Proposing Sufficient Sums, Independent Counsel and More

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With a little more than 12 weeks until the opening of the 2022 legislative session, the Hawaiian Homes Commission has approved 16 legislative proposals and a $312 million Sufficient Sums supplemental budget request.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands began soliciting legislative proposals from the public in July. DHHL requested that the proposals be good public policy for the Department and address operations, programs, regulations, processes, budget, resources, and create a benefit or an advantage for DHHL, the trust, trust beneficiaries, or otherwise correct a deficiency.

At the top of the list is a proposal that would allow DHHL to retain independent legal counsel. Currently, legal services for the Department are provided by the Department of the Attorney General. However, DHHL’s trust responsibility to its beneficiaries and fulfillment of its trust obligations in the interest of beneficiaries may, at times, be at odds with the interests of the state. In those scenarios, the legal guidance DHHL receives is sought to be provided strictly in the interest of the beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.

Independent counsel, hired and retained by the Department, would eliminate any cloud of uncertainty or conflicts of interest should DHHL be represented by the Attorney General’s office when they also represent the state. This measure has not previously been a part of the Governor’s legislative package but has been introduced by legislators in recent years.

All 16 proposals are on their way for review by the Department of the Attorney General, the Department of Budget & Finance, and the governor. If approved, the selected proposals will be included as proposed bills in the governor’s legislative package to go before the legislature in 2022.

The HHC has also approved a $312 million Sufficient Sums supplemental budget request drafted by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

DHHL began proposing a Sufficient Sums budget request following a 2012 Hawaiʻi Supreme Court decision that determined the Department and the Commission had breached their trust responsibilities by failing to seek the sufficient funding that the legislature is constitutionally mandated to provide.

The supplemental budget request addresses the four purposes outlined in the Hawaiʻi State Constitution and has been organized into a $263 million Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget request and an Operating budget request of $49 million.

Contained in the CIP budget are requests for design and construction funds to develop over 1,100 new homestead lots across all islands as well as funding for critical repair and maintenance projects in aging homestead communities. Although the 2021 legislative session provided DHHL with a record $78 million for Capital Improvement Projects, the Department has decades of catching up to do.

To learn more about DHHL’s Sufficient Sums supplemental budget request and its 2022 legislative proposal, visit dhhl.hawaii.gov/government-relations.