Native Hawaiian caucus celebrates funding successes, big legislative wins
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Native Hawaiian causes secured unprecedented funding at the state Legislature this session.
Along with high-profile big ticket items, there was generous funding to end other longtime disputes.
All bills are now on Gov. David Ige’s desk for his consideration.
And on Wednesday, members of the Native Hawaiian Legislative Caucus came together to celebrate successes for the Hawaiian community. They included:
- $600 million for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands;
- $336 million to settle the homelands waitlist lawsuit, Kalima v. DHHL;
- $64 million for OHA for a portion of income and proceeds from public trust land;
- and $14 million toward a new Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority that replaces the University of Hawaii as the only manager.
“For the first time in over 50 years, the Mauna will be the center,” said Dr. Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, cultural practitioner.
Early in the session, Ige had worried about the future of astronomy on Mauna Kea.
But lawmakers believe he’s coming around and leaders in both houses say they’ve got support to override any potential veto.
“I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he’s pretty supportive of this bill,” said House Speaker Scott Saiki.
Increased funding for the critical issues has taken years.
The public land trust bill would raise the annual revenue payments to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs from $15.1 million to $21.5 million, providing an additional sum of $64 million.
“Some of the investments like raising the cap for OHA allows them to continue to it to invest going forward at a greater rate,” said Senate President Ron Kouchi.
Tyler Iokepa Gomes, deputy to the chair of DHHL, said the path to more funding “has been plagued over many years by the myth that the department does not need more money, by the myth that the department cannot spend money.”
Lawmakers stressed the need for Hawaiians to come to the table.
“The seeds of many of these issues were planted many years ago and it takes sustained, consistent, diligent, engagement to get things accomplished at the legislature,” state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, co-chair of Native Hawaiian Legislative Caucus. “There are more ways to serve your community and fulfill your kuleana then just protesting,” he added.
Lawmakers also approved:
- $2 million for Iolani Palace
- $17.5 million for Bishop Museum
- $38 million for Hawaiian immersion in DOE
- $400,000 for the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission.
“There are a lot of big ticket items, but the Hawaiian caucus has been working on a lot of small things,” said State Rep. Daniel Holt, co-chair of Native Hawaiian Legislative Caucus.
They also approved a taro cultivation tax exemption, water cremation as part of a Native Hawaiian burial practice along with resolutions apologizing to the Hawaiian people for banning olelo Hawaii in schools and urging the counties and the state to work with kumu hula to protect hula.
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