By Nina Ki, Letani Peltier, and Sharde Freitas, OHA Public Policy Advocates
Another exciting legislative session is just around the corner with opening day on Jan. 19, 2022. Although the details have not been finalized, House leadership has announced their intent to continue enabling remote meetings and testimony to enhance public participation in the legislative process, although they anticipate that with reduced pandemic restrictions, the State Capitol may be re-opening to the public soon.
OHA’s Public Policy team is looking forward to utilizing the lessons learned from the last legislative session as we continue to advocate for the lāhui at the legislature in 2022.
Public Policy has been hard at work preparing for the coming legislative session. From July through September, Public Policy advocates met with approximately 50 community organizations to discuss ideas and issues to help develop OHA’s 2022 legislative package. These important conversations yielded over 125 potential legislative concepts, which Public Policy then refined into a proposal for approval by the OHA Board of Trustees.
Ultimately, the Board of Trustees (1) approved the drafting and submission of a Public Land Trust-focused bill to the 2022 legislature; and (2) approved the measure entitled Building Back Pono: Addressing Socioeconomic Disparities in the Post-COVID Era to be included in the 2022 Legislative Package.
- The Public Land Trust – Act 273, Session Laws of Hawaiʻi 1980, enacted section 10-13.5, Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes, to implement the Office of Hawaiian affairs’ pro-rata share and provide that “[t]wenty percent of all funds derived from the public land trust . . . shall be expended by the [Office of Hawaiian Affairs] . . . for the purposes of this chapter.” The State of Hawaiʻi has 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 and to serve as a receptacle for reparations to the Native Hawaiian People. However, based on independent audits and the state’s own accounting, OHA has determined that the amount currently received falls woefully short of the 20% owed to Native Hawaiians. OHA seeks to prioritize holding the State of Hawaiʻi accountable with this measure.
- Building Back Pono: Addressing Socioeconomic Disparities for a Post-COVID-19 Era – The goal of this measure is to ensure that future developments do not amplify socioeconomic divides in Hawaiʻi as we build back smarter beyond the pandemic. The current environmental review process considers social welfare, economic welfare, and cultural practices – but does not include a specific analysis of whether an action will exacerbate existing socioeconomic disparities. Past projects that have impacted vulnerable communities or widened socioeconomic divides include the Keaukaha, Waimānalo Gulch, and Kahuku windmill controversies. By adding a socioeconomic disparities analysis to the environmental review process, this measure seeks to encourage decision-makers to consider whether a proposed project would unfairly impact disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.
Public Policy would like to extend its mahalo to everyone who participated in the legislative outreach process. The ʻike that was shared is invaluable; it helps Public Policy to better understand the various issues in the Native Hawaiian community and will help to inform Public Policy’s advocacy for years to come.