Can the Akaka bill survive legislative ineptitude?

The Akaka bill for Native Hawaiian political recognition is complex  legislation that has the potential to change life in Hawai’i in the most fundamental ways.

That’s why I always took comfort that for most of its life, the bill had the support of virtually all of the state’s political establishment from nearly every ideological stripe; I figured if something was terribly wrong, somebody would blow the whistle.

For the same reason, it made me uncomfortable when our Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye pulled out major last-minute amendments without bothering to inform Gov. Linda Lingle, costing them her support.

It was highly suspicious that the senators and the Obama administration felt a need to sneak around behind the back of a Republican governor who for seven years had been a solid ally in lobbying for the bill against the grain of national GOP opposition.

The secret changes they made to give a Hawaiian governing entity a high level of immunity from state laws before any negotiations took place were never satisfactorily explained.

Today’s announcement that Akaka and Inouye are amending the bill again to satisfy Lingle’s objections and bring her back on board restores the original political comfort level.

It’s long past time to start resolving festering Hawaiian grievances stemming from the overthrow of their monarchy, and hopefully it’s not too late to get the Akaka bill on the busy Senate calendar and overcome a threatened Republican filibuster before Congress adjourns for the election.

Akaka and Inouye entered this Congress with an early filibuster-proof Democratic majority, the support of a new president born in Hawai’i and the best chance they’ll ever have to pass this bill.

If they end up blowing it because of their inept overreaching, it’ll amount legislative malpractice.


I look at another kind of political pyrotechnics in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser, “Short of banning fireworks, at least pass a decent law.”

Explore posts in the same categories: Volcanic Ash

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7 Comments on “Can the Akaka bill survive legislative ineptitude?”

  1. Paul de Silva Says:

    A good number of us do not favor the racially exclusive Akaka bill, and it is also readily apparent that the euphoria of its possible passage will be an eventual disappointment to its proponents. Hawaiians are not an Indian tribe, and they have already been defined by the USSC as a mere race in the Rice case. Rice left open the question of whether or not Congress can invent new tribes. The Roberts court won’t buy it, and Senator Akaka’s political shoe horning will fail, and we in Hawaii can return to proper notions of racial equality.

  2. Maxcat Says:

    Well said David.

  3. Scott Goold Says:

    Aloha ~
    David wrote, “Akaka and Inouye entered this Congress with an early filibuster-proof Democratic majority …”

    A filibuster override requires 60 votes. Our senators entered the 2009 Congress with 59 Democrat votes – forcing many difficult bargains with Republican-in-practice Joe Lieberman, although they could generally count on Bernie Sanders.

    With the loss of Ted Kennedy, senate Republicans generally hold veto power over any action. This is likely why the Obama administration needs Lingle to sign off.

    Yet who is asking the kanaka maoli for their voice on this issue? David correctly points out that “it’s long past time to start resolving festering Hawaiian grievances stemming from the overthrow of their monarchy.”

    If you’re looking for a good place to begin, as this sentiment is strong on Kaua’i due the proximity to Ni’ihau, please contact:

    ‘Iokepa Hanalei ‘Imaikalani

    Whether in Afghanistan or Hawai’i, we have a very bad habit in this country of dictating to other cultures how they should live.


  4. Michael Says:

    Recently Senator Akaka and Senator Inouye have ammended the present Bill and changed some of the wording to be accepted by lingle.

  5. WooWoo Says:

    Want to talk about legislative ineptitude? Look at the estate tax situation.

    Die in 2009, 45% estate tax with $3.5m exemption
    Die in 2010, no estate tax
    Die in 2011, 55% estate tax with $1.0m exemption

    With a hypothetical $5m estate, the taxes would be $675k (2009), $0 (2010), $2.2m (2011). Whatever your opinions on the estate tax, I hope we can all agree that the law shouldn’t whipsaw like that. There will be perverse incentives in December of this year for people to pull the plug on ailing relatives or themselves. It’s not just money grubbers; WSJ reports that people are writing into their health proxies provisions that require the estate tax be taken into consideration when making end of life decisions. If I’m 85 and worth millions and I become incapacitated in December, I’d rather my family pull the plug on me on 12/31 and leave more to my heirs than drag it on two more weeks and leave less.

    Congress had 9 years (under both parties) to address this issue and never did. Given the current legislative schedule, many are doubting that they will address this before the end of the year. That’s legislative ineptitude.

  6. Aloha David:
    We are enormously touched by the compassion you express on behalf of the Native Hawaiians.
    Our friend Scott Goold on Kaua’i asked us to read your well-considered post–and also suggested that you might take look at what we’ve written about the Akaka bill.

    You and your readers might be willing to hear another point of view.
    “Stealing From The Native Hawaiians Again. (The Akaka Bill In Congress)” You’ll find it at:

    Inette and ‘Iokepa ‘Imaikalani

  7. Michael Says:

    Missionaries did enough damage.

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