Expect more opposition to Hawaiian programs
Federal programs assisting native Hawaiians are being challenged in Congress.
CONTROVERSY over Sen. Daniel Akaka's Hawaiian sovereignty bill has spilled over to Hawaiian funding projects that have received routine congressional approval in past decades. Enactment of the Akaka Bill would bring an end to those collateral fights, while its failure could threaten future federal assistance to worthwhile programs that assist Hawaiians.
In March, a Republican challenge complicated passage of a bill for federal funding of Hawaiian housing projects. Last week, several Republicans tried to reject a native Hawaiian housing program as part of the larger Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act.
The program provides loan guarantees for purchase of homes on Hawaiian homelands where regular home mortgages are unavailable. It also provides grants for roads and utility lines for affordable housing on Hawaiian homelands.
In previous years, approval of such measures would have been by voice vote in the House, but Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., contended that it was unconstitutional because Hawaiians lack the sovereignty of other indigenous ethnic groups.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie pointed out that the 1959 Admissions Act recognized the state's "responsibility for the maintenance of a public trust for 'the betterment of the condition of native Hawaiians.'" Funding such housing programs "is one way we comply with that law," he explained. The House approved the bill by a 333-75 vote.
"This has never been a partisan issue until this year," Abercrombie said in a news release. "I am very disappointed that opponents attack the need and legitimacy of these initiatives, which offer assistance to Native American and native Hawaiian families who are dealing with unique circumstances and problems." He can expect more of the same until the Akaka Bill becomes law.
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