Ka Wai Ola

Photo: Brendon Kalei'aina Lee

With the thirtieth Hawaiʻi State Legislative session well under way, your OHA team has been working incredibly hard to ensure that our interests are being represented and our mission fulfilled.

Our Advocacy Division, specifically our Public Policy team, has tirelessly poured through the many thousands of bills that are introduced each legislative session and have spent countless hours, well-beyond the boundaries of any given work day, to prepare testimony to be passionately delivered before a great many legislative committees, spanning a wide spectrum of subject matter.

The steadfast determination of OHA is reinforced by the dedicated and most-passionate leadership of Ka Pouhana, Kamanaʻopono Crabbe and Ka Pounui, Sylvia Hussey, who, among joining our advocates to testify before the Legislature and ensuring that our interests are being represented there, have also diligently carried out their many other responsibilities at Nā Lama Kukui without falter.

Because of our immeasurable kuleana, each year, our teams are asked to operate above and beyond that of their counterparts in other organizations and sectors of business, and they have performed remarkably. While hard work is of no short supply this time of the year, neither is our appreciation and pride in our teams and with the level of work that they do.

It has been an interesting year thus far at the State Legislature, with new found interest in Native Hawaiian issues taking form in the introduction of numerous measures beneficial to Native Hawaiians and in relatively old measures now gaining traction.

With the rebirth of the Native Hawaiian Caucus under the leadership of Senator Jarrett Keohokalole and Representative Daniel Holt, Native Hawaiian issues have found their way to the forefront of the legislative session. With the support of their members, the Native Hawaiian Caucus has been able to help garnish support for several Native Hawaiian bills thus far. Equally significant, many other legislators have been rallying behind our Native Hawaiian legislators. For example, SB1451, drafted by Senator Kalani English and co-introduced by 24 other senators, would re-establish Lā Kūʻokoʻa, Hawaiian Independence Day, as an official state holiday. The bill recently passed out of the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs and now awaits scheduling by the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

Similarly, SB191, an OHA package bill, introduced by Senate President Ron Kouchi, which would increase OHA’s pro rata share of the Public Land Trust revenues from it’s current $15.1 million per year to a much more substantial and accurate amount to be used to further the betterment of conditions of Native Hawaiians, has just passed a joint-Senate Committee on Water and Land and Hawaiian Affairs, and now awaits scheduling by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. The senate committee on water and land chaired by Senator Kaialiʻi Kahele has been hearing many bills this year that affect OHA and its beneficiaries. Thru his leadership and work with committee members Senator’s Keith-Agaran, Nishihara, Riviere, Fevella, and Rhoads Native Hawaiian issues continue to move foward.

In the State House, HB402, drafted by Representative Holt and co-signed by 25 other representatives, which would increase OHA’s pro rata share, among other things, just recently passed out of Representative Ryan Yamane’s House committee on Water, Land, and Hawaiian Affairs. Representative Yamane has been receptive to helping move along funding for OHA as well as other bills for Hawaiian culture, history, land use, and funding for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Freshman Representative Tina Wildberger from Maui and a member of the House Committee on Water, Land, and Hawaiian Affairs has been a champion in the committee for not only Native Hawaiian issues but water usage and protection as well.