OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

2016 OHA Legislative Package

As part of its mandate to advocate for Native Hawaiians, each year OHA submits a package of proposed bills to the Hawaii State Legislature, and the agency’s Board of Trustees also votes to take positions on a wide variety of legislation impacting the Hawaiian community. The following are summaries of the bills approved by the OHA Board of Trustees and put forward as OHA’s 2016 state legislative package. Review OHA’s 2014 and 2015 legislative efforts.

HCR188: Establishing a Committee to Negotiate OHA’s Pro Rata Share of the Public Land Trust

STATUS: Passed

HCR188 Hawaiʻi’s Constitution guarantees OHA’s right to receive a share of the income of the Public Land Trust (comprised of Hawaiian Kingdom government and crown lands) for the betterment of the conditions of native Hawaiians.  While state law requires that OHA expend 20% of all funds derived from the trust, for decades OHA and the state disagreed on how to calculate OHA’s 20% share.

Most recently in 2006, OHA and the state agreed on Act 178 as an interim resolution and established OHA’s temporary annual share at $15.1 million “until the further action is taken by the legislature.” Importantly, the Legislature included a provision for reporting from state agencies on proceeds and revenues, and this data can now be used to compute OHA’s 20% share.

According to the state’s own reports, the state generated an average of $158,077,656 annually in Public Land Trust revenues in the last 3 fiscal years, 20% of which is $31,615,531, more than twice $15.1 million. Moreover, the state’s transfers to OHA, which are calculated using historically undisputed revenue streams, have exceeded the $15.1 million cap in each fiscal year since 2013.  As a result, OHA has returned approximately $8 million to the state, which could be helping Hawaiians right now.  Clearly the temporary cap is no longer fair and the issue should be re-evaluated by OHA and the State.

By requesting the establishment of a negotiating committee to help resolve the appropriate amount OHA is due annually, this measure represents the first major step taken in the last 10 years toward ensuring that Hawaiians receive a fair share of Public Land Trust revenues.

SB2127, HB1658: Promoting Better Management of Mauna Kea Lands

STATUS: Dead

SB2127, HB1658 Concerns over the appropriate use and stewardship of Mauna Kea have persisted for the past four decades. Environmental groups, cultural practitioners, and even the state Auditor’s office have repeatedly expressed discontent with the University of Hawaiʻi’s stewardship of Mauna Kea’s natural and cultural resources.  As one of our state’s most sacred sites, Mauna Kea should be managed in a way that respects its value and significance, and in a manner that instills public confidence.

Over the years, observatory subleases presented the University with numerous opportunities to charge sufficient rent to care for Mauna Kea.  However, even the most recently approved sublease for the $1.3 billion Thirty Meter Telescope – the only sublease to charge more than a nominal $1 rent – would provide just a portion of the funds needed for proper management.  Accordingly, the University uses an unknown amount of taxpayer funds, research dollars, and grant funds, to supplement management and stewardship of Mauna Kea.

Given its unquestioned significance, OHA recognizes that additional steps need to be taken to ensure the proper management of Mauna Kea. While not taking a position for or against future subleases, this bill requires a “fair rate of return” for any subleases, observatory and otherwise, taking into account the costs of management and environmental and cultural mitigation, through an open, public process established through administrative rules. Learn more about this bill by reading the whitepaper.

SB2126, HB1657: Improving the Environmental Review Process

STATUS: Dead

SB2126, HB1657 Hawai‘i’s environmental review laws are intended to require agencies to take a “hard look” at the environmental and cultural impacts of their decisions, such as permit and zoning approvals for developments.  These laws require the preparation of environmental assessments (EAs) and environmental impact statements (EISs) for applicable “actions,” which provide an analysis of a proposed action’s potential impacts as well as mitigation measures.

For the review process to be successful, agencies and applicants should conduct broad consultation with experts and community members as early as possible. Of particular value is the input of those who are intimately familiar with the natural resources, cultural sites, and cultural practices associated with a given action area.  However, the process for gathering such input is not clearly defined, and outreach approaches may vary significantly, often resulting in people learning about actions in their communities only after substantial project planning has taken place.

Accordingly, this measure would require signage at the site of a proposed action early in the environmental review process, to solicit comments from those with particular environmental or cultural knowledge of the project area.  This in turn would facilitate more fully-informed decision-making, reduce the potential for unnecessary or unforeseen impacts, and potentially prevent conflicts. Learn more about this bill by reading the whitepaper.

 

SB2125, HB1656: Addressing a Loophole Used to Sell Off Public and “Ceded” Lands

STATUS: Dead

SB2125HB1656 Passed in 2009, Act 176 partially settled a lawsuit in which OHA and others sought to prevent the state from alienating “ceded” lands until the Native Hawaiian people’s claims to those lands have been resolved. The Act requires legislative approval for any proposed sale of public land, including “ceded” lands.  An exception to these requirements is for the sale of “remnants,” which are usually vacated or abandoned roads or lands that were condemned but are no longer needed.  As a result of these characteristics, remnants are usually small parcels of land that are not economically or physically suitable for development.

In recent years, the BLNR has used a broad interpretation of remnant to classify and sell two significant parcels of state land, including a five-acre parcel of “ceded” lands containing a stream and waterfall.  These sales occurred without any legislative approval as would be otherwise required under Act 176.

Accordingly, this measure would seek to give OHA the right of first refusal for any proposed remnant sales, to ensure that public lands, including “ceded” lands, are not being inappropriately classified as remnants and sold in contravention to the purpose and intent of Act 176. Any ceded lands inappropriately classified as “remnants,” could instead be purchased and held in trust by OHA, on behalf of the Native Hawaiian community. Learn more about this bill by reading the whitepaper.

 

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