National round-up: What Hawai‘i

lawmakers in Washington have been up to

by THE GARDEN ISLAND

Members of the Hawai‘i Congressional Delegation this week said nearly $62.5 million has been earmarked for Native Hawaiian initiatives in the final appropriations measure for the current fiscal year, and they vowed to continue to champion Native Hawaiian programs.

“Given the unfinished work of the 109th Congress under the previous majority, our nation’s budget was left in terrible shape,” Sen. Daniel Inouye, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a release. “Fortunately, we were able to rectify some of the shortcomings of the current budget as it pertains to Native Hawaiian initiatives. Now, we must work to rectify the shortcomings of the administration’s budget for Fiscal Year 2008.”

Inouye, Sen. Daniel Akaka and Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono have all been critical of President Bush’s elimination of Native Hawaiian education and health care projects from the proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

“We were able to rescue nearly $63 million in funding for Native Hawaiian health, housing and education programs from the Republicans 2007 budget train wreck,” Abercrombie said. “The Bush administration is trying to kill some of these programs in its 2008 budget request. The Hawai‘i delegation is not about to let that happen.”

The legislation cleared its final legislative hurdle Wednesday night, when the Senate voted 81 to 15 for passage. The measure, which was passed by the House of Representatives on Jan. 31 by a vote of 286 to 140 now moves to the White House to be signed into law.

“Despite the decision of the Bush administration to zero out funding for Native Hawaiian education, I am confident that Hawai‘i’s Congressional delegation will be able to continue to secure funding for this and other important programs that impact the lives of Native Hawaiians,” Hirono said.

Akaka reintroduces Filipino veterans bill

Sen. Daniel Akaka this week reintroduced the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act to exempt children of certain Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitation on immigrant visas.

Akaka’s bill seeks to reunite Filipino veterans, many of whom were forced into service with the island chain was a U.S. commonwealth, with relatives that have, in some cases, languished on immigration waiting lists for years.

“Many of the Filipino veterans who now reside in the United States have been separated from their children for many years,” Akaka said in a release from his office.

“My bill seeks to reunite the naturalized Filipino veterans with their sons and daughters by exempting the veterans’ adult children from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas.”

Hirono supports resolution to limit war

Calling the war in Iraq “the moral issue of the day,” Hirono this week spoke in favor of a resolution opposing the Bush administration’s plan to send more troops to Iraq.

“This body must go on record in unified and solid opposition to the escalation of the war and in complete support of our soldiers and our veterans,” Hirono said in a speech delivered in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a release from her office. “We must be resolute in our efforts to bring an end to this quagmire.

She pointed to the testimony of several House colleagues who are veterans, and have spoken eloquently about the thousands of soldiers “who emerged from firefights or attacks physically unscathed but with substantial emotional damage.”

Hirono said the Veteran’s Administration has been deprived of the critical funds necessary to rehabilitate those suffering from psychological harm.

“The president, who continues to send more and more troops into the war, on one hand, has sought to reduce spending for medical services for these same troops, on the other,” she said. “His budget reduces spending for VA over the next three years.”

She said other agencies are also being cut but the escalating war costs add to the national debt.

“The interest on our debt alone is more than we devote to the education of our children, care of our veterans and for the administration of justice, combined,” she said.

Hirono names communications head

Rep. Mazie Hirono this week selected an award-winning corporate public affairs specialist and writer to become her media director.

Pepi Nieva will oversee the media operations of both the Honolulu and Washington offices of the Democratic Congresswoman.

Nieva was most recently senior communications specialist for Hawaiian Electric Company, though she has worked for the state Department of Education.

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