The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) has prepared legislative proposals to be recommended for inclusion in Governor David Ige’s next legislative package following a solicitation for public input.
The request for legislative proposals went public in July. Twenty-nine proposals were received and after DHHL consideration, 14 of those draft proposals were selected. At its September meeting, the Hawaiian Homes Commission approved 13 of the legislative proposals to move forward.
“Input from beneficiaries and the public assist the Department in proposing legislation that improves the implementation of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act,” said DHHL Deputy to the Chair Tyler Gomes. “We know this program is more successful when we work with our community in pursuit of Kūhiō’s vision for native Hawaiians.”
Next, the proposals will be submitted for review to the Department of the Attorney General, the Department of Budget & Finance, and the Governor. If approved, the selected proposals will be included as proposed bills in Governor Ige’s legislative package to go before the Legislature in 2021.
DHHL requested that the proposals be a good public policy for the Department and that they address operations, programs, regulations, processes, budget, and/or resources and create a benefit or an advantage for DHHL, the trust, or trust beneficiaries, or otherwise correct a deficiency.
Proposals not included in the package range from items that already have governing legislation, items where legislation is not required, and suggestions already implemented or that are in the process of being implemented or reviewed by the Department.
A summary of the 13 included proposals is provided below.
RELATING TO INDEPENDENT LEGAL COUNSEL
This proposal allows the Department to retain independent legal counsel to be paid by the State and use the services of the attorney general as needed when the interests of the State and the department are aligned.
The Department has a trust duty to its beneficiaries, and in the fulfillment of its trust obligations, the Department may at times be at odds with the interests of the State. It is at these times that the Department must be assured that its counsel provides legal guidance strictly in the interest of its client. Independent counsel that is hired and retained by the department eliminates any cloud of uncertainty that there is a conflict of interest that the department is represented by the Attorney General’s office that also represents the State of Hawaiʻi.
This measure has not been part of the Administration’s legislative package but has been introduced by several legislators over the past few years and has not passed.
RELATING TO THE COMMISSION ON WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
This proposal adds the Chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission or the Chairman’s designee to the Commission on Water Resource Management.
The Water Code requires that planning decisions of the Commission on Water Resource Management ensure that sufficient water remains available for current and foreseeable development and use of Hawaiian Home Lands. In order to further the interest of beneficiaries, the Chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission or the Chair’s designee should serve as an ex officio voting member of the Commission on Water Resource Management.
This measure has not been part of the Administration’s legislative package but has been introduced and has not passed.
RELATING TO AGRICULTURE
This proposal adds the Chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission to the Board of Agriculture.
The Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture, headed by the Board of Agriculture, works to support, enhance, promote, and protect Hawaiʻi’s agriculture and aquaculture industries. The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act authorizes the Department to lease agricultural lands or lands used for aquaculture purposes. As the State looks to increase food security across the state, the interests of agricultural homestead lessees should be represented on the Board of Agriculture.
RELATING TO AGRICULTURE
This proposal adds the Chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission to the Board of Directors of the Agribusiness Development Corporation.
The mission of the Agribusiness Development Corporation is to provide leadership and advocacy for the conversion of agribusiness into a dynamic growth industry. The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act authorizes the Department to lease agricultural lands or lands used for aquaculture purposes. As the State looks to increase food security across the state, the interests of agricultural homestead lessees should be represented on the Board of Directors of the Agribusiness Development Corporation.
RELATING TO HOUSING
This proposal exempts any housing development for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands from school impact fee requirements.
Lands set aside for use as Hawaiian Home Lands were withdrawn for other purposes, including public schools, since the enactment of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. Additionally, the Department provides affordable housing that often accounts for the educational facilities that may be needed to support the community with the siting of public schools, public charter schools, early learning facilities, and other similar facilities on or near Hawaiian Home Lands.
RELATING TO HOUSING
This proposal exempts any housing development for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands from general excise taxes.
The Department provides housing at affordable rates when compared to similar housing available in Hawaiʻi. In order to further the interest of beneficiaries, any housing development for the Department should be exempt from general excise taxes.
RELATING TO CESSPOOLS
This proposal establishes a low-interest loan program to offer financial assistance for lessees on Hawaiian Home Lands with cesspools to be upgraded or converted to septic systems or aerobic treatment unit systems, or connected to existing sewer systems or any other wastewater treatment systems approved by the Department of Health.
Cesspools are a nonpoint contamination source of great concern. Collectively, the State’s cesspools release more than 53 million gallons of untreated sewage into the ground each day. In response to the State’s cesspool pollution problem, legislation was enacted in 2017 that requires all cesspools not excluded by the Director of Health to be upgraded or converted to septic systems or aerobic treatment unit systems or connected to sewage systems by January 1, 2050. In order to work toward meeting this deadline, cesspools on Hawaiian Home Lands could be a good place to start.
RELATING TO THE COUNTY BOARDS OF WATER SUPPLY
This proposal clarifies requirements on the County Boards of Water Supply to reserve water credits for the use of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
The lack of available water has been and remains a significant barrier to the State’s ability to develop Hawaiian Homes projects. Working with the Department, the Commission on Water Resource Management has set some groundwater and surface water reservations for Hawaiian Homes projects on each island with lands set aside for homesteading purposes. Nevertheless, some Counties treat the Department like a developer without differentiating or prioritizing water for Hawaiian Homes projects.
RELATING TO WATER RIGHTS
This proposal sets the upset price for water that is leased to no less than 80% of the total cost of the least expensive actually practicable source of water for the given use, as determined by an independent third-party appraiser.
The Native Hawaiian Rehabilitation Fund, programs for watershed management by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and funds for the betterment of conditions of native Hawaiians and Hawaiians by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs all benefit from revenues generated by the disposition of water rights, so setting an upset price is aimed at increasing revenues.
RELATING TO COUNTIES
This proposal requires the Counties within 60 days to maintain infrastructure, under specified conditions, as part of any housing development for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
The Department complies with County requirements when developing subdivisions, yet the maintenance of infrastructure is often still the responsibility of the Department. Moreover, lands utilized by DHHL to provide housing for native Hawaiians are offered at affordable rates when compared to similar housing available in Hawaiʻi.
RELATING TO INDUSTRIAL HEMP
This proposal expands the industrial hemp pilot program administered by the Department of Agriculture on Hawaiian Home Lands.
The Department’s large agricultural landholdings provide a great opportunity to diversify economic outputs and revenue. The opportunity to cultivate industrial hemp would increase jobs and training for native Hawaiians in the development of this new sector. The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Department of Agriculture, and the Board of Agriculture would need to collaborate to ensure proper compliance and development of the industrial hemp industry within the confines of the pilot program.
RELATING TO HISTORIC PRESERVATION REVIEWS
This proposal allows the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to assume review of the effect of any proposed project on historic properties or burial sites for lands under its jurisdiction.
Instead of requiring the Department to consult with the Department of Land and Natural Resources regarding the effect of a project upon historic properties or burial sites, this proposal would streamline the process by allowing the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to assume this review.
RELATING TO THE EXPEDITED AGENCY HEARING
This proposal establishes an expedited agency hearing for any criminal activity that threatens the health and safety of the community or any drug-related criminal activity.
Concerns have arisen regarding the ongoing activity that is threatening the health and safety of the community. This bill will allow for a prompt response through an expedited agency hearing.
For a full draft of the bills and justification, visit dhhl.hawaii.gov/government-relations