State lawmakers on Friday killed a proposal that would have allowed a resort-casino to be built in Kapolei, the proceeds from which could have been used to fund the state agency in charge of putting Native Hawaiians on homestead land.
The move by a Hawaii House of Representatives committee deals a blow to the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which saw the proposal as a new way to generate needed revenue for the cash-strapped agency. Without new revenue streams, the department estimates it could take more than 180 years to build the infrastructure and homes necessary to eliminate a growing list of Hawaiians waiting for access to home lands.
Rep. Sean Quinlan, chairman of the House Economic Development Committee, indefinitely deferred House Bill 359, the casino proposal, during a hearing Friday. The deferral shelves the bill until the next legislative session in 2022.
Neither House Speaker Scott Saiki nor Senate President Ron Kouchi support the casino proposal. Its chances of winning approval even next year appear slim, at least for now.
Though Quinlan deferred the measure, he expressed his displeasure at the Legislature not providing enough funds to DHHL. That’s been an issue for several years after a series of state court decisions told lawmakers they should be adequately funding the department.
“Every two years we swear an oath on the state constitution and every two years we fail to follow up on that oath with the money Hawaiians are owed,” Quinlan said during the hearing.
Rep. Dan Holt, the committee vice-chairman, urged his colleagues to make funding the department as well as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs a priority.
In a statement, DHHL Director William Aila thanked Deputy Director Tyler Iokepa Gomes and the DHHL staff for working on the casino proposal.
“While the committee’s deferral of HB 359 was not an ideal outcome, we look forward to the future with hope,” Aila said in a statement.
A companion Senate measure, Senate Bill 1321, is scheduled for a hearing on Thursday at 1 p.m.
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell