Friday, April 30, 1999

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Decision due
on ceded lands

A legislative panel will vote
whether to resolve the
dispute with OHA

By Pat Omandam


House and Senate conferees today will decide whether to pass legislation to resolve the state's ceded-lands dispute with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, or let stand a 1990 law that sets OHA annual payments at 20 percent of revenue from the public land trust.

And while House and Senate conferees mull over the issue, both Gov. Ben Cayetano and OHA Chairwoman Rowena Akana said they are open to resuming talks over past-due revenues, although the time to get an agreement done this session has all but ticked away.

Cayetano said both sides were negotiating in good faith over the last four months until a majority of OHA trustees on Tuesday voted to cease talks.

"It's unfortunate that the majority of the trustees, including three or four of them who were not negotiating for OHA, disagreed with the directions that the negotiations were heading," he said Wednesday.

"Where's it going? I think that's the end unless they want to resume negotiations, which we will always be ready to sit down and discuss with them," the governor said.

Akana, who along with trustees Clayton Hee and Hannah Springer voted against ending negotiations, said yesterday she is willing to sit down again, and not because Margery Bronster was ousted as attorney general. The OHA board never took a formal stand against Bronster, although some trustees publicly advocated her dismissal.

"I think that if there's an effort on his part to still want to settle, then you know, that's a possibility with or without her," she said.

Senate Hawaiian Affairs Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae) yesterday said conferees have taken it upon themselves to resolve the dispute over the public land trust by passing some kind of conference draft of Senate Bill 1635 SD2, HD2. Their main objectives:

Bullet Pass a bill that calls for an inventory of all 1.8 million acres of trust lands so an accurate calculation of OHA's 20 percent revenue payment can be made.

Bullet Convene a joint committee to study all land trust issues so there is agreement by all on how much OHA is owed and to avoid further litigation.

Current negotiations center around a 1996 Circuit Court decision of a 1994 lawsuit that OHA is entitled to 20 percent of other sources of revenue generated from ceded lands. The amount owed is estimated between $250 million to $1.2 billion.

The Hawaii Supreme Court has yet to rule on the state's appeal of the case, which the justices wanted settled out of court.

Bullet Decide how much OHA should receive in annual revenue payments during the expected two years this proposed joint committee is convened.

A 1997 state law that expires June 30, known as Act 329, froze OHA's payments at $15.1 million a year while a working group tackled the problem. OHA's 20 percent share of revenue is at least $30 million a year, according to testimony this session from attorney Jon Van Dyke.

OHA Ceded Lands Ruling

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