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Wednesday, May 03, 2017
SR33: Appoint OHA Trustees?
By Selected News Articles @ 9:25 PM :: 1914 Views :: Ethics, Labor, OHA

Legislative Update

by OHA Trustee Rowena Akana, Ka Wai Ola, May, 2017

‘Ano‘ai kakou… The legislature is about ready to wrap things up. Here are two of the most harmful pieces of legislation currently threatening OHA and the Native Hawaiian Trust:


The House (HCR94/HR56) and Senate (SCR85/SR33) introduced resolutions that would ask OHA to convene a group of Hawaiian leaders, legal scholars, and Hawaiian community members to review whether it’d be better to appoint OHA Trustees rather than elect them. The group would consider what the appropriate appointing authority would be and how to develop a list of the best qualified potential trustees.

OHA has always been an independent agency built on the goal of Native Hawaiian autonomy and self-determination.  Appointing Trustees would kill any hope of true self-determination and make OHA just another part of the state.  An appointed Trustee would only be loyal to whoever appointed them. Elected Trustees are loyal to their constituents. Would the people of Hawaii accept Senators and Representatives that were appointed by the Governor? OHA should be no different.

Elected Trustees have built OHA into the impressive institution it is today. We did it on our own, without someone above us second-guessing our every move. An appointed Board of Trustees could never match our vision, determination, and drive to tackle the many challenges our beneficiaries face.


HB865 threatens to undermine the autonomy of OHA Trustees as OHA’s independent decision makers and fiduciaries of the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund. Amendment to HRS § 89-6 could result in the OHA Board of Trustees holding only 1 of 14 votes when negotiating a collective bargaining agreement involving OHA employees, whose salaries make up a significant portion of OHA’s operating budget.

Together with the requirements of the Civil Service Law, HRS Chapter 76, the Trustees’ ability to oversee and plan for personnel expenses would depend in large part to the decisions of the executive branch and Governor, who would hold 7 votes in collective bargaining negotiations involving OHA employees.

Such a voting imbalance would effectively require the OHA Board of Trustees to hand over control over some of its key expenditures to the State. The requirements of civil service and collective bargaining would force OHA to change the way it hires, compensates, and maintains its workforce.


So what do both of these measures infringing on OHA’s autonomy have in common? They were introduced in the House by Representative Kaniela Ing. This isn’t the first year he’s introduced them, but this has to stop. This is the third year in a row he’s done this!

Whatever Rep. Ing’s intentions may be, it’s clear his proposals would end OHA’s autonomy and make us a part of the state. Hawaiians have been struggling for many years to restore our sovereignty and self-determination, whether it’s through nation-within-a-nation model or full independence. A state-controlled OHA would cripple those efforts and threaten the resources OHA is holding for the new nation.

The Board of Education is now appointed by the Governor. Are things better with public schools? The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has commissioners appointed by the Governor. Are you satisfied with how it’s performing? I pray that the young Representative from Maui would put more thought into his proposals; otherwise we need to convince his constituents to look for someone else to represent them.

Aloha Ke Akua.

Interested in Hawaiian issues & OHA? Please visit my website at for more information or e-mail me at

SR33: Text, Status (approved by Senate April 6, 2017)


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