The House of Representatives announced this morning that three of its committees have jointly passed a new version of a bill that adopts legislative policy on and enables the settlement agreement between the State and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). The bill proposes to resolve thirty years of uncertainty, including court challenges, on how the State should meet its constitutional obligations to transmit to OHA a pro-rata portion of the income and proceeds from the public land trust.
House Bill 266, House Draft 2, RELATING TO HAWAIIAN AFFAIRS, cleared the joint committees of Water, Land, Ocean Resources & Hawaiian Affairs; Judiciary; and Finance.
While the basic terms and conditions of the agreement reached between the State Administration and OHA were not objectionable to the joint committees, the form of the original bill (HB2701) was rejected because of legal and technical reasons. As now amended, the bill is acceptable to all.
"The significance of the bill is that it sets the stage for the settlement agreement to go forward," said Rep. Ken Ito, the chair of the Committee on Water, Land, Ocean Resources & Hawaiian Affairs. "This bill is a compromise reached through the hard work of OHA and its attorneys, the Attorney General and his deputy, and the House Majority Staff Office."
The basic terms and conditions under the agreement initially reached between OHA and the State Administration remain intact:
(1) For addressing past amounts in dispute between November 7, 1978 to July 1, 2008, OHA will receive $13,189,860 in cash and three state-owned areas of land. The land areas are in Kakaako Makai, Kalaeloa Makai (former Campbell feedlot), and Hilo Banyan Drive. The total assessed value of the land is $186,810,140.
(2) For addressing future amounts, OHA will receive $15,100,000 in fiscal year 2008-09 and at least an equivalent amount in each fiscal year thereafter. The Legislature is required to review and set the amount to be transmitted to OHA biennially, with $15,100,000 serving as the floor baseline for each future fiscal year. If, for some reason, the Legislature fails to set the amount for a fiscal year, the Governor is required to do so. If both the Legislature and Governor fail to set the amount for a fiscal year, then the amount to be transmitted to OHA is the same as that transmitted in the previous fiscal year.
In return, the bill protects the State from future lawsuits intended to change or overturn the policies established by the bill and the terms and conditions of the agreement between the State Administration and OHA on the issue; essentially, the bill withdraws any waiver of sovereign immunity.
HB266, HD2 now goes for a vote before the entire House where it is expected to pass and then cross over to the Senate for review in that chamber.