Two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights are very worried about a proposed bill that would create a federal framework for Native Hawaiians to govern themselves. (I understand that the bill has passed the House and will go to the Senate. A similar bill passed the Senate in 2004?)
They recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the bill will make Hawaii “in effect, two states, not one.”
I’m not certain what they mean since the bill would only give Native Hawaiians powers similar to what 570 federally recognized tribes already exercise in most of the 50 states. I do not know of anyone that has ever argued that the presence of American Indian tribes inside many of the 50 states somehow made those states “two states.”
The authors fear that under the bill about “400,000 ethnic Hawaiians will be able to organize themselves into one vast Indian tribe with the “inherent powers and privileges of self-government,” including the privilege of sovereign immunity from lawsuit. It also by clear implication confers the power to tax, to promulgate and enforce a criminal code, and to exercise eminent domain. Hawaii will in effect be two states, not one.”
Many Native Hawaiians are against this bill and according to this editorial in the Wall Street Journal the Governor of Hawaii is now opposing, or at least rethinking her stance, on the bill.