Tuesday, November 11, 2008

And the Speaker stays . . .

Pacific Business News reports today that Representative Calvin Say maintains his position as Speaker of the House. The Star Bulletin previously reported that there were other Democratic Representatives who sought to challenge Say's leadership. What relevance does Calvin Say have to the Native Hawaiian community? Let's take a look at it.

The ceded lands case on appeal at the Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) for some reason is not getting the attention it probably should. It's not clear exactly why. Rice v. Cayetano, from my recollection received a lot of attention. The only thing I remember reading about this ceded lands case so far is: the State's decision to appeal to SCOTUS (in April), SCOTUS's decision on October 1 to hear the case, and then two very brief editorials in both the Honolulu Advertiser (10/3/08) and the Honolulu Star Bulletin (10/6/08). Other than these pieces of information from the media, I don't recall anything else being reported much. In addition to not agreeing with the authors of the two editorials, I did not think the editorials demonstrated a thorough understanding of the case. I reached this conclusion because the Advertiser failed to realize in its editorial the impact the sale of ceded lands would have on fair negotiations, an issue our highest state court contemplated. Additionally, the Star Bulletin, in its editorial, only focused on Public Law 103-150 (federal law) when our State court actually examined and discussed at length, important State of Hawai'i law and applied that state law to the case.

The Hawai'i Supreme Court on January 31, 2008, ruled that the State could not sell ceded lands before resolving the "un-relinquished claims" of Native Hawaiians to ceded lands. In other words, the Hawai'i Supreme Court place a moratorium on the sale of ceded lands until claims have been resolved. Before this issue went to the court there was no legislative moratorium on ceded lands. Or was there?

Well, no there was no moratorium passed in the legislature. But there were two bills introduced into both the state Senate and the House of Representatives. According to the State Legislature website, in 2007 Representative Calvin Say, "BY REQUEST" introduced HB1197 that is described as, "prohibit[ing] the department of land and natural resources from selling, exchanging, or otherwise alienating lands contained in the public land trust without the consent of the board of trustees of the office of Hawaiian affairs."

As Representative Calvin Say maintains his leadership over the State Of Hawai'i House of Representatives, it will be interesting to see what his position, as Speaker of the House, on the ceded lands case will be and if he will try to introduce similar legislation again that would place a moratorium on the sale of ceded lands until the unrelinquished claims of Native Hawaiians to those lands have been resolved.

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