New Akaka Bill Ignores Lingle Concerns

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The latest version of the Akaka bill is not the version of the controversial legislation that former Gov. Linda Lingle signed off on last year.

Instead, the bill that Sen. Daniel Akaka introduced Wednesday in the U.S. Senate and that Rep. Mazie Hirono and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa are sponsoring in the U.S. House, is the same version of the Akaka bill that upset the governor and her attorney general.

Given that the political climate in Washington has changed so dramatically, the latest version could just be Akaka's swan song after 10 years of unsuccessfully pushing a measure that would be his signature achievement.

But the latest version of the bill has the same language Lingle refused to endorse last year, arguing that it could result in a "split society" in Hawaii should it become law — one "almost completely free from state and county regulation."

She further warned it would set up a Native Hawaiian governing entity that could have "almost complete sovereign immunity from lawsuits."

Lingle and then Attorney General Mark Bennett were able to persuade Akaka and Sen. Daniel K. Inouye to amend the bill to address their concerns.

But Akaka spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke told Civil Beat that Akaka believes the latest version of the bill will be easier to pass because it is nearly identical to the Akaka bill that was approved by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in December 2009.

Akaka chairs Indian Affairs.

He also said the Obama administration and U.S. Justice Department wanted the latest version of the bill because they believe the measure "adheres to existing federal Indian policy across the country" and would better withstand legal challenges.

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