for free UH tuition
Supporters want to keepBy Pat Omandam
the bill alive this session
Supporters of free tuition for Hawaiians at the University of Hawaii are expected to rally at the State Capitol today in a last-ditch effort to keep the possibility alive this legislative session.
"I just think it's do or die," said UH Hawaiian studies professor Haunani-Kay Trask, who listed the UH Center for Hawaiian Studies and the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii as among the rally's organizers.
Organizers say they want the Senate Ways and Means Committee to pass out Senate Bill 456, SD1 so the full Senate can vote on the measure and, if approved, forward it to the House for debate.
The measure was referred to the money committee after a joint Senate panel approved it on Feb. 19.
"Our whole attempt is to bring a focus to the issue, and we don't want the bill to die," said UH Regent Wayne Panoke, a strong advocate of Hawaiian tuition waivers.
The Ways and Means Committee has not scheduled the bill for decision making, but that doesn't mean it will not be heard. Committee Co-chairwoman Carol Fukunaga (D, Makiki) yesterday said the measure will be taken up with other appropriation bills when the state budget is discussed.
The deadline for committees to approve any bill for crossover to the other chamber is next Thursday.
As amended, the bill would earmark money to the Office of Hawaiians Affairs to offset the cost of granting the tuition waivers. The UH has estimated the cost at $7.2 million a year.
Eligible would be Hawaiian students enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate degree course in the UH system, or who are participating in student recruitment programs.
"Hawaiian" is defined in the bill as any descendant of the aboriginal peoples who lived in Hawaii in 1778, and who has continued to live here.
The cost of the waivers would be deducted from any claims of ceded land revenues owed and paid by the state to OHA. Those claims are being negotiated.
OHA in October passed a resolution supporting tuition waivers for Hawaiians, but said the issue must remain separate from the ceded lands talks.
The bill would be effective for a year and expire on June 30, 2000.
A House bill that would have appropriated money to the university to use for Hawaiian tuition waivers died last month because there wasn't enough time for the House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee to hear it and pass it out, says Chairman Paul T. Oshiro (D, Ewa Beach).
But Oshiro said he expects the Senate to pass out the companion measure.
Today's rally was scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Capitol courtyard. Trask anticipated it could draw up to several hundred people.
Meanwhile, the UH Board of Regents have agreed to hold public hearings on each campus to discuss free tuition for Hawaiians.
Panoke said the board has not taken an official position on the bill, although the UH administration had opposed it because it infringes on the recent autonomy granted to the UH.
Hawaii Revised Statutes