Senate committee approves Native Hawaiian measure

WASHINGTON (AP) - A bill that would give Native Hawaiians the opportunity to form their own government has cleared its first and easiest hurdle in the current Congress.

On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approved by voice vote legislation that has been long sought by Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka, the committee's chairman.

If the bill were to become law, Native Hawaiians would begin a process of re-establishing a Hawaiian government that could negotiate its responsibilities and assets with the state of Hawaii and the federal government.

The bill would essentially treat Hawaiians on par with 565 federally recognized Indian tribes.

The legislation has strong backing from the state's congressional delegation.

But it's unclear where the measure will go from here as prospects for the legislation dimmed considerably when the GOP took control of the House.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.