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Senate committee advances Akaka, housing bills 5-10-07

HONOLULU (AP) - The U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Thursday
approved the Native Hawaiian recognition bill and reauthorized
federal housing programs for Hawaii's indigenous people.

“I am pleased that these two very important bills have taken a giant
step forward, and are advancing through the legislative process,”
Sen. Daniel Inouye said in a news release issued in Washington.

Inouye said he expected the recognition bill, authored by fellow
Hawaii Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka to reach the full Senate sometime
after May.

Inouye said he was specially pleased to see Republican Gov. Linda
Lingle in attendance for the votes.

Lingle is urging passage of the Akaka bill, which would create a
process for a Native Hawaiian governing entity to be formed and
recognized by the federal government.

Under the measure, the Native Hawaiian government would be able to
negotiate with the United States and Hawaii over the disposition of
Native Hawaiian land, assets and resources.

The Akaka bill has run afoul of the Republican administration of
President Bush, which said the legislation would divide the country
along racial and ancestral lines.

“I am hopeful that she will be effective in communicating with
President Bush about the worthiness and importance of the Akaka
bill,” Inouye said.

Akaka also voiced his pleasure that the committee approved the measures.

“This is an important step,” Akaka said. “These bills will help
address the conditions of Hawaii's indigenous people, Native
Hawaiians, and will continue to enhance the quality of life for all
the people of Hawaii.

“Today's strong committee bipartisan support for S. 310 (the Akaka
bill) sends a clear message that Hawaii's congressional delegation is
joined by a coalition of colleagues from all parts of the country,
that the United States must fulfill its commitment to Native
Hawaiians,” said Akaka, a Native Hawaiian.

In the House, companion legislation to the Akaka bill passed the
Natural Resources Committee on May 2.

Funding for the Native Hawaiian housing programs has been kept alive
on a year-by-year basis after their authorization expired in 2005.
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