Akaka Bill is amended to block legal gambling


POSTED: Thursday, March 26, 2009

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka has amended his bill that would start the process of creating a governing entity for native Hawaiians so it specifically bans legalized gambling.

Akaka reintroduced the measure earlier this year without the specific prohibition, unlike versions considered in previous years.

But the absence of that provision generated criticism that a native Hawaiian governing entity could establish gaming in a state that otherwise bars all forms of gambling. Gambling casinos are operated by several American Indian tribes on the mainland.

“;As an indigenous people that exercised governance until the U.S. overthrow (in 1893), native Hawaiians deserve the same opportunity to preserve their culture, language and traditions as indigenous people on the mainland. This change in the legislation should make the bill's intent clear and remove any distractions from its thoughtful consideration,”; Akaka and the three other members of Hawaii's all-Democratic congressional delegation said in a prepared statement that was released yesterday.

Akaka, Sen. Daniel Inouye and Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono introduced the slightly modified version of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act.

The measure would provide a process for federal recognition of native Hawaiians, similar to the government-to-government relationship provided to American Indians and Alaska natives. That would allow native Hawaiians to negotiate directly with local, state and federal governments over such issues as control of natural resources, lands and assets.

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle was unhappy when the so-called Akaka Bill was reintroduced in February, because the anti-gambling provision had been removed. Lingle said at the time that she asked for that provision in previous versions of the bill and supported those measures.

With Hawaii-born Barack Obama in the White House, supporters of the bill are hopeful it will now become law. Obama promised during the presidential campaign that he would sign the measure if it passes while he is president.