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

Panel Reviews Bipartisan Bill to Create Federal Land Inventory

Today, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a legislative hearing on H.R. 2199 (Rep Cramer, R-ND), the “Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform Act of 2017” or the “FLAIR Act.” The federal government ow...... Read more

Panel Urges Passage of Locally Supported Land Bills to Promote Economic Development and Conservation

Today, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a legislative hearing on two bills to promote economic development, improve conservation and address targeted federal land management challenges. H.R. 242...... Read more

Interior Official: Land Consolidation Program Failing Native Americans, Taxpayers

Today, the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs held a hearing on the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Cobell Land Consolidation Program. The program authorizes DOI to purchase ...... Read more

View All News

Calendar

Oversight Hearing Examining Impacts of Federal Natural Resources Laws Gone Astray
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations | 1324 Longworth House Office Building Washington D.C. 20515
Legislative Hearing on Discussion Draft of the Community Reclamation Partnerships Act
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources | 1324 Longworth House Office Building Washington D.C. 20515
View All Events