COURTESY OFFICE OF U.S. SEN. DANIEL AKAKA
Gov. Linda Lingle and U.S. Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye conferred yesterday after a Senate committee approved the Akaka Bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. CLICK FOR LARGE
Panel OKs Akaka Bill, programs for housing
The U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved the native Hawaiian recognition bill yesterday and reauthorized federal housing programs for Hawaii's indigenous people.
"I am pleased that these two very important bills have taken a giant step forward and are advancing through the legislative process," Sen. Daniel Inouye said in a news release issued in Washington.
Inouye said he expected the recognition bill, authored by fellow Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka, to reach the full Senate sometime after May.
Inouye said he was pleased to see Republican Gov. Linda Lingle in attendance for the votes.
Lingle is urging passage of the Akaka Bill, which would create a process for a native Hawaiian governing entity to be formed and recognized by the federal government.
"I am hopeful that she will be effective in communicating with President Bush about the worthiness and importance of the Akaka Bill," Inouye said.
Under the measure, the native Hawaiian government would be able to negotiate with the United States and Hawaii over the disposition of native Hawaiian land, assets and resources.
The Akaka Bill has run afoul of the Republican administration of President Bush, which said the legislation would divide the country along racial and ancestral lines.
"This is an important step," Akaka said. "These bills will help address the conditions of Hawaii's indigenous people, native Hawaiians, and will continue to enhance the quality of life for all the people of Hawaii.
"Today's strong committee bipartisan support for S 310 (the Akaka Bill) sends a clear message that Hawaii's congressional delegation is joined by a coalition of colleagues from all parts of the country, that the United States must fulfill its commitment to native Hawaiians," said Akaka, a native Hawaiian.
In the House, companion legislation to the Akaka Bill passed the Natural Resources Committee on May 2.
Funding for the native Hawaiian housing programs has been kept alive on a year-by-year basis after their authorization expired in 2005.