the 60 needed to force a vote.
But Nov. 4 brought change to Capitol Hill. In addition to Obama's victory, Democrats also will control at least 58 of the 100 seats when the next Congress opens.
"I am looking forward to working with President-elect Obama and meeting with my newly elected Senate colleagues to discuss my bill and the many other important matters that will come before the upcoming Congress," Akaka said in a statement provided by his office. "The U.S. has formally recognized American Indians and Alaska natives and should provide parity for Hawaii's indigenous people."
Jon Van Dyke, a constitutional law professor at the University of Hawaii who supports the Akaka Bill, said "the stars seem to be aligned" in the bill's favor. "With the increase in Democrats in the Senate, plus some of the key Republicans that have always supported it ... still there, it seems like the votes should be there to pass it," he said.
Because of the new Congress, the legislation would have to be reintroduced and go through the formal hearing process again in both chambers. Akaka said he plans to introduce a bill.
At least one opponent said he does not expect the Akaka Bill to be a priority for lawmakers when they convene the next Congress. Given the country's financial troubles and the focus likely to be paid to an economic stimulus plan, any discussion of the Akaka Bill would be best left for several months down the road, said Richard Rowland, president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.
"I don't think that Mr. Obama and his administration want to use any of their capital on this," Rowland said. "Why should they? From their standpoint it looks like they've got it as a slam dunk.
"So why wouldn't they wait till next September or October, or even 2010?"
In the meantime, the institute, which opposes racially based preferences, will continue to inform the public about the bill, he said.
"My feeling is that with some more education -- education on what the implications are -- that rational people can all look at it and say, 'This is just not very healthy,'" Rowland said.
The Garden Island News (Kaua'i), December 24, 2008
** Excerpts related to Akaka bill
Rep. Mazie Hirono ‘hopeful’ about second term
U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat of Hawai‘i’s second district, spent a chunk of Monday afternoon standing alongside new Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho, ringing a Salvation Army bell in front of Wal-Mart and wishing happy holidays to the voters that overwhelmingly elected her to a second term in Congress last month.
But Hirono’s Christmas break at home in Hawai‘i has not been all fun and sun. Before helping out with the Red Kettle campaign, she toured the Westside to assess some of the damage from a storm system that rolled through the islands last week, causing flash floods and even a brief tornado warning.
Hirono will be sworn in for her second term in Washington on Jan. 6, and will have a host of new colleagues. The 111th Congress will have 52 new representatives, none of whom Hirono knows well.
She said the large freshman class will need to be quickly brought up to speed on a host of issues, with the economic stimulus package as the obvious “first order of business.”
She said she will again be pushing for the proposed Akaka bill, which passed the House previously, but not the Senate, and would be a significant step in the relationship between the state of Hawai‘i and its native people.
While having Obama in the White House rather than current president George W. Bush will help matters — Hirono called the difference between them a “sea change” — and more support in both houses of congress make Hirono optimistic about the chances of passing the Akaka bill, she stressed the importance of educating the new representatives with the help of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
“It always helps if there’s someone in the (freshman) class to be a cheerleader,” she said, noting proudly she had educated her fellow freshman classmates on the issue previously, and had cultivated a large plurality of support.
When asked for her thoughts on Obama’s nomination of Gen. Eric Shinseki for the post of secretary of veterans affairs, Hirono said Shinseki is an “excellent choice.”
“It shows Obama’s faith in (Shinseki’s) judgment and experience,” Hirono said, commenting that her conversations with Shinseki, when he had always introduced himself as a soldier, had led her to believe he is very humble.
“Coming from Kaua‘i doesn’t hurt, either,” she said with a smile.
When asked if she had any plans to make another run for governor when Lingle leaves office in 2010, Hirono demurred, saying only, “I’m just focused on doing the best job in the House.”
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Dec 29, 2008
Push for early action on sovereignty bill
HAWAIIAN sovereignty could be on an early agenda in the U.S. Senate after having been successfully filibustered by opponents two years ago. Democrats, all of whom support the bill, gained seats in the 2006 and 2008 elections and are likely to prevail on the issue in the upcoming congressional session, with President-elect Barack Obama agreeing to sign it into law.
The Senate voted 56-41 in June 2006 to proceed with a vote on the Akaka Bill itself, short of the 60 needed for cloture. Democrats, including the two independents who caucus with the party, were unanimous in voting for cloture and will have grown in the Senate from 45 to 58 from the past two elections, with the Minnesota case yet to be decided.
Success of the Akaka Bill seems all but assured. However, while 13 Republicans voted to move the bill forward in 2006, Arizona's two Republican senators -- Jon Kyle and John McCain, both returning senators who opposed the bill -- cast votes in favor of cloture by prior agreement. That deal no longer exists.
Of the other 11 Republicans who voted for cloture, five will be replaced by Democrats, further reducing the 13 GOP senators who voted for cloture in 2006 to six. That is more than offset by the replacement by Democrats of 10 Republicans who voted against cloture that year.
While short of a landslide, it should result in a comfortable victory, especially if Sens. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.V., and John Schumer, D-N.Y., decide to vote, which they failed to do two years ago. If past supporting votes are maintained, nothing should prevent Sen. Daniel Akaka from moving the bill to the Senate floor early in the session. The House should pass the bill easily, as it did last year.
Richard Rowland, president of Grassroot Institute, agrees but suggests Obama might not want to use any of his "capital" on the issue so early in his presidency. Little "capital" will be expended on a bill that has interest only in the president-elect's native state.
Hawaii Reporter, December 30, 2008
Akaka Very Likely to Become Law in 2009, but Are We Ready for a New Hawaiian Nation?
By Richard O. Rowland
The so-called Akaka bill, which will be re-introduced in the new 2009 US Congress, is very likely to become law since most Democrats favor it and soon-to-be President Obama has promised to sign it.
The proposed law is very short on specific provisions except for one area. There can be no doubt that the law, if passed, will create a new nation called the “Native Hawaiian Governing Entity."
Thus, there will be a new government carved out inside the State of Hawaii. All of the who, what, when, where, how, etc will be negotiated later and as they please by government appointed officials.
There will be no vote of Hawaii’s people on whether we want a new government in addition to the federal, state and city/county we already endure. It will simply be forced from above.
Hawaii’s people voted for statehood in 1959 ( 94+% said yes ) before Hawaii became a state. If this lack of an approving or rejecting vote seems improper to you, please consider taking four actions:
Go to http://www.grassrootinstitute.org - click on the 'Let Us Vote' button on the right hand side - and register your concern.
Contact your Senator, Daniel Inouye or Daniel Akaka, and your Representative, Mazie Hirano or Neil Abercrombie, and let them know your thoughts.
You may also contact your State Senator and Representative and express your concerns.
We LUV Hawaii---let us vote!
Richard O Rowland is the co-founder of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
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