Last month our lāhui gathered to commemorate the 125th anniversary of our nation’s overthrow, as the 2018 Hawai‘i State legislative session commenced. It was a beautiful and powerful demonstration of ‘onipa‘a, our steadfast spirit, and I was so proud to march alongside with you. This month we celebrate the revitalization of our nearly lost language, ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i. May we remember during this year’s Hawaiian Language Month the heroes that ensured the growth of our language, and the establishment of our immersion programs and schools, a privilege that my youngest mo‘opuna, Kahiau, gets to experience at his kula kamaiki ‘o ‘Aha Pūnana Leo. E ola mau i ka ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i.
As the legislative session is underway, I have a simple message for the lāhui: Engage. Over the years our people have created political factions and viewpoints across the spectrum. I encourage you that wherever you stand on the political spectrum, that you engage with the process that we can directly affect today. It does not matter where your political leanings lie, we must engage. When we take our place in this system, that we must all operate and adhere to, our voices will be heard and must be addressed.
The saying is old and cliché, but if you no vote, no grumble. We must remember that true power is with the people. And this year, OHA needs you. We need your lobbying spirit to support OHA’s legislative agenda to ensure our people get the resources that are constitutionally mandated. I have briefly outlined below the four proposed bills that we have submitted as an agency to the legislature this year.
- The first measure would increase the payment amount to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Pro Rata Share of the Public Land Trust (PLT), which is 20 percent of the revenue generated from the PLT. Not only will this measure increase the payments to the obligated annual amount to OHA, the bill is also requiring a lump sum of all Pro Rata Share funds, which have not been paid to OHA, since 2012. This lump sum would amount to $119 million.
- OHA’s second bill would require additional government decision makers to enroll in the Native Hawaiian Law Training Course. This will allow more of our government at all levels to understand their commitment to the beneficiaries of OHA, with respect to the rights of Native Hawaiians. This will translate to more legislation that supports our people’s rights.
- OHA’s third bill ensures better tax deductions, and therefore, increasing individuals’ chances to purchase their own home, or more easily secure funds to rent. It will lobby to support housing security and asset building for low income beneficiaries.
- Lastly, the fourth measure would protect more of our lands as a cultural resource for our people. This bill would require each county to identify ordinances and rules for the dedication of land in certain proposed subdivisions and condominium property regimes for Hawaiian Cultural Reserve purposes.
To read a more in-depth synopsis or an actual copy of the proposed bills, please visit www.oha.org/legislation.
As we gathered as one people on that 125th day of remembrance of our overthrown nation, continue that spirit of aloha ‘āina for the future of our people, and be engaged. As the government decision makers heard our songs of aloha for our lost nation, may they confront the obligations mandated by the constitution of the State of Hawaii. May they hear your voice again throughout this year’s legislative session as we unite. The power is with you, and OHA is with you, e ku‘u lāhui.