For those who thought that the change in Congress meant a respite from the imminent threat of the Akaka Bill, think again. In what might be something of a desperation move, the legislature has introduced a bill that purports to recognize a Native Hawaiian tribe through the state. (Essentially, a state version of the Akaka Bill–you can read the full text here (House version) and here (Senate version).)
I can pick on all sorts of things in this–the historical revisionism, the doubtful claims, the questionable legislative findings–but we’ve been down this path many times before. And you may be thinking that there’s little chance it would pass, or that it would likely fail a test of constitutionality. But that’s not the point. This is pure politics at work. If the legislature can pass the bill, then it operates as a powerful argument in Washington that Hawaii is united behind the Bill–and frankly, the Inside-the-Beltway types tend not to pay much attention to what we are doing out here, so they would likely take that at face value. (And OHA is going to be spending far more money telling them that’s the case than any opponents to Akaka would be able to raise.) There is, however, a bright side. If the state bill were to fail, that would make Congress less inclined to take up the Akaka Bill again. So, if this is an issue you care about, this is a good time to contact your state legislator and share your views.