2 senators oppose Akaka Bill
The GOP legislators want Congress to delay voting until an isle referendum is held
While Gov. Linda Lingle's administration is lobbying in Congress for passage of the Native Hawaiian Recognition Act, two fellow Republicans in the state Senate are trying to block it.
Sens. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) and Gordon Trimble (R, Downtown-Waikiki) have introduced two resolutions in the Legislature, SCR 78 and SR 51, asking Congress to delay voting on the bill until a referendum on it can be held in Hawaii.
The measure, which sets the framework for native Hawaiians to organize a government that would negotiate with the state and federal government regarding native Hawaii claims, has been dubbed the Akaka Bill after its sponsor, U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka.
The Slom and Trimble resolutions attack the federal legislation, saying it is too broad and poorly defined.
"Key components of the Akaka Bill shock the conscience of all reasonableness in several ways offensive to the citizens of the state of Hawaii," the resolutions say. "Nothing in the bill guarantees the governing entity will be carried out in a democratic form. The bill fails to guarantee that the Bill of Rights are incorporated into the governing entity."
Last year, Slom was the only legislator to vote against a resolution supporting the Akaka Bill.
Slom said yesterday he "generally" did not support the Akaka Bill, adding that "it has had more debate in Washington than in Honolulu."
Micah Kane, Hawaiian Home Lands Department director, said having a longtime Republican like Slom oppose the bill will not hurt it as it goes before Republicans in Congress.
"Our Legislature made it clear about their support for the Akaka Bill, and they were re-elected. That shows their constituents are in support of the bill," Kane said. "We respect Sen. Slom's position but we disagree with it."
Clyde Namuo, Office of Hawaiian Affairs administrator, said the state Constitution does not provide for issues to be decided by referendum, so it would be impossible for Congress to wait for a Hawaii referendum on the Akaka Bill.
"Every legislator with the exception of Sen. Slom has supported passage of the Akaka Bill. It would appear to us that these senators and representatives represent all the voters in the state, and that is a sufficient plebiscite for us," Namuo said.
Asked if the opposition would damage the bill's chances before Congress, Namuo said Lingle's stature with the GOP majority would trump Slom's GOP status.
"The governor has great respect from members of Congress and the administration," Namuo said. "I don't believe that Sen. Slom being against this legislation will have any effect on this legislation.
"Her reputation is so positive, I don't think it matters that a senator from Hawaii Kai opposes this piece of legislation," he said.