Thursday, September 13, 2012


Civil Beat - September 11, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will take up the namesake legislation of retiring Chair Daniel Akaka in his final attempt to advance the cause of Native Hawaiian government that will be his legacy.

The committee has scheduled a "markup" for Thursday afternoon so Akaka can streamline what had been roughly a 60-page package into a 15-page proposal he hopes will be easier for colleagues to pass, even if it happens after he's gone, according to Akaka spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke.

The existing version of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act includes a lengthy section that would set up a roll, determine who qualifies as Native Hawaiian and require action from the Secretary of the Interior.

But the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission authorized by the Hawaii Legislature last year is now up and running, eliminating the need for the federal government to get involved in that step. The amended version of the bill Akaka will push Thursday would acknowledge the state's Roll Commission.

Removing that piece from the bill, the thinking goes, would make the measure less controversial and easier to pass because there won't be any debate over who qualifies.

That hardly guarantees passage, however.

The September session here in Washington, which just started in earnest Tuesday, is expected to be brief. With Democrats and Republicans moving toward a continuing resolution that would fund the federal government for six months, lawmakers could be back on the campaign trail within a couple of weeks.

That would leave only the lame-duck session between the Nov. 6 general election and the seating of the 113th Congress in January. The lame-duck session would be Akaka's final chance to pass the bill before he's replaced by either Democrat Mazie Hirono or Republican Linda Lingle. Majority Leader Harry Reid has lots of other things on his plate and a less-than-fully-compliant minority opposition to deal with.

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