OHA Advocacy Recap of the 32nd Legislature Part 2

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Aloha mai kākou, last month, we provided a brief introduction to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ (OHA) advocacy kuleana and the work that OHA’s public policy advocates do during the legislative session. This second part of the OHA Advocacy Recap of the 32nd Legislature, 2023, will focus on OHA-tracked measures that were enrolled to the governor, as well as what’s on the horizon for the up-coming 2024 legislative session.

Act 71 (HB133 HD1 SD2 CD1) – Relating to the Budget of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs

This measure, which became law on June 7, 2023, ensures that OHA will have $3 million for beneficiary advocacy for 2023-2024 and another $3 million for beneficiary advocacy for 2024-2025. This critical funding to advance OHA’s kuleana will go specifically toward: occupancy-read housing, financial assistance to improve stability during emergency situations, educational improvement programs, legal services and representation for OHA beneficiaries, protections for ʻāina (land and water) and address climate change, and ʻohana economic stability.

Act 11 (SB731) – Relating to Hawaiian Independence Day

This measure, which became law on April 19, 2023, designates Nov. 28 of each year as “Lā Kūʻokoʻa,” also known as Hawaiian Independence Day, which celebrates the day, in 1843, when the independent status of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was first recognized by Great Britain and France (the United States would offer that recognition on July 6, 1844).

Act 83 (HB579 HD2 SD1 CD1) – Relating to Human Trafficking

This measure, which became law on June 14, 2023, requires the State Attorney General to address the needs of victims of human trafficking through the development and implementation of a statewide human trafficking prevention program and report on these efforts to the legislature. Advocating on this measure was critical for OHA, especially in light of the fact that Native Hawaiian women and girls are disproportionately represented among victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. For more information please see OHA’s collaborative report: Holoi Ā Nalo Wāhine ʻŌiwi: Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls Task Force Report

Act 86 (SB295 SD2 HD2 CD1) – Relating to the Child Welfare Services

This measure, which became law on June 14, 2023, focuses on improving the state’s child welfare system by establishing the Mālama ʻOhana Working Group within the Office of Wellness and Resilience to initiate transformative changes. OHA will have a seat on the Mālama ʻOhana Working Group, which is essential considering that Native Hawaiian keiki and ʻohana are overrepresented in the state’s child welfare system.

As of writing this article, OHA’s Public Policy division continues to track the following measures that were enrolled to the Governor:

  • HB307 HD1 SD1 CD1 – Relating to Agricultural Park Leases
  • HB364 SD1 – Relating to Trespass
  • HB365 HD1 SD2 – Relating to Special Management Areas
  • HB794 HD1 SD1 – Relating to Disability Awareness (Disability Awareness Month)
  • HB819 HD2 SD1 – Relating to Limu Kala
  • SB67 SD1 HD2 CD1 – Relating to Commercial Activities On Beaches
  • SB732 SD2 HD1 CD1 – Relating to State Holidays (Indigenous People’s Day)
  • SB739 HD1 – Relating to Desecration
  • SB759 SD2 HD2 CD1 – Relating to Health (Rural Health)
  • SB811 SD2 HD2 CD1 – Relating to Demographic Data
  • SB865 SD2 HD1 CD1 – Relating to Housing
  • SCR196 SD1 – Urging the Establishment of a Native Hawaiian Intellectual Property Working Group to Discuss Policies and Legislation with Respect to Native Hawaiian Intellectual Property

While this resolution does not have the force and effect of law, it still serves as a momentous first step toward ensuring necessary protections for the collective intellectual property rights of the Native Hawaiian people. This resolution urges the establishment of a nine-member working group to take on this specific task.

SR12 – Requesting the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to Establish and Maintain Hawaiian Cultural Centers Within the State

This resolution asks OHA to establish a system for Hawaiian Cultural Centers that are dedicated to the practice and perpetuation of Hawaiian culture. OHA strongly supported the Senate Bill version of this measure (SB733 SD1 HD1) and will likely be revisiting this issue during the upcoming session. To see OHA’s comments on this measure, please see our submitted testimony.

2024 and Beyond

Opening on the third Wednesday of January 2024, the 33rd Legislative Session will continue where 32nd Legislative Session left off – meaning that all measures that didn’t make it through their assigned committees could potentially have another chance to become law.

For OHA’s public policy advocates, this means we’ll be focusing our attention, once again, on making sure that good policy is implemented as law. While we’ll have to wait until the 2025 Legislative Session to introduce brand new measures, we do have the opportunity – in 2024 – to re-shape existing measures to better fulfill OHA’s kuleana.

As OHA public policy advocates, we guarantee our ongoing attention to a very broad spectrum of issues and policy areas that impact OHA’s interests, which of course, impacts the interests of OHA’s beneficiaries. We’ve been strategizing (this entire time) on ways to revolutionize housing, healthcare, education, and economy here in the state – innovative and culturally appropriate ways that finally address long-standing issues like the “brain drain,” inaccessibility and unaffordability of housing (and being priced out of the homeland), the forceful erosion of Native Hawaiian culture/rights/traditions, and much more.

In the coming months, OHA’s Public Policy division will be initiating multiple campaigns to develop effective policy platforms that advance these innovative solutions. So, be sure to keep checking Ka Wai Ola, and the OHA website for updates and information on how you can be a part of this great change for our better future. Mahalo nui loa.