Hawaii delegation recalibrates Akaka Bill


POSTED: Friday, May 08, 2009

Hawaii's congressional delegation has decided to turn to the past to advance a measure that would give native Hawaiians federal recognition similar to that of American Indians.

Yesterday, the four island Democrats reintroduced the version of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act approved by the House and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in 2007.

The version contains a specific prohibition on gaming by a native Hawaiian governing entity that would be created by the measure. All forms of gambling already are outlawed in Hawaii.

Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye reintroduced the so-called Akaka Bill in the Senate, while Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono did the same in the House.

“;We have been working together to enact the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, which is critical for the future of our state,”; the four lawmakers said in a joint news release issued in Washington. “;After careful consideration, we have decided to move forward with the version of the bill which was approved by the relevant congressional committees and the full House in 2007.”;

In March, Akaka amended the then-current version of his bill so it would specifically ban legalized gambling. He had introduced the measure earlier this year without the specific prohibition, unlike versions considered in previous years.

But the absence of the anti-gambling provision generated criticism that the governing entity could establish gaming in the islands. Gambling casinos are operated by several American Indian tribes on the mainland.