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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 6:42 a.m., Thursday, May 10, 2007

Senate committee approves Native Hawaiian bills

By Dennis Camire
Advertiser Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - The Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved bills today to extend self-government and self-determination to Native Hawaiians and to reauthorize federal housing programs for them.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawai'i, said he did not expect the Native Hawaiian government bill to reach the Senate floor until after May.

The Native Hawaiian bill, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai'i, would create a process for a Native Hawaiian governing entity to be formed and gain federal recognition. The new government would be able to negotiate with the United States and Hawai'i over the disposition of Native Hawaiian land, assets and other resources.

None of the lawmakers at the session offered amendments to the two bills, although Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., objected to a change in the housing bill that eliminated a provision requiring that homebuyers be turned down for a private loan before applying for a federally guaranteed loan.

The housing bill, which the House approved 272-150 in March, would reauthorize funding for Native Hawaiian housing programs for five years. It would ensure that the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands continues to receive $8 million to $9 million annually for roads, water lines, sewer systems and other infrastructure needed for housing projects developed for those who are of 50 percent or more Hawaiian blood.

The Native Hawaiian housing program's authorization expired in 2005 but funding has been kept alive on a year-to-year basis.