Wednesday, January 24, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Native health bill to be revived

By Susan Roth
Advertiser Washington Bureau

Previous stories:
Akaka to revive recognition bill
Native bill hits snag
Native bill approved by Senate committee
Full text of the Native Hawaiian recognition bill
WASHINGTON — After reintroducing the Native Hawaiian recognition bill Monday, Hawaii’s senators proposed three other measures to authorize federal financing for Hawaiian health care and education programs, including aid for language schools.

Sens. Dan Inouye and Daniel Akaka, both Democrats, had pushed the bills in the last session of Congress. The Senate approved two, but all three failed in the House. The senators have said they hope early reintroduction of the measures — on the first day of legislative action in the Senate — will ensure their success in the 107th Congress.

The Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act, which passed the Senate last year, would reauthorize federal financing for programs administered by Papa Ola L¯kahi, a coalition of public and private health care agencies providing services to Hawaiians. The measure would also create a commission to advise Congress on whether health care services to Hawaiians should be an entitlement program.

The current law, enacted in 1988, expires this year. The new bill would extend authorized money through fiscal year 2011.

Last year, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the measure would cost a total of $20 million for fiscal 2001-05. Congress would have to appropriate the money separately.

The Native Hawaiian Education Act would reauthorize about $22 million for various Hawaiian education programs for children and adults. The original 1988 law was reauthorized in 1992 and 1996. It expired last year, although Congress allowed the programs to continue for one year because Inouye was able to get the money for them.

Last year, Inouye proposed a four-year reauthorization as an amendment to the massive Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee approved the amendment, but the larger bill got bogged down in partisan politics and never passed.

The third bill introduced Monday, which also passed the Senate last year, would allow creation of Native Hawaiian and American Indian "language survival schools" to help preserve native languages. For the first time, the bill would provide federal grants to existing language schools like those already operating in Hawaii and on some Indian reservations.

Last year, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would cost $7 million in fiscal 2001, $8 million in 2002, $12 million in 2003 and $18 million in 2004.

Neither senator could be reached for comment about the measures.

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