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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 9, 2006

House, Senate move bills for ceded lands deal

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

Bills agreeing to an interim settlement regarding ceded lands that would allocate more funding to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs moved out of both the House and Senate this week.

At issue is an agreement OHA reached with the Lingle administration in January that would pay the state agency $15.1 million annually as its share of undisputed revenues derived from ceded lands, former crown and Hawaiian kingdom government lands held in trust by the state. OHA has been receiving about $10 million annually in recent years. Additionally, OHA would receive a one-time amount of $17.5 million in back payments.

The state constitution requires earmarking a share of the revenues derived from ceded lands to benefit Native Hawaiians. The Legislature determines how much OHA should receive.

OHA administrator Clyde Namu'o said that with state lawmakers agreeing upon the principal issue of the proposed settlement, he and his staff will now attempt to work with leaders in both houses to craft language they can agree to in the coming weeks "to avoid any last-minute confusion" that may arise if issues are not resolved toward the end of this year's legislative session.

"I believe having both houses agree to a particular version is still possible and we will be working towards that goal over the next few week," Namu'o said. "Since both (houses) agree on the substance of the measures, it would appear likely that an agreement could be fashioned."

House Bill 2204 would require the Department of Land and Natural Resources to complete an annual "accounting" of ceded land collections and includes the dollar amounts spelled out in the agreement. Senate Bill 2948 does not include money for an accounting of revenues collected, nor does it specify any dollar amount to be given to OHA.

Not everyone is happy with the proposed agreement's figures. Some senators have said OHA should get more funding.

But supporters of the proposal maintain that the interim settlement is not intended as a final settlement pertaining to ceded lands matters, noting that the state and OHA are continuing to negotiate over so-called "disputed" sources of revenues areas from which the state derives revenues OHA believes it should receive a percentage of but that the state does not.

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