For years (since 1999), Daniel Akaka has been trying to make the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act law. On Friday afternoon, the minority on the House Natural Resources Committee got word that there will be a mark-up on it on Wednesday. Apparently there’s an agreement on the bill, but Republicans on the committee haven’t seen it.
The Hill rumor is that Democrats plan to attach Akaka to the Department of Defense funding bill before this session ends — basically, sneaking it in at a busy, contentious time of year to avoid full debate.
Here’s how we editorialized about the Akaka bill in 2006:
The Akaka bill is a terrible piece of legislation. Every aspect of it—from its premises to its goals to its methods—undermines the American belief that we are one people from many. It would create a separate government for “native” Hawaiians, who would in all likelihood be determined almost exclusively by bloodlines. The new government would be able to conduct sovereign-to-sovereign relations with the United States, much as Indian tribes do today. Although no one knows what the final form of the government would be, presumably some 400,000 “natives” would be invited to weigh in—even a resident of New Hampshire who has never stepped foot in Hawaii and has but a trace of Hawaiian blood would get a say in forming the new government. The most pernicious outcome is perhaps the only one that is assured: The governing entity would lead to a permanent hereditary caste in Hawaii, where natives—defined however the interim government chooses to define them—enjoy at least some rights that non-natives do not. Tax-exempt status and immunity from Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations are two possibilities.
Akaka would be an unconstitutional, race-based mistake. It shouldn’t pass. And it really shouldn’t be snuck in as Christmas gift to Daniel Akaka.