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H.R. 2314, the “Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009”

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Washington, February 23, 2010 | comments

February 23, 2010


H.R. 2314, the “Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009”


Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) and 9 cosponsors 


H.R. 2314 would create a separate, race-based government specifically for Native Hawaiians.  Just yesterday, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission reiterated its opposition to the legislation by referencing their previously-stated position that “The Commission recommends against passage of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act … or any other legislation that would discriminate on the basis of race or national origin and further subdivide the American People into discrete subgroups accorded varying degrees of privilege.”  Numerous problems with the bill, including new, undefined sovereign powers that immediately grant the native entity with immunity from lawsuit, preempt State regulation, taxation, and civil and possibly criminal jurisdiction for undefined “government activities” conducted by the entity, make it necessary for House Republicans to oppose the bill.


The Supreme Court considered a case, Rice v. Cayetano, related to the separation of American citizens into race-related classifications.  The lawsuit involved a Hawaii state law that limited to Native Hawaiians the eligibility to vote in elections for trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA).  In a 7-2 decision the Supreme Court held that such a restriction is race-based and therefore prohibited by the 15th Amendment to the Constitution.  Though the case did not involve a Native Hawaiian entity specifically recognized by Congress, the majority opinion noted that such a proposition “would raise questions of considerable moment and difficulty.  It is a matter of some dispute … whether Congress may treat the native Hawaiians as it does the Indian tribes.”


In 1959, over 94% of Hawaiian voters cast ballots in favor of statehood.  But H.R. 2314 does not provide the people of Hawaii a say in whether or not a race-based governing entity should be established in their state.  According to a December 2009 Zogby poll of registered Hawaii voters, only 34% of Hawaiians support the legislation.


Finally, Members will be voting on a new text written out of public view that will have been available to Members for less than 48 hours.  The last-minute, fundamental changes presented by this new Abercrombie substitute prompted the State of Hawaii (the Governor and Attorney General) to withdraw their support for the bill despite being longtime vocal supporters of the recognition effort.  In a statement released yesterday, Hawaii Gov. Lingle says “Ultimately, although we had good and productive discussions, the current draft of the bill is not one I can support.”


For these reasons, House Republicans oppose passage.

Provided by the Republican Leadership and the Committee on Natural Resources Republicans.

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Distributed by the Office of the Speaker