House District 13

Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

DHHL List Assets, Shortfalls, Future Plans

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2010 at 9:31 pm

HONOLULU—Spokespersons from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands convened at the Capitol on February 17 for an informational briefing on their financial assets and plans to increase revenue in the future.  Chairman Kaulana Park stated that the Department’s plan for attaining economic self-sufficiency is twofold: first, researching its options in terms of how to maximize revenue produced from existing properties, and second, exploring which commercial options are viable means of producing stable income.  Representative Mele Carroll (D-13th), Chair of the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs, questioned Park and his associates regarding how much revenue DHHL has been able to generate, whether an aggressive plan is being shaped to meet their revenue goals, how DHHL intends to pay the plaintiffs in Kalima vs. DHHL, and what DHHL is doing to place more Native Hawaiians on their land.

According to their annual report, DHHL generated $14.4 million in revenue in 2009, a figure almost double their listed $7.4 million earnings in 2003. Park stated that DHHL intends to increase this figure to $30 million in 2015, an effort that may or may not be realized in light of the current deficit.  DHHL is currently researching potential sources of revenue, including commercial leases and governmental grants at a federal level.  Doing so is highly important, as they will no longer receive $30 million annually from the State in 2015.  Additionally, DHHL stated that its operational costs are currently $22 million and will likely rise in the future.

Representative Mele Carroll asked if DHHL makes any effort to support Native Hawaiian business owners when administering commercial leases.  Park stated that of 113 commercial leases DHHL has granted, between 5 and 7 went to Native Hawaiians and claimed that a revised strategic plan would provide that more Hawaiian business owners will be helped in the future.

Citing Kalima vs. DHHL, which requires that damages be paid to over 1,000 plaintiffs who were waitlisted twenty years or longer, Representative Mele Carroll asked what DHHL is doing to ensure that its beneficiaries are provided with adequate and efficient service and how many Native Hawaiians are currently waitlisted.  Park admitted that DHHL doesn’t have a precise figure and is still assessing how many people are still waiting for land.  He said that once that number is determined, DHHL will be better able to serve its beneficiaries.

Representative Mele Carroll pointed out that if these applicants are not placed quickly, more lawsuits could be brought against DHHL.  She said, “If this is the case, and DHHL is unable to pay damages, then that responsibility will fall to the State. I’m worried that the outcome of the funding issue will be that we legislators will be forced to raise taxes, not by 1%, but by up to 5%.  Personally, I think that raising taxes should be a last resort and I’m not at all comfortable doing that unless we’ve discussed every other option.  I introduced the gaming bill to help supplement your budget, but I am not attached to it and I do want to hear whether you have an aggressive plan in the works to generate revenue and, if so, how we as lawmakers can help you.”

In response, Park stated that he appreciated the Representative’s concern and passion on the matter and that while DHHL has not yet established an itemized plan, they are currently researching what course of action will best meet their funding needs.  Bobby Hall, another DHHL spokesman, said that they are looking into ranching and aquaculture as future sources of revenue and will travel to Washington D.C. next week in an effort to acquire funding for that purpose.

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Committee on Hawaiian Affairs Pass Bills on Prisoner Reintegration,

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2010 at 9:25 pm

HONOLULU—The House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs convened on February 10 to discuss and hear testimony on five bills dealing with subject matter that ranges from restructuring the way in which prisoners are rehabilitated to honoring Hawai`i’s kupuna for their work within the community.  Chairperson Mele Carroll presided over the hearing and, with the Committee’s concurrence, passed the following bills.

 HB 1778 requests that the Na Ala Hele Program within the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to conduct a study on the feasibility of designating a trail between Kaupo to Kapalua as an important path to the Hawaiian community.  The bill recommends that the Pi`ilani trail be opened to the public if it meets the requirements. 

The spokespeople for the Maui County Council and Kanaka Council Moku O Keawe testified in support of this bill, whereas the department of Land and Natural Resources opposed it for budgetary reasons.  The Committee passed the bill with amendments to correctly reflect the intent of the bill to designate the public lands from Kaupo to Kapalua along the Pi`ilani trail as an important Hawaiian coastal cultural heritage corridor; to delete a section that would require Na Ala Hele to report requirements, including a proposed budget, to the legislature; to change the effective date upon the bill’s approval; and to make the language more consistent and transparent.

HB 1796 requires that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) create a kupuna honorary degree program, which would award the pohaku degree, the Hawaiian equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize, to qualified kupuna worldwide.  The Committee voted to pass an amended version of this bill wherein the word “shall” is changed to “may” so to provide OHA the flexibility to implement the program when financial resources become available.

HB 1818 requires the Department of Public Safety to combine cognitive behavioral theory with Native Hawaiian holistic interventions such as ho`oponopono as a means of rehabilitating prisoners.  This program would address issues such as domestic violence, addictions, self-mastery through identity, and community connections to promote successful transitions into the community and reduce recidivism.

The Community Alliance on Prisons, the Institute for Family Enrichment, LLC, and Kanaka Council Moku O Keawe testified in support of this bill, while the Department of Public Safety opposed it, partly for budgetary reasons.  However, because the bill only applies to new contracts, it should not impact the budget unnecessarily.  The Committee voted to pass an amended version of this bill that contains a severability clause and technical amendments to the language.

The last two bills raised the question as to which figures from Hawai`i’s era as an independent nation should be commemorated.  HCR 8 urges strongly that the portraits of officials of the Provisional Government of Hawai`i be removed from display in positions of honor in State government buildings.  The Provisional Government consisted of those individuals who initiated the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and eventually the illegal annexation of Hawai`i as a territory of the United States.  The Committee voted to pass the bill unamended.

HCR 9 urges that a task force convene to consider the merits of building a monument to Queen Ka`ahumanu in or near Hana, Maui.  The task force would collaborate with the appropriate Native Hawaiian organizations, kupuna in the Hawaiian community, and DLNR to discuss this measure.  The Committee voted to pass this bill with amendments to state that the Hawai`i Legislature and OHA strongly support the efforts of the current working group in creating a monument to Queen Ka`ahumanu and that the convening of a new task force would be unnecessary.

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HB 2672 Resolves Debt to OHA

In News Release on February 19, 2010 at 9:03 pm

The four chairs discuss the bill.

 

HONOLULU—During a joint hearing between the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs and the Committee on Water, Land, and Ocean Resources on Febrary 3, Representative Mele Carroll (D-13th) introduced a bill that would compel the State to resolve an outstanding debt of $200 million to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA).  As noted in the bill, “The purpose of this Act is to allow the State to most effectively and responsibly make progress toward meeting part of its constitutional obligation to Native Hawaiians by addressing the additional amount of income and proceeds that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is to receive from the public trust.”

An amendment to Hawaii’s Constitution stipulates that 80% of the monies from the public land trust go toward a fund for the general public and 20% go to OHA for the betterment of Native Hawaiians.  However, between 1978 and 2008, the State failed to disperse the monies that OHA was guaranteed.  HB 2672 addresses this matter by requiring that the State Government pay OHA $30 million per year starting in 2015.

Previous attempts to settle this debt were either turned away by the Hawai`i Supreme Court on technicalities or provided only minimal payments to OHA.  Representative Mele Carroll, who chairs the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs, says that “After thirty years of skirting this issue, the Legislature needs to lay out a plan that will pay OHA back gradually so that the State budget is not depleted.”

As OHA testified, the State is currently making annual payments of $30 million to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), but will no longer do so after 2015, meaning that those funds would become available.  OHA also predicted that the state economy will have recovered from the recession by the time the initial payment would take place.

The Committees approved and passed this bill with amendments.  Representative Mele Carroll said that she is optimistic that the payments made “will greatly assist OHA on their mission of bettering the lives of Native Hawaiians.”

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House Committee on Judiciary Passes HB 2759

In News Release on February 10, 2010 at 6:38 am

HONOLULU—The House Committee on Judiciary has passed an amended version of HB 2759, which would permit the State Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to construct and operate gaming facilities on Hawaiian Home Lands with the condition that revenues from such operations are reinvested into the community.  Additionally, the bill requires that beneficiaries be consulted for approval of any plan before a proposed casino can be constructed.  The bill calls for 80% of revenues generated to go towards the State Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Trust and 20% to go into the State general fund.

Representative Mele Carroll (D-13th), who introduced the bill with other legislators and heard testimony regarding HB 2759 in the House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs last week, stated that she is “optimistic that this bill will empower the Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries by providing another option to generate the funding required to improve their infrastructure and social programs.”

At present, DHHL testified that they have only been able to put between 500 to 1,000 beneficiaries on the waitlist on their lands per year.  Although the state has provided $30 million each year in their budget as a result of 1995 Act 14 which addressed the $600 million dollar settlement, DHHL said that their waitlist has tripled and there are nearly 25,000 applicants on the waitlist.  This doesn’t include the 100 to 200 qualified applicants that are being added to the waitlist each month.

Other testifiers in support of this measure included in their testimony the decade-long case of Kalima vs. DHHL, saying that there were many on the waitlist since 1959 that waited and did not receive an opportunity to get onto the lands in their lifetime.  In November 2009, State First Circuit Judge Eden Elizabeth Hifo ruled that the State Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is required to place Native Hawaiians on lands set aside for them by the federal government in a prompt and efficient manner.  Hifo’s decision meant that the State could owe unspecified millions in damage to more than 2,700 Hawaiians who have been waiting for land.

“I’m worried that once the $30 million dollars allocation goes away in 2015, DHHL will not be able to meet their obligation and therefore, the State will have to look for other means of making up the $30 million including raising taxes,” says Representative Mele Carroll.  “While I’m not attached to the idea of gaming, DHHL testified that they don’t have an aggressive plan to create revenues to fulfill Article XII section 1 of the Hawaii State Constitution which says that the State has a fiduciary responsibility to provide adequate funding to place native Hawaiians on their lands.  The properties that DHHL has leased out to non-native Hawaiians for commercial purposes are not enough.  Kaulana Park has estimated that the DHHL operating budget is $18 million dollars, whereas their current revenues from commercial leases are generating only $12 million.”

In addition to this, DHHL will need to account for damages paid to the plaintiffs in the Kalima vs. DHHL case.  While the amount owed to the plaintiffs has not yet been settled, another testifier pointed out that this breach of the trust could cost the state to declare bankruptcy.  “We need to look at all possibilities and make sure that the beneficiaries are informed of the truth,” says Representative Mele Carroll.  “I am open to anyone’s suggestions in creating revenues for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands because right now, no one has stepped up to the plate and offer solutions to this devastating situation.  The discussion is good, and if this bill doesn’t get out and no other alternatives are offered, we may need to consider raising taxes as a solution to DHHL’s dilemma.  At this time, everything is on the table for discussion.”

In addition, John Radcliffe, President of Capitol Consultants of Hawaii, LLP, stated that casinos built by the Pottawatami tribe in Wisconsin and “the rising tide of wealth and health for the Native Americans in Wisconsin has brought the rest of the population up as well.  The Native tribes own the casinos and profit from that ownership, but many thousands of non-Native Americans are employed in them, or service them in some way.”  Mr. Radcliffe pointed out that “raising state taxes more, and depending on the federal government more, is just not sustainable, and does nothing to increase jobs in any long term meaningful way.”

Kale Gumapac, Alaka`i for Kanaka Council Moku O Keawe, related his own experience of growing up on Hawaiian Home Lands in Waimanalo.  His family of seven shared a two bedroom house with close friends.  When he saw the progress made at the Tulalip reservation, Kale immediately saw gaming as a viable option for helping Native Hawaiians.  He testified that “The Health, Dental and Substance Abuse facilities [at the Tulalip reservation] are free and second to none.  They bought back 90% of their lands that were lost and have only 2 more large parcels to buy back.”  As for the result of infrastructural investments, Mr. Gumapac asserted, “Their unemployment rate went from 50% to 2%” and that he “never saw a tribal member in the casino.”

Representative Mele Carroll says, “If this measure becomes an act, it could have great possibilities if done right. The Tulalip Tribe model is a perfect example.  We are going through a severe recession right now, and as we deliberate our state of affairs, everything is on the table.  So it is important that we be creative and weigh all of our options in addressing the state’s fiduciary responsibility to provide adequate funding to the State Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Trust, especially since the allocation of $30 million dollars goes away in 2015.”

The amendments made to the bill clarify that the Hawaiian Home Lands Gaming and Hawaiian Home Lands Commissions would be required to do beneficiary consultation before a casino and resort gaming facility is built.  “As this bill moves forward,” says Representative Mele Carroll, “we want to make sure that there aren’t a lot of resort casinos on Hawaiian Home Lands, but possibly one or two, with the consent of the beneficiaries, if that is their will.” 

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HB 2759 Allows Gaming, Provides Funds to DHHL Trust

In News Release on February 5, 2010 at 2:48 am

HONOLULU—Representative Mele Carroll (House District-13th), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Native Hawaiian Affairs, has introduced a bill that, if passed, would give the Hawaiian Homes Commission the right to build and operate gaming facilities on Hawaiian Home Lands with the approval of the beneficiaries. HB 2759 specifies that 20% of revenue would go toward the State’s general fund and 80% would go toward the Hawaiian Home Lands trust.

The legislature appropriates $30 million annually to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) due to a prior lawsuit, but this allocation ends in 2015. In a testimony by DHHL Chairman Kaulana Park noted that approximately 25,000 applicants for Hawaiian Home Lands have been waitlisted and DHHL is only able to process between 500 and 1,000 applications per year with current funding.

Representative Mele Carroll introduced HB 2759 in part to provide a mechanism whereby DHHL could generate funds independently and diminish its reliance on the state. When questioned by Representative Mele Carroll about the department’s ability to decrease the waitlist when the $30 million goes away, Bobby Hall, Executive Assistant to the Director of DHHL, said that the department is looking at an aggressive approach to replacing these funds and has made great strides to create revenue-generating projects to support the department’s mission.

However, DHHL currently earns about $16 to $17 million dollars in commercial lease properties and their operations cost about $15 to $16 million dollars per year. This means they are just breaking even. “This is scary and I don’t want to wait until we see that day where the resources are gone and we are back to step one waiting to get on the lands,” says Representative Mele Carroll. “We need to take bold steps and creatively do something now.”

HB 2759 stipulates that casinos must submit receipts of their monthly earnings, which would be taxed and closely monitored for discrepancies. Representative Mele Carroll notes that “Since we want the money to go back into the community, we would set up safeguards to prevent the embezzlement of the funds or other illicit activities. I’m introducing this bill not as a commercial enterprise, but as a mechanism that would allow DHHL to decide whether they want to consider gaming as a way to put more people onto Hawaiian Home Lands and to better fund their infrastructural and social programs.”

With the approval of the governor, the Hawaiian Homes Commission would have the power to decide whether to allow gaming and on which land to build gaming facilities. At that point, each DHHL community would have the final say as to what type of gaming facility, if any, they want built and what games would be permitted within that structure. According to Representative Mele Carroll, “The intent of this bill is to ensure that communities who decide to permit gaming would be able to customize the facilities and services to their particular homesteads.”

In addition to generating vital funding for DHHL and its beneficiaries, this bill has the potential to invigorate Hawai`i’s economy in a number of ways. It would create jobs for those in the construction and entertainment sectors as well as boost occupancy at our hotel resorts. Representative Mele Carroll also suggests that “gaming facilities could serve as a place where native Hawaiian entrepreneurs could promote their goods and services to a wider audience.” Moreover, Hawai`i residents who travel to Las Vegas for gaming in that city could be able to partake of the same activities without spending money on airfare, hotel rooms, rental cars, and other travel expenses in other states. Instead, they could contribute to Hawaii’s economy in a variety of ways. The money that they do spend on gaming would be reinvested into programs that would benefit both Native Hawaiian and State programs

Several of those who testified in support of HB 2759 referred to the casinos built on Native American reservations and were adamant on the point that the presence of gaming facilities overwhelmingly benefitted the tribes who set them up. John Radcliffe, a former resident of Wisconsin who now serves as President of Capitol Consultants, Hawai`i, painted a detailed picture of the poverty and social ailments that plagued the Pottawatami Reservation near his childhood home in the 1940s and 1950s. He said that before gaming was made legal, the Reservation was a “physically gorgeous ghetto” and “a sinkhole of poverty and despair, a breeding ground for drug abuse and crimes of all kinds.” He compared the status of the tribe at the time to that of Native Hawaiians, stating that “both groups are low in education, high in poverty related crime. Low in quality of health, high in disease and premature death. And in both groups, women, and especially children, suffer most.”

Twenty-two years after U.S. Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, Mr. Radcliffe notes that the Pottawatami reservation “is still gorgeous,” but now most residents have new houses and cars. More significantly, every resident has health insurance, children attend school 180 years per year, and, rather than elevating crime and alcoholism rates, allowing a gaming facility has actually diminished those social ills. In addition, Mr. Radcliffe said, the casinos employ a large number of non-Native Americans and enliven Wisconsin’s tourism industry. He proposed that gaming could lessen Hawai`i’s dependency on Federal monies and either supplement or supplant such at-risk federal social welfare programs as Social Security and Medicare.

Kale Gumapac, spokesperson of the Kanaka Council Moku O Keawe, witnessed a similar scenario at the Tulalip Reservation in Washington. He says, “the benefits of gaming would be tremendous for the Hawaiian people in realizing health, social, and economic revitalization. [At the Tulalip reservation] we did not see the negative effects that opponents have cited about gaming. What we saw was just the opposite. They have a first-class healthcare system in place for all Native Americans in that area, regardless of which tribe they belong to. They also have substance abuse clinics and mental health facilities that are second to none. They have also initiated their own renewable energy programs, the products of which they sell back to the Washington utility company. Their support of their tribal craftsmen is substantial—craftsmen are paid on salary with full benefits. Their carvings are present throughout the reservation and are a constant reminder to the people of their cultural heritage.”

Representative Mele Carroll, who also witnessed the progress made by the Tulalip people, says that “they were able to accomplish this because the tribal leaders were committed to helping their people. With courageous and strong leadership, I think that this bill has the potential to vastly improve the lives of Native Hawaiians and the State at large.”

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