Lingle prepares to explain
Akaka bill to the president

When President Bush touches down in Honolulu tomorrow morning, Gov. Linda Lingle will be ready with a carefully honed sales pitch.

Hawaii's Republican governor will try to convince Bush that a bill in Congress to permit a form of native Hawaiian sovereignty is vital not just to Hawaiians, but to the state.

"I want, in the clearest way possible, to present the issue to him of why the Akaka bill is so important and to give him a general understanding of Hawaii, the situation here and the history," Lingle said in an interview.

"It will be a challenge, and I am giving it a lot of thought," Lingle added.

Supporters say the Akaka bill becomes critical in preserving Hawaiian programs as more federal lawsuits contest the participation of native Hawaiians.

"To someone from the outside, it is not a simple issue and we know that. We want to take a lot of time, but we are not going to have a lot of time," Lingle said.

Democratic supporters of the Akaka bill, such as U.S. Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Ed Case, have said it is up to Lingle to convince her fellow Republicans in Washington of the measure's significance, and Lingle is hoping that she will be able to at least put the issue before Bush.

"I think if I can present to him this issue of what is right and fair, we will have a good chance to capture his attention as a person and as someone who wants to do the right thing," Lingle said.

The governor had scheduled a Washington, D.C., trip last month to push for the bill in Congress, but canceled, she said, after the bill stalled.

Martha Ross, Office of Hawaiian Affairs Washington liaison, said she has not seen any movement on the bill in the Senate.

"It is really positive that she (Lingle) is going to be talking with the president. Hopefully the president and his advisers will see that it is a bipartisan issue," Ross said.

Lingle has had some extra help lobbying the bill as Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett started writing to attorneys general who might help.

"He has actually gotten them to write to the Justice Department that this bill does not violate the Constitution," Lingle said.

Bennett said he has also had success in getting at least one colleague to write to his Republican senators to explain the Akaka bill.


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