(BIVN) – During Monday’s Hawaiʻi Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs information briefing at the Capitol about the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Robin Danner had a chance to talk about her proposed Hawaiian Lands in Hawaiian Hands Act of 2020.
Danner, the elected chair of the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations, as well as a Hawaiian Home Lands waitlister, was invited to speak on a panel during the Senate committee.
“If you’re thinking money is the problem, it ain’t,” Danner said. “There is a problem at DHHL. It is a wild child that needs its mother and father, who is the legislature, to oversee and hold it accountable.”
Danner then explained the bill she hopes to get introduced in the next legislative session.
In early September, as the Department of Hawaiian Home Land prepared to remove the unpermitted kanaka library and learning center near Puʻuhuluhulu, Danner presented the Hawaiian Lands in Hawaiian Hands Act of 2020 in a letter to Mayor Harry Kim.
“SCHHA is working on a technical amendments bill to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act,” Danner wrote. “This bill is being worked on by HHCA beneficiary leaders from across the State, to put forward, our expertise and knowledge to finally bring success to both State government, and our native people.”
Here is the text of the proposal, as it appeared in September:
Hawaiian Lands in Hawaiian Hands Act of 2020 – New Bill for Introduction in 2020
This Bill is a Technical Amendments Bill, to provide specificity and guidelines to the State of Hawaii and its DHHL Agency on the administration of HHCA Sections, to ensure the intent of the HHCA in benefiting exclusively its Beneficiaries on the 100-year anniversary of HHCA Enactment by the U.S. Congress.
1. Section 202 – Commission. Majority of HHC must be HHCA Beneficiaries – 5 of 9
2. Section 202 – DHHL Director. De-Politicize Governor Selection Process of DHHL Director by establishing process similar to Judiciary Selection Committee, wherein federally defined homestead associations interview candidates and present a maximum of 3 names from which the Governor may appoint, and the Senate provides consent, unless otherwise determined through the promulgation of federal regulations. An alternative, is to amend the HHCA to prohibit the DHHL Director from serving simultaneously as the Chair of the Hawaiian Homes Commission.
3. Section 202 – Autonomous Legal Counsel. Authorizes the HHC to retain separate legal counsel from the Attorney General’s office to protect the interests of beneficiaries, whereas today, the AGs office represents the interests of the State of Hawaii. Also authorizes HHC to fund a Beneficiary Controlled nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated entirely to protecting the rights of Beneficiaries.
4. Section 202 – Entirety of State Government. Clarifies that the 1959 Statehood Act included a compact with the State of Hawaii, and that DHHL is the primary agency, which shall not limit the obligation of any other State Agency with expertise within the purposes and intent of the HHCA. Encourages State to establish an inter-agency council to address purposes of the HHCA.
5. Section 202 – Quarterly Reporting. Mandates DHHL and the HHC to publish a quarterly report to Beneficiaries and to the Legislature, on the fiscal year to date land dispositions and lease cancellations by category, and by Beneficiary & Non-Beneficiary, as well as trust fund receipts and expenditures.
6. Section 204 – Defining “Not Required” Justification. Strengthen and clarify the intent of “available lands” to the general public when “not required” for homesteading, with the specific justification measured by whether beneficiary applicants remain on the waitlist for homesteading unless otherwise determined through the promulgation of federal regulations.
7. Section 204 – Expiring General Public Leases. Strengthen and clarify that all expiring leases previously executed under Section 204, may not be extended without meeting the “Not Required” Justification (which opens expiring general public leases to beneficiaries for public purposes or mercantile under Section 207..
8. Section 207 – Licenses & Leases. Strengthen and clarify the intent of distributing lands for homesteading, for public purpose or mercantile through a license or a lease not to exceed 65 years unless otherwise determined through the promulgation of federal regulations.
9. Section 207 – Eliminating Barriers to Waitlist. Strengthen and clarify the prohibition of DHHL setting additional criteria to receive a homestead lease unless otherwise determined through the promulgation of federal regulations (for example, the DHHL internal policy of requiring beneficiaries to pre-qualify for a mortgage loan or requiring construction of a home within 12 months)
10. Section 209 – Homestead Property Valuations. Clarifies that beneficiary improvements on homestead leases may not be valued differently from other citizens on leasehold property in the State of Hawaii, unless otherwise determined through the promulgation of federal regulations
11. Section 210 & 216 – Foreclosure Protections. Clarify that any lease cancellation action by DHHL against a homesteading lease, requires DHHL to make available services from a nonprofit counseling, foreclosure/lease cancellation prevention or legal services agency to the beneficiary prior to any hearing or lease cancellation action by the HHC, and mandates foreclosure mitigations provided by DHHL to the beneficiary that are common to all other citizens of the State of Hawaii.
12. Section 213.6 – Act 14 Final Report. Clarifies that the existing mandate of DHHL to produce a financial report to the Legislature and Beneficiaries, is specific to a full accounting of Act 14 funding receipts and expenditures within 360 days from enactment.
13. Section 214 – Capital Access for Farms, Ranches & Mercantile. Clarifies that DHHL “shall” offer loans for farming, ranching and mercantile from trust funds or other sources, as the HHCA intended rather than limiting DHHL loans for housing, unless otherwise determined through the promulgation of federal regulations.
14. Section 216 – Previously Owned Homesteading Improvements. Requires DHHL to annually report to the Legislature and Beneficiaries, data on the inventory of formerly leased properties and disposition status.
15. Section 216 – Homestead Equity Loans. Clarifies express authority of the HHC to authorize second position loans on homesteading leases, if the first lien is by an approved lender as defined in Section 208.
16. Section 221 – Water. Clarifies that DHHL is expressly authorized to negotiate with homestead association governed water agencies to maintain water systems including water billing, prior to other service providers, unless otherwise determined through the promulgation of federal regulations.