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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, May 22, 2005

Akaka bill facing potential obstacle

Associated Press

A key senator's request for extended debate time poses a potential problem in gaining approval for the federal Native Hawaiian recognition bill.

In agreeing to allow the so-called Akaka bill to go to the Senate floor for a vote by Aug. 7, Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., requested 45 hours to debate the issue on the Senate floor, according to Clyde Namuo, administrator of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Kyl was responsible for a hold on the bill that prevented an earlier vote.

His request "could make it difficult for (Majority Leader Bill) Frist to find that large a block of time for discussion," Namuo said.

A Washington law firm that OHA has hired to help lobby for the bill is meeting with Kyl, said Namuo.

Namuo said the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which approved the bill March 9, has not yet filed its report.

Until it does, the Senate cannot take a floor vote on the bill which would grant Native Hawaiians the same rights of self-government enjoyed by American Indians and Native Alaskans. The measure also would allow Hawaiians to form a native government.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, who introduced the bill, is working with the Senate leadership to get it scheduled, including setting the length of time for debate, according to Donalyn Dela Cruz, his press secretary.

Akaka remains confident the bill will be put on the Senate calendar, she said.

Gov. Linda Lingle said last week that she is optimistic the bill will become law, saying she has been able to bring in more Republican support.

She said this also depends on Hawai'i's all-Democrat congressional delegation holding on to the 100 percent support it claims among Senate Democrats, which would account for 44 votes.