HONOLULU – Gov. Linda Lingle sent a letter yesterday to all U.S. Senators affirming her strong support of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, also known as the Akaka Bill, and encouraging them to support bringing the bill to a vote in the Senate and to vote to enact it into law.
The Governor sent the letter after reaching an agreement with Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka on changes to the bill (H.R. 2314) that address concerns she had after the Akaka Bill was amended late last year and earlier this year. Those amendments caused Governor Lingle to reluctantly withdraw her support for the bill, despite being a strong proponent of previous versions throughout her almost eight years as Governor.
In March of this year, she sent a letter to the U.S. Senators expressing her concerns about the material changes that had been made to the bill, primarily the exemption of the Native Hawaiian governing entity, its officers and employees, from the reach of many of Hawai‘i’s state laws that protect the health and safety of Hawai‘i’s citizens.
In the letter sent today, Governor Lingle said the agreed upon changes to the bill between her and Sens. Inouye and Akaka “return the bill to a form that protects health and safety in Hawaii, while providing explicit federal recognition to the only native people in the United States who lack that recognition – Native Hawaiians.”
The Governor also wrote that passage of the Akaka Bill will, “put Hawaii on an equal footing with its forty-nine sister states, and will recognize Native Hawaiians just as America recognizes it other indigenous groups. It is fair and just – nothing more, nothing less.”
Governor Lingle’s letter also said, “The Akaka Bill is constitutional, is good public policy, is (in its to-be-amended form) supported by Hawaii’s citizens, is consistent with Congress’ approach to recognition of other native peoples of America, and is just and fair.”