Lingle letter urges U.S. Senate to reject Akaka bill
Gov. Linda Lingle has sent a letter to U.S. senators urging them to reject the Native Hawaiian federal recognition act known as the Akaka bill.
In the letter, dated yesterday, Lingle says she had hoped “that the campaign to afford federal recognition to Native Hawaiians through the ‘Akaka Bill’ would reach a successful conclusion before I left office.”
Lingle notes her past support for the legislation but says changes to the bill now up for passage have caused her to reconsider.
"Through this letter, I regretfully inform the Senate that I cannot support the 2010 version of the Akaka Bill, S.2011 and H.R. 2314, in their present forms, and I respectfully ask that they be rejected." Lingle writes.
“This is a most difficult position for me to take because I continue to believe that federal recognition for Native Hawaiians ... is just the right thing to do.”
The Akaka bill would give Hawaiians the right to form their own government, similar to American Indians and Native Alaskans, and negotiate with the state and federal governments over land use and cultural preservation.
In its latest version, the bill grants Hawaiians the inherent power to govern prior to — not after — any negotiations, and any new noncommercial government activities, services and programs run by Hawaiians would not be subject to state or county regulation.
The Obama administration insisted that Hawaiians have inherent power so they would be treated similarly to American Indians and Native Alaskans, but Lingle and state Attorney General Mark Bennett objected because it would essentially create two sets of rules for Hawaiians and other state residents.
In her letter, Lingle says the bill “inevitably sets the Native Hawaiian governing entity and the State of Hawaii on a jurisdictional collision course ... whose damage may not be repaired until the conclusion of substantial, costly, and counterproductive litigation. ...”
Lingle said she believes the vast majority of Hawaii residents are now opposed to the Akaka bill and enclosed editorials from both Hawaii newspapers that either opposed the changes to the bill or sought new public hearings.
Lingle also sent a letter to U.S. Sens. Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka informing them of her letter to their colleagues.
“I truly regret that we were unable to reach an agreement on acceptable language for the bill,” Lingle writes.
In a statement issued by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs this afternoon, OHA says it recognizes there are differences between Lingle and the delegation on some specific legal issues, but "we are encouraged that in her note transmitting her letter to our Senators, the governor indicated that she 'still hold(s) out hope' for legislation she can support, and we believe the gap can be bridged."
"We know that differences of opinion are not uncommon as landmark legislation, such as this, enters the final stages of consideration, and we appreciate how despite these differences, all support the concept of fulfilling our dream of self-determination and a process of recognition for Native Hawaiians," OHA said in the statement.