Lingle going to Washington to back Akaka bill
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Gov. Linda Lingle will travel to Washington early next month to lobby for the Akaka bill after all.
Lingle yesterday said she changed her mind and decided to go the nation's capital after a telephone call with Sen. Daniel Akaka and a letter from Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
The governor will be in Washington June 5-6 to meet with Republican senators about the bill and, according to a release issued by Lingle's office, "to clarify flaws" raised in a report issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that recommended lawmakers reject the measure.
A cloture vote that is expected to take place June 5 or 6 will determine if the Senate will get a full airing on the Akaka bill, which sets up a process that could lead to establishment of a federally recognized Native Hawaiian entity.
A draft of the commission's report, released earlier this month, said the measure "would discriminate on the basis of race or national origin and further subdivide the American people into discrete subgroups accorded varying degrees of privilege."
On Monday, Lingle sent a letter to all 55 Republican senators urging their support of the bill and ripping the commission report.
But despite her consistent support of the bill, which has included several previous trips to Washington both to lobby and testify at hearings, Lingle said last week that she did not expect to go to the capital next month.
Apoliona, in her two-page letter to Lingle, said "there are a certain number of (s)enators who may need to be reassured by you relating to what the bill does and does not do in advance and prior to committing their vote. A face-to-face visit from the (g)overnor of Hawai'i would go a long way to providing this reassurance to them on (the bill) and would further underscore the priority that you place on this (b)ill as well."
Sixty of the 100 senators must vote on the cloture vote for it to be successful. If approved, it would open the way for up to 30 hours of Senate debate, essentially halting other business. Such an action could happen as early June 8 or 9.
A vote on the bill had been expected last summer, but half a dozen Republican senators blocked it. Republican leaders promised a vote on cloture during the fall, but the Senate became preoccupied with Hurricane Katrina relief.
Supporters of the bill say it is necessary to stave off the legal challenges against programs that give preference to Hawaiians. Some opponents of the bill believe the bill is race-based and discriminatory against non-Hawaiians, while other critics say the bill does not go far enough in addressing the wrongs committed against the Hawaiians.
Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at firstname.lastname@example.org.