Isles' senators stay committed to Akaka Bill


POSTED: Thursday, January 21, 2010

U.S. Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye plan to press forward with the Akaka Bill even though a Republican's upset victory in Massachusetts puts an end to the Democrats' filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

The election of Scott Brown on Tuesday to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy adds another vote to the Republican minority, which has generally aligned itself against the bill.

The Akaka Bill, which would set up the framework to organize a native Hawaiian government, was blocked by the threat of a Republican filibuster in 2007.

And most of the bills passed by the Senate recently have required 60-vote thresholds to override Republican efforts to keep measures from coming to the Senate floor for a full vote.

However, Akaka's office noted yesterday that even before Brown's election, the bill enjoyed the support of all Democrats and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

The bill passed Senate and House committees in December and is awaiting votes on the floor of the Senate and House, said Akaka spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke. The bill is expected to pass the House and has President Barack Obama's support, so its fate lies with the Senate.

“;Senators Akaka and Inouye remain committed to bring the bill to the floor this year,”; Van Dyke said.

He said Akaka and Inouye do not take any votes for granted and will continue to work with their colleagues to emphasize the importance of this bill for Hawaii.


The Akaka Bill, formally known as the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, would allow the formation of a governing body for native Hawaiians to negotiate with the state and federal governments over land and other resources.

The House passed the bill in 2000 and 2007, but it stalled in the Senate.

It appeared to have its best chances in years with the 60-vote Democratic majority.

Now Akaka Bill opponents see the tide turning in their favor with the election of Brown.

“;It's definitely a game-changer as far as national politics and rightly so,”; said Republican state Sen. Fred Hemmings.

Hemmings said the federal government has been intruding too much into states' rights.

Hemmings favors establishing a Hawaiian trust that would include the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.