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Monday, February 12, 2018
Mandatory Funding? DHHL Statement on Supreme Court Nelson Ruling
By News Release @ 11:28 PM :: 2202 Views :: DHHL


News Release from DHHL, Feb 12, 2018

On Friday, February 9, 2018 the Hawaii State Supreme Court ruled (4-1 majority) that the Hawaii State Legislature is only required to fund the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) the amount that the delegates of the 1978 Hawaii State Constitutional Convention estimated it takes in administration and operating expenses, adjusted for inflation. The majority said in its opinion that when the 1978 delegates approved a constitutional amendment requiring the Legislature to make sufficient sums available for the administration and operating budget of DHHL, they estimated that the annual cost at that time was between $1.3 million and $1.6 million. 

“The Department’s kuleana to do everything possible to seek sufficient funds so that we can deliver on Prince Kuhio’s vision and DHHL’s mission remains. We continue to work with our beneficiaries and the Legislature to secure these needed resources so that native Hawaiian families and our homestead communities are provided with the critical support that they need in the areas of housing, clean drinking water, community resiliency and empowerment, and safe and healthy communities. Together with beneficiaries and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation we fought for a positive outcome.  We appreciate the support of the Governor and the Legislature and will continue to work with them on funding to support the Hawaiian Home Lands program.  The Department is very disappointed in the courts decision on the Nelson case and will confer with counsel on this matter.”

– Jobie M.K. Masagatani, Chairman, Hawaiian Homes Commission and Director, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands

Statement on ruling from Governor David Y. Ige:

“I’m glad the Court has ruled. I standby the supplemental budget request I submitted this year because the funding is needed to fulfill the department’s mission.”

– David Y. Ige, Governor, State of Hawaii

Note: Governor David Y. Ige included $25.1 million for the Department of Hawaiian Homelands in the FY19 Supplemental Operating Budget request.

Media articles related to Hawaii Supreme Court ruling:

Nelson vs. Hawaiian Homes Commission Links:

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News Release from Acting Hawaii Attorney General Russell Suzuki, Feb 9, 2018

HONOLULU - The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled 4-1 today that the “sufficient sum” owed by the State to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) for administrative and operating expenses, under the State Constitution, is $1.3 to 1.6 million, adjusted for inflation, and not the over $28 million found by the lower court.

Beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Home Lands trust claimed that the Legislature had not provided DHHL with the constitutionally prescribed “sufficient sums” for its administrative and operating expenses.

This Court ruled that the only way to judicially determine what is “sufficient” was to rely upon the $1.3 to 1.6 million, adjusted for inflation referenced in the 1978 Constitutional debates and remanded the case to the circuit court to establish the sum based on that calculation.

The State and the Legislature calculated that $1.3 to 1.6 million adjusted for inflation for the 2015-2016 fiscal year would amount to $4.9 million and $5.8 million respectively. But the Court noted the circuit court failed to make any findings as to the adjusted amount.

Copies of the opinions in Nelson v. Hawaiian Homes Commission et al., are attached.

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