April 30, 2010
State Senator Makes Revenue Sharing and Beneficiary Consultation Law on Hawaiian Home Lands
HONOLULU, HI – Senator Clayton Hee, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs, championed a policy priority of Hawaiian community leaders. A bill passed the legislature in the final week that mandates consultation with beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act before commercial leases of trust lands are executed, and requires 15 percent of lease revenue from one time extensions to fund culture and community development programs.
“It’s good legislation,” said Kamaki Kanahele, Chairman of the Sovereign Councils of the Hawaiian Homelands Assembly. “This bill is historic for Native Hawaiians. For the first time in the 90-year history of the trust, our manao and our values are part of the equation on whether lands will be leased for non-homesteading purposes - and best of all, funds will be set-aside to support cultural programs.”
The legislation started out in Representative Ito's office in the House of Representatives to open the door for commercial developers to lease Hawaiian homelands from the state for a 99-year period, without any input from the beneficiaries of the trust. Senator Hee picked the bill up when it crossed over to the Senate and brought homestead leaders to the table.
“We shared the policy priorities of the Native Hawaiian Policy Center that were adopted in 2009 by community leaders from across our network,” said Ms. Robin Puanani Danner, President and CEO of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA). “In particular, homestead leaders have consistently said they want to be included and informed when the state intends to use Hawaiian trust lands for purposes other than residential development, ranching or farming by beneficiaries as Congress intended 90 years ago.”
Leaders also advocated for the creation of a cultural fund and for a percentage of lease revenues to be set-aside for Hawaiian community and cultural practitioners, and to finally eliminate the notion of the 99-year lease authority that was in previous versions of the bill. Instead, the measure opens the door under strict criteria for a 20-year lease extension when certain conditions are met. “Crafting a more balanced and transparent approach to revenue focused leases that fit within the land use priorities of the Hawaiian Homes Commission is much more valuable and beneficial,” Danner explained. “We appreciate the work with DHHL Chairman Kaulana Park, Representative Ito, and Senator Hee in working with our policy leaders to achieve workable solutions.”
Danner and CNHA Policy Center Chair, Michelle Kauhane, met several times with Representative Ito and Senator Hee to carry the work and voices of community leaders that live and work in homestead areas every day. Kauhane remarked, “Senator Hee could see immediately the balance we were seeking, and how amendments to the measure benefit all of Hawaii, today and tomorrow. For sure, Senator Hee is the people's Senator, he has an ear to hear what the core issues are, and he's not afraid to fight for those that may not have a lobbyist to represent them. In the end, he passed an extraordinary bill, something that the State can be proud of, and certainly after 90 years, has been long in coming.”
The content of the measure:
· Puts into law, the requirement of the State Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, to engage in beneficiary consultation on any commercial lease it intends to consider;
· Requires the Administrative Rules process under Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 91 to be used to create transparent policies when the State is considering a one-time lease extension on revenue generating leases;
· Establishes a cultural fund and directs 15 percent of commercial lease revenues from extensions to the fund for homestead community uses;
· Establishes annual reporting requirements to the state legislature and the federal Department of Interior on expenditures of trust funds in the Native Hawaiian Rehabilitation Fund and the progress of DHHL in issuing leases to beneficiaries of the trust in commercial and multipurpose projects; and
· The bill goes to the Governor, and if signed into law, becomes effective July 2010.
“This is the right kind of policy making,” Kauhane continued. “It’s not just appropriate in honoring the trust responsibility of the state and federal government to the beneficiaries of the Hawaiian home land trust, it’s also visionary for the entire state. Senator Hee turned something that was short-sighted into something that is sustainable and that honors the origins of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. This bill values what is important to people and everyday community leaders over corporate special interest groups.”
CNHA is a national network of Native Hawaiian Organizations, providing assistance in accessing capital and technical resources, and is a policy voice on issues important to Native Hawaiian communities. For more information on the Native Hawaiian Policy Center, visit www.hawaiiancouncil.org
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