Pass sovereignty bill restored to original


POSTED: Sunday, February 08, 2009

Unfettered by concessions made to the Bush administration, the Akaka Bill - the original - should get the prompt approval of Congress and the signature of President Obama. Unlike the most recent version, the bill will provide long-delayed Hawaiian sovereignty on a level with American Indian tribes on the mainland.

Sen. Daniel Akaka first introduced the bill in 2000 and altered it in an attempt to satisfy President Bush by exempting the Defense Department from future land-use negotiations and denying Hawaiians the right to open gambling operations.

Still, it received unfounded opposition by Bush's Justice Department, which maintained that it would “;divide people by their race.”; The weakened bill passed the House but was successfully filibustered by Senate Republicans in 2006 by a four-vote margin.

Since then, the Senate makeup has changed drastically, and the bill should have no problem attracting the 60 votes needed to bring a final vote to the floor. An even more comfortable margin is expected in the House.

The gambling provision in the 2006 version of the Akaka Bill denied the Hawaiian government rights given to American Indian tribes more than a half-century ago by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The law allows tribes to set up gambling facilities in states where gambling is allowed.

Tribes received nearly $30 billion in casino revenue in 2006, according to the National Indian Gaming Association. The Akaka Bill could provide a lucrative source of revenue to Hawaiians by opening casinos in mainland states that allow gambling. The federal regulatory act does not allow such activity by tribes in states, including Hawaii, where gambling is illegal and should remain that way.