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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ceded lands deal advances in Senate

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

A bill offering a temporary solution to the dispute over ceded land revenues won approval from the Senate Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee yesterday, despite reservations raised by the Legislature's two part-Hawaiian senators.

Under the agreement, reached by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Lingle administration last month, the state would give OHA $15.1 million annually as its share of ceded land revenues. OHA, which serves Native Hawaiian interests, has been receiving about $10 million annually over the past three years. OHA would also get a one-time payment of $17.5 million to cover back payments.

The bill now goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The House Hawaiian Affairs Committee is scheduled to vote on its version of the bill tomorrow.

Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Nanakuli, Makaha), Senate Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs chairwoman, said she does not believe it is the place of lawmakers to decide how much should be paid to OHA. "Whether the amount is satisfactory or not is something OHA is going to have to take up with its beneficiaries," she said. "Whether we have enough money or not to do it is for Ways and Means to determine."

J. Kalani English, D-6th (E. Maui, Moloka'i, Lana'i), and Clayton Hee, D-23rd (Kane'ohe, Kahuku), the two part-Hawaiian senators, said they believe the figures included in the proposal are too low.

"Personally, I believe it should be a higher amount but I also recognize that there are others in the Legislature who feel that the Hawaiians should get nothing," English said. He added that he appreciated the discussion that took place on Friday over how the settlement figures were arrived at.

Hee said he voted for the measure with reservations. Since eight of nine OHA members voted for the agreement, "it is difficult not to support it," Hee said. Still, the former OHA board member and one-time board chairman called it "a huge step backward."

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com.