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The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act—known as the “Akaka Bill”-would grant “native Hawaiians” federal recognition akin to that now enjoyed by Indian tribes. The bill creates a special authority that would exempt sufficiently ethnic Hawaiians from certain aspects of federal and state power. Having already passed the House and been reported out of Senate committee, the Akaka Bill is now due to be taken up by the full Senate. President Bush has promised a veto—citing the U.S. Civil Rights Commission’s conclusion that it “would discriminate on the basis of race … and further subdivide the American people into discrete subgroups accorded varying degrees of privilege.”
Are these sorts of measures simply a matter of long‐delayed justice? Does the Akaka Bill satisfy constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process? What kind of precedent would it establish for other ethnic groups? And what would be the economic effects on businesses and tourism in Hawaii? Please join us for a discussion of these and other political, economic, legal, and historical issues.