21st Legislature opens today
By Yasmin Anwar
Advertiser Staff Writer
Another Hawaiian-rights rally will be held during todays opening of the Legislature, with scores of red-clad protesters at the State Capitol calling on lawmakers to help defend native entitlements.
Two Republican lawmakers are poised to introduce bills that seek to preempt constitutional challenges to OHA and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
State Rep. Joe Gomes, R-Waimanalo-Lanikai, plans a measure that would turn over the trust assets of the Hawaiian Home Lands, including 203,000 acres, to a private entity formed by trust beneficiaries.
State Sen. Fred Hemmings, R-Kailua-Waimanalo, is drafting the Hawaiian Autonomy Trust bill, which would consolidate OHA and Hawaiian Homes into a private for-profit trust.
The proposed Hawaiian Affairs legislation and todays rally are in response to a federal lawsuit that seeks to dismantle OHA, the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and native gathering rights on grounds that they violate equal protection guarantees in the U.S. Constitution.
Filed by Honolulu resident Patrick Barrett and former Hawaii Republican Party chairman John Carroll, the consolidated action is based on last years U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case known as Rice v Cayetano. The decision invalidated OHAs Hawaiian-only elections on grounds that they violate the 15th Amendments ban on race-based voting restrictions.
Todays rally is from 8 a.m. to noon in the courtyard of the State Capitol. Organizers are asking participants to wear red and to bring items that identify their Hawaiian cultural heritage and means of livelihood, such as canoe paddles and fishing poles.
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