Home > newsroom > Page
Fundamental Changes in Final Text of Native Hawaiian Bill


WASHINGTON, D.C., February 23, 2010 - Today, the House of Representatives will vote on the final rewritten text (Abercrombie substitute) of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009. This latest version, written in secret without Committee review or markup, contains fundamental changes from the bill that was first introduced in the 111th Congress and from legislation (H.R. 505) that was voted on during the 110th Congress.

Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, a longtime and vocal advocate of Native Hawaii recognition, has announced her opposition to the final rewritten version of the bill.

  • New, Undefined Sovereign Powers. The substitute immediately grants the native governing entity with “inherent powers” (Sec 9(b)(1)) and preempts State regulation, taxation, and civil and possibly criminal jurisdiction for undefined “government activities” conducted by the entity (Sec 9(c)(3)(I)). This is in stark contrast to prior versions of the bill, which reserved decisions on what powers to grant the entity only after negotiation and consent of the State and Congress.
  • Immunity from lawsuits. The substitute gives the native governing entity immunity from lawsuits in any Federal or State court (Sec 9(c)(3)(H)).
  • New Membership Criteria. The substitute includes six pages of new, complex membership criteria that could possibly open enrollment to non-Hawaii residents who have only the most tenuous of connections to a distinct, Native Hawaiian community. However, once recognition is extended, the entity can discard this established criteria and grant, deny, or revoke membership according to anyone it wishes. (Sec. 9 (b) (2)). Membership in the governing entity does remain voluntary and renounceable.
  • Justice Department Attorney. The substitute requires the U.S. Attorney General to designate a Justice Department attorney to assist and protect the entity in the implementation of the Act and to fight legal challenges (Sec. 7) - essentially ensuring that the governing entity has the resources of the Federal government at its disposal. However, a challenge against the constitutionality of this bill is inevitable, and this provision could cloud the objectivity of the Justice Department. This is also inappropriate since Department of Justice attorneys are already known to have concerns with the constitutionality of this bill.
  • White House as Lead Agency. The substitute establishes the White House as a lead agency to implement this act. (Sec. 6 (c)(1)). It is inappropriate to inject the politically-run White House as a lead agency to coordinate activities and policies concerning the creation of the governing entity.
  • Lack of Definitions. The substitute leaves several key terms undefined, including “Native Hawaiian,” “Native Hawaiian community” and “citizens” of the governing entity. The lack of definition creates ambiguity that will likely result in lawyers defining these terms in court.
# # #

Print version of this document


Contact: Jill Strait or Spencer Pederson (202) 226-2311

Latest News

House Passes Bill to Ensure 8-Year-Old Locally Supported Land Exchange in Oregon

Today, H.R. 699, the “Mount Hood Cooper Spur Land Exchange Clarification Act,” sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) passed on suspension by a vote of 415-1. Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the follo...... Read more

Bishop Statement on the Passing of Former Delegate from American Samoa Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin

Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement upon news of the passing of Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin, former and longest serving Delegate from American Samoa in the U.S. House of Representati...... Read more

ONRR Suspends Controversial Midnight Royalty Valuation Rule Finalized Under Obama Administration

The Department of the Interior announced they will postpone the implementation of the Office of Natural Resources Revenue’s (ONRR) “Consolidated Federal Oil & Gas and Federal & Indian Coal Valuation R...... Read more

View All News

Calendar

Oversight Hearing on Modernizing Western Water and Power Infrastructure in the 21st Century
Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans | 1324 Longworth House Office Building Washington D.C. 20515
View All Events