WASHINGTON >> A Senate panel approved the newest version of a Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill today, signaling the start of a last-ditch campaign to gain a full Senate vote on the measure before its chief sponsor retires.
"We’re still trying to the very end to get something that we will be striving to pass," said Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, the bill’s chief sponsor who retires in four months.
For a dozen years, Akaka, chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, has sought full Senate approval of the measure which would create a process for Native Hawaiian self government, only to be blocked by Republican colleagues.
The new bill is a stripped-down version of a Native Hawaiian bill the committee passed last year. It drops provisions that created a process to determine who qualifies as Native Hawaiian and enrolls them as part of creating a new Native Hawaiian government. A new Native Hawaiian Roll Commission, set up by the state Legislature, is now performing those functions.
The bill now focuses on a structured process to reorganize a Native Hawaiian government, including drafting and ratification of a constitution and by-laws and the election of officers, with similar federal privileges given to federally recognized Native American tribes.