The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA), a network of more than 150 Hawaiian organizations convened its national teleconference call to set public policy priorities for the 2012-2013 year. CNHA publishes its top issues specifically for the state agencies of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL). A second priority list is dedicated to state and federal government issues.

“Our network added nine priorities this year, one of which is the absolute repeal of Act 55, the State Public Land Development Corporation (PLCD),” said William Fernandez, the CNHA Policy Center Chairman. “Very strong manao from leaders in our network that amending the law is insufficient, an outright repeal is required.”

Sovereignty and federal recognition continues to top federal priorities, along with reauthorization of federal housing and health programs serving Hawaiians, and strengthening the Native 8(a) business program for Native firms.

Priorities of Hawaiian leaders for DHHL, a state agency, included adequate funding in the governor’s budget to pay for the government employees working at DHHL instead of redirecting $15 million a year in beneficiary trust funds away from use for building infrastructure, which would increase land awards for homesteading. The priorities also call for the Hawaiian Homes Commission to retain separate legal counsel to ensure that the interests of beneficiaries are at the table, instead of relying solely on the legal advice of the Attorney General’s office, which has to represent the interests of state government.

“The ‘fox-in-the-chicken-coop’ dilemma of a government agency having its lawyers represent the interests of the government, while still having a trust duty to Native peoples, has long been figured out at the Federal Department of Justice,” said Robin Puanani Danner, CNHA President and CEO. “The State of Hawaii should follow suit by either clearing the way for the commission to retain additional private counsel or do as the Department of Justice does, and establish an additional office of attorneys that represent the government’s trust duty to American Indians and Alaska natives. This would be easy to do at the State Attorney General’s office for Native Hawaiians.”

Priorities for both OHA and DHHL included assisting beneficiary nonprofits to access and put through eligible projects to the legislature’s capital improvement projects bond program. “It’s clear that our Native Hawaiian community would benefit from improving our overall understanding of the CIP process, and working directly with our respective legislators to achieve funding for community priorities,” Danner said. “Speed bumps, commercial grade renewable energy retrofits on community facilities, renovations of day care centers, are all projects that need to be brought forward by the Hawaiian community just as other communities are doing really well at.”

The convening also covered the agenda for the policy roundtable scheduled for a half day at the Annual Native Hawaiian Convention scheduled for October 2 – 4 at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. The annual convention is open to the public; to register on-line go to http://www.cvent.com/d/5cqqpl/4W.

To obtain a complete copy of the CNHA policy center priorities, email policy@hawaiiancouncil.org or call the CNHA at (808) 596-8155.

CNHA is a Hawaii-based nonprofit serving a network of more than 150 organizations across the state and nation. CNHA’s mission is to enhance the well-being of Hawaii through the cultural, economic and community development of Native Hawaiians. For more information about other CNHA services, please visit the website at www.hawaiiancouncil.org.

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