A bill that would recognize Native Hawaiians as the only “indigenous, aboriginal, maoli people” of Hawaii is moving through conference committee at the Hawaii Legislature.

A conference committee is considering merging that bill, Senate Bill 1520, with another measure, Senate Bill 1, that creates a commission tasked with preparing a roll of qualified Hawaiians for a convention.

If passed and signed into law, SB 1520 could help achieve key goals of the Akaka bill, the federal legislation pending in Congress that calls for recognition of Hawaiians and establishment of a governing entity.

Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria said in conference committee Thursday that his office has been in communication with U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka‘s office regarding the local legislation.

“This could very well turn out to be landmark legislation for Hawaii and for the Hawaiian people,” said Galuteria. “(Akaka) was quite enthusiastic that we would be able to support his intitiaves toward federal recognition in D.C. with our efforts at the state level.”

Support from OHA

SB 1520 still has some hurdles to clear.

Committee conferees will reconvene Monday morning to consider a Conference Draft 1 that blends the two bills into one.

The draft calls for an unspecified amount of money over the next two fiscal years to pay for the roll commission, money that would be matched by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Sen. Malama Solomon, co-author of SB 1 — the roll commission measure that was deferred in House Finance April 5 — said $65,000 would come from the Legislature and $65,000 from OHA.

Solomon asked House conferees on SB 1520 to consult with House Finance “for their manao” on the funding. Rep. Faye Hanohano agreed that she and her colleagues would look at the Senate’s proposal.

Another issue to work out is OHA’s desire to name some of the roll commission’s nine members.

“We have no problem with that,” said Solomon. “The question is, how many do you want? What’s reasonable?”

Solomon is determined to see the bill’s passage through.

“That’s why the roll call becomes important,” she said. “It gives us a better opportunity to get federal recognition as a nation — that’s all a roll call does.”

Meanwhile, the federal Akaka bill — aka the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act — awaits a floor vote in the U.S. Senate while its House companion still awaits a committee vote.

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye told Civil Beat Monday that he believed the votes are there in both houses of Congress to pass the legislation, which was first introduced a decade ago by Sen. Daniel Akaka in the Senate and then-Congressman Neil Abercrombie in the House.

DISCUSSION: *Do you support the latest version of the Akaka bill and the state Legislature’s efforts to help facilitate its passage? Share your manao.

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