Hawaiians are entitled to 20 percent of public land trust revenues but funds in excess of a "temporary" $15.1 million annual cap are not transferred to OHA. - Image: Vimeo
As the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Public Policy team prepares for the 2018 legislative session, key priorities include securing more funding for Native Hawaiian programs, helping Hawai‘i residents achieve greater financial security and expanding protections for our cultural and natural resources.

OHA will be submitting four bills for consideration this session, as well as testifying on hundreds of other measures that impact our beneficiaries. In addition to the summaries in Ka Wai Ola, OHA’s legislative package and additional information on the bills can be found at www.oha.org/legislation, where you can also sign up to receive alerts about opportunities to testify at upcoming hearings. The webpage will be updated throughout the session to keep beneficiaries informed about any changes or amendments to the bills.

The 2018 session opens on Jan. 17 and adjourns on May 3.

Fulfilling the State’s Public Land Trust Revenue Obligations

Nearly 40 years have passed since the state formally recognized that “twenty percent of all funds derived from the public land trust” must be set aside to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for the betterment of the conditions of Native Hawaiians. However, after decades of litigation and negotiation over the interpretation of this requirement, in 2006, the Legislature and OHA agreed to $15.1 million as the temporary amount that should be transferred annually to OHA. Act 178 also required state agency reporting to provide data on what revenue was being generated from the use of public land trust (PLT) lands. Based on independent audits, and the state’s own accounting, this “interim” amount falls far short of the 20 percent of PLT revenues that Native Hawaiians and OHA are entitled to.

  • Intent: This measure will seek to ensure that OHA’s constitutional and statutory right to a pro rata share is more adequately reflected and that the state’s PLT obligations to Native Hawaiians are fulfilled.
  • Get informed: Watch “Public Land Trust: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” at www.kamakakoi.com/plt.

Expanding the Native Hawaiian Law Training Course

Since 2015, members of various state boards and commissions have been required to attend an OHA-sponsored Native Hawaiian Law Training Course, making key state policymakers more mindful of their legal obligations to Hawaiians, Hawai‘i’s political history, the public trust, Native Hawaiian traditional and customary rights, water law and Native Hawaiian burials.

  • Intent: This measure would broaden the impact of the highly-successful Native Hawaiian Law Training Course by expanding the list of required attendees to include relevant state and county officials, ensuring that a broader range of individuals who develop and implement policies involving our cultural and natural resources are more fully aware of the state’s obligations to Native Hawaiians and the public trust.
  • Get informed: ow.ly/1WTf30hfRMD

Supporting Housing Security and Asset Building for Low-Income Beneficiaries

Certain Individual Housing Account (IHA) holders can deduct IHA savings from their adjusted gross income up to a certain limit, reducing their state taxes and allowing them to qualify or maintain their eligibility for tax credits and social services as they save to purchase a home or secure a rental unit. However, these deductions are currently not allowed for IHAs administered by Community-Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), including programs used by many of OHA’s beneficiaries. There is also no deduction for rental IHAs, which are used by houseless individuals and families to secure rental units.

  • Intent: This proposal would promote the financial security of low-income beneficiaries who save money in CDFI-administered IHAs by allowing such individuals to deduct their IHA savings from their adjusted gross income. More specfically, this measure would expand the AGI deduction categories to include CDFI-administered IHAs and Rental IHAs. The bill also calls for updating the original AGI deduction limits for IHAs, established in 1982, which have remained at $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for married couples; a Rental IHA limit of $2,500 would also be established.

Reclaiming Nā Pili ‘āina through Hawaiian Cultural Reserves

Hawai‘i’s long history of changing land uses and development, in combination with changing socioeconomic and political landscapes, has severed the connections between many Native Hawaiians and the lands their ‘ohana have known for generations. Protections currently in place do not serve as a comprehensive mechanism for blanket recognition, nor do they serve to restore resources, sites or practices that underlie the connection between Native Hawaiians and the ‘āina, and that have already been displaced or lost by prior land use activities. Setting aside land in certain developments for “Hawaiian Cultural Reserves” – tailored to accommodate traditional resources and cultural practices specific to their respective locales – would more proactively recognize and restore the cultural significance of lands proposed for development, and help to restore and perpetuate Native Hawaiian cultural connections that have been lost for decades, if not generations.

  • Intent: This measure would require counties to establish ordinances and rules for the dedication of land in certain proposed subdivisions and condominium property regimes for Hawaiian Cultural Reserves purposes, subject to exceptions based on special circumstances to be determined by each county.
  • Get informed: Sign up to help at www.oha.org/legislation.