State’s OHA deal fails
The proposed $200 million Office of Hawaiian Affairs settlement appears dead for this year's legislative session.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said yesterday that OHA trustees voted to urge the Legislature to pass a bill directing OHA to spend another year in negotiations.
Earlier this year, Gov. Linda Lingle and OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona concluded four years of negotiations with a deal that would have given OHA more than $187 million in land on Oahu and in Hilo, plus a $13 million payment and a promise to give OHA an additional $15 million every year.
But some native Hawaiian beneficiaries, including several Hawaiian homestead organizations, said not enough was known about the settlement and complained that they were not consulted. While trustees endorsed the settlement, several former trustees said the offer was too broad and limited native Hawaiians' ability to sue for past damages.
Yesterday, Hanabusa, who had not supported the settlement, said she met last week with trustees and attorneys representing OHA. "They want to continue to negotiate for the upcoming year and to hold public meetings no less than once a month," she said.
"To me, this is a very good position. I think they realize they need to touch bases with their beneficiaries," added Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua).
The new plan was called a compromise by Senate GOP leader Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo).
"While I think it would have been a win-win for everybody if there was a settlement, I think they tried to get it through this year and they couldn't," Hemmings said.
"As I understand it, it would be compromise to keep the issue alive for another year, so it is not dead."
Hanabusa said the new proposal would direct OHA and the state to continue to negotiate.
"Basically, it orders the attorney general back to the table with OHA, and the AG doesn't have the prerogative of saying he didn't want to talk," she said.
Attorney General Mark Bennett said the settlement already reached was fair and reasonable.
"To the extent that this means a bill will be in conference, it is better to have a bill alive in conference than no bill at all," Bennett said, noting that the new proposal must still be negotiated by both the House and Senate.
Clyde Namuo, OHA administrator, said the issue "is in the hands of the Legislature."