Grassroot Institute

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is a 501(c)3 nonprofit public policy think tank based in Honolulu, Hawaii.[4] The organization's stated mission is to "educate people about the values of individual liberty, economic freedom, and accountable government."[5] It promotes free market values and produces research on subjects like the Jones Act and pension issues. The current Chief Executive Officer is Dr. Keli'i Akina. The Institute was formed on February 12, 2001[1] by Richard Rowland, who continues to serve on its board of directors. The organization is a member of the State Policy Network, a network of state-based think tanks.

Grassroot Institute
Logo Grassroot Institute
EstablishedFebruary 12, 2001[1]
FounderRichard Rowland
Legal status501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
ServicesMultifaceted efforts to shed light on government operations and spending; public education regarding the movement to create a sovereign Hawaiian nation and/or other governmental entity; research into the effect of the 1920 Jones Act on the state of Hawaii.[2]
W. Keli'i Akina[2]
Richard O. Rowland[2]
Revenue: $463,184
Expenses: $470,188
(FYE December 2015)[3]


The Grassroot Institute has published commentary on a variety of political issues, from a legal minimum wage to Hawaiian sovereignty. The Grassroot Institute conducts research and analysis of various issues from a free market perspective. Academic works are inspired by the writings of scholars such as Frederic Bastiat, Murray Rothbard, Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, and Adam Smith. Generally, the institute opposes tax increases, such as Hawaii's General Excise Tax.[6]

The Jones Act

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii supports reform of the Jones Act that would address the disproportionate effect of the shipbuilding and cargo shipping restrictions on Hawaii from the Jones Act.[7] It does not condone a full repeal of the Act.

Honolulu rail project

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has been a vocal critic of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation's rail project in Honolulu. The Institute hasn't made any public comments on whether the rail should stop at Middle Street, which is a popular belief among opponents.[8] The only official position of the Institute is that HART be subject to an independent audit for fraud, waste and abuse.[9]

In 2017, the Institute launched the campaign to audit the rail,[10] which eventually gained momentum and resulted in a financial and management audit by Hawaii state auditor Les Kondo in 2018.[11]

Hawaiian sovereignty

The Grassroot Institute joined with other groups to file suit against the State of Hawaii's efforts to form and gain federal recognition of a race-based, sovereign nation. The lawsuit, filed in 2015, seeks to block race-based elections in Hawaii.[12][13]


The Grassroot Institute supports school choice. The Institute has pointed out that despite the state Department of Education's expanding budget of $2.4 billion per year (an increase from $972 million eight years previously), public school students continue to perform at the bottom of the nation on NAEP assessments and enrollment in the system has decreased.[14]


  1. ^ a b The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, Inc." Hawaii Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs. State of Hawaii. Accessed December 8, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. Guidestar. December 31, 2014. Accessed December 1, 2016.
  3. ^ "Grassroot Institute of Hawai Inc" (PDF). Foundation Center. 10 November 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  4. ^ "Supreme Court justice blocks Native Hawaiian vote count". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. November 27, 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  5. ^ "About Us". Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  6. ^ Sterling Burnett, H. (July 31, 2015). "Study Suggest 'Regressive' Gas Tax Hike for Hawaiians". Heartland Institute. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  7. ^ "Jones Act". Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  9. ^ Hawaii, Grassroot Institute of (2019-01-11). "First part of HART audit is bad; will rest be worse?". Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  10. ^ "Hawaii deserves better!". Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  11. ^ "State Auditor Says Rail Agency Is Interfering With His Work". Honolulu Civil Beat. 2018-06-01. Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  12. ^ Blair, Chad (August 13, 2015). "Lawsuit Says Hawaiians-Only Election Is 'Racially Exclusive'". Honolulu Civil Beat. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  13. ^ Essoyan, Susan (August 13, 2015). "Federal lawsuit filed to block Native Hawaiian election". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  14. ^ "Getting Less for More?". Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. November 26, 2008. Retrieved 21 December 2015.

External links

Akaka Bill

The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009 S1011/HR2314 was a bill before the 111th Congress. It is commonly known as the Akaka Bill after Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, who has proposed various forms of this bill since 2000.

The bill proposes to establish a process for US federal recognition of Native Hawaiians similar to an Indian tribe. However, the bill prohibits indigenous Native Hawaiians from gaming and other benefits available to federally recognized Indian tribes. The 2009 House version of the bill prohibited indigenous Native Hawaiians from pursuing their claims in the courts and arguably legitimizes past transfers of Hawaiian land that would not have been legitimate for Indian Tribes. The most updated Senate version however allows Native Hawaiians to pursue claims in court. On December 16, 2009, a Congressional House Committee passed an unamended version of the Akaka Bill. On the following day, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved the amendments in S. 1011, the Senate version of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act. As of January 10, 2009, H.R. 2314 was not completely consistent with S. 1011.

Akaka said on the floor of the U.S. Senate in December 2010 that "misleading attacks" and "unprecedented obstruction" led to the failure of legislation in the 111th Congress.

Apology Resolution

United States Public Law 103-150, informally known as the Apology Resolution, is a Joint Resolution of the U.S. Congress adopted in 1993 that "acknowledges that the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii occurred with the active participation of agents and citizens of the United States and further acknowledges that the Native Hawaiian people never directly relinquished to the United States their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people over their national lands, either through the Kingdom of Hawaii or through a plebiscite or referendum" (U.S. Public Law 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510)). The resolution has been cited as a major impetus for the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, and has been the subject of intense debate.The resolution was adopted by both houses of the United States Congress on November 23, 1993. A joint resolution, it was signed by President of the United States Bill Clinton on the same day.

The resolution was passed in the Senate by a vote of 65–34. In the House, it was passed by a two-thirds voice vote. It was sponsored on January 21, 1993, as S.J.Res.19 by Daniel Akaka and co-sponsored by Daniel Inouye, both Democratic senators from Hawaii.

H. William Burgess

H. William Burgess (March 13, 1929 – March 16, 2016) was an attorney who lived in Hawaii. He and his wife Sandra Puanani Burgess, who is of Chinese, Filipino and Hawaiian ancestry, were opponents of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and of government programs that benefit Native Hawaiians preferentially. Burgess was instrumental in bringing two controversial lawsuits seeking to have such programs declared unconstitutional.


Hawaii ( (listen) hə-WY-ee; Hawaiian: Hawaiʻi [həˈvɐjʔi]) is a state of the United States of America. It is the only state located in the Pacific Ocean and the only state composed entirely of islands.

The state encompasses nearly the entire Hawaiian archipelago, 137 islands spread over 1,500 miles (2,400 km). The volcanic archipelago is physiographically and ethnologically part of the Polynesian subregion of Oceania. At the southeastern end of the archipelago, the eight main islands are, in order from northwest to southeast: Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Maui, and Hawaiʻi. The last is the largest island in the group; it is often called the "Big Island" or "Hawaiʻi Island" to avoid confusion with the state or archipelago.

Hawaii is the 8th smallest geographically and the 11th least populous, but the 13th most densely populated of the 50 states. It is the only state with an Asian American plurality. Hawaii has over 1.4 million permanent residents, along with many visitors and U.S. military personnel. The state capital and largest city is Honolulu on the island of Oʻahu. The state's ocean coastline is about 750 miles (1,210 km) long, the fourth longest in the U.S., after the coastlines of Alaska, Florida, and California. Hawaii is the most recent state to join the union, on August 21, 1959. It was an independent nation until 1898.

Hawaii's diverse natural scenery, warm tropical climate, abundance of public beaches, oceanic surroundings, and active volcanoes make it a popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists, and volcanologists. Because of its central location in the Pacific and 19th-century labor migration, Hawaii's culture is strongly influenced by North American and East Asian cultures, in addition to its indigenous Hawaiian culture.

Hawaiian sovereignty movement

The Hawaiian sovereignty movement (Hawaiian: ke ea Hawaiʻi) is a grassroots political and cultural campaign to gain sovereignty, self-determination and self-governance for Hawaiians of whole or part Native Hawaiian ancestry with an autonomous or independent nation or kingdom. Some groups also advocate some form of redress from the United States for the 1893 overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani, and for what is described as a prolonged military occupation beginning with the 1898 annexation. The movement generally views both the overthrow and annexation as illegal. Palmyra Island and the Stewart Islands were annexed by the Kingdom in the 1860s and are regarded by the movement as being under illegal occupation along with the Hawaiian Islands. The Apology Resolution passed by the United States Congress in 1993 acknowledged that the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893 was an illegal act.Sovereignty advocates have attributed problems plaguing native communities including homelessness, poverty, economic marginalization, and the erosion of native traditions to the lack of native governance and political self-determination. They have pursued their agenda through educational initiatives and legislative actions. Along with protests throughout the islands, at the capitol itself as well as the places and locations held as sacred to Hawaiian culture, sovereignty activists have challenged United States forces and law.

Honolulu Rail Transit

The Honolulu Rail Transit Project (also known as the Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project) is an urban rail rapid transit system under construction in Honolulu County, Oahu, Hawaii, U.S. The mostly-elevated system features design elements from both heavy rail systems and light metros, with a commuter rail-like design incorporated into trains and suburban stations. It will become the first large-scale publicly run metro system in the United States to feature platform screen doors and will be driverless. The first phase of the project, linking East Kapolei and Aloha Stadium, is scheduled to open in late 2020. Its second phase continuing the line across urban Honolulu to Ala Moana Center is due to open in December 2025.

For more than 40 years, debate over the development of a rail system in Honolulu has been a major point of contention in local politics, especially leading into the 2008, 2012, and 2016 election cycles. Proponents of the system say it will alleviate worsening traffic congestion, already among the worst in the United States. They assert that the urban agglomeration in south Oahu is ideally suited to rail as it is constrained by mountains to a narrow strip along the coast, which will be well served by a single rail line and which has the fourth highest population density in the US. Rail opponent and freeway advocate Panos Prevedouros has questioned its cost effectiveness compared to alternatives and claims that it will have marginal impact on future congestion and that new roads will therefore still be required.The project is financed by a surcharge on local taxes as well as a $1.55 billion grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). After major cost overruns, the tax surcharges were extended in 2016 by five years to raise another $1.2 billion; however that additional funding was only sufficient for construction out to Middle Street in Kalihi. The FTA stated that its contribution is contingent to completion of the line all the way to Ala Moana Center and will not be increased. After much wrangling, the state legislature in 2017 approved $2.4 billion in additional taxes to allow the city to complete the project according to the original plan.Construction of the final 4.3-mile (6.9 km) section through downtown Honolulu, which is expected to be the most difficult to build, has not commenced. The contractor selection process for this section was restarted in September 2017 and is expected to take eighteen months. The first major contract for that section, a $400 million contract to relocate utilities to clear the path of the line, was awarded in May 2018.The final cost has grown from preliminary projections of $4 billion in 2006 to between $9 billion and $10 billion by 2017. Critics have called for a "forensic audit" to establish the cause of the increase. The tax increase legislation passed in 2017 also requires the State auditor carry out an audit of the project's accounts and to consider alternatives for completing the system.

Merchant Marine Act of 1920

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 is a United States federal statute that provides for the promotion and maintenance of the American merchant marine. Among other purposes, the law regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act is known as the Jones Act and deals with cabotage (coastwise trade) and requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents. The act was introduced by Senator Wesley Jones. The law also defines certain seaman's rights.

Laws similar to the Jones Act date to the early days of the nation. In the First Congress, on September 1, 1789, Congress enacted Chapter XI, "An Act for Registering and Clearing Vessels, Regulating the Coasting Trade, and for other purposes", which limited domestic trades to American ships meeting certain requirements. Such laws served the same purpose as – and were loosely based on – England's Navigation Acts, which were finally repealed in 1849.

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 has been revised a number of times; the most recent revision in 2006 included recodification in the U.S. Code. Some economists and other experts have argued for its repeal.The Jones Act is not to be confused with the Death on the High Seas Act, another United States maritime law that does not apply to coastal and in-land navigable waters.

Native Hawaiians

Native Hawaiians (Hawaiian: kānaka ʻōiwi, kānaka maoli and Hawaiʻi maoli) are the Aboriginal Polynesian people of the Hawaiian Islands or their descendants. Native Hawaiians trace their ancestry back to the original Polynesian settlers of Hawaiʻi. In total, 527,000 Americans consider themselves Native Hawaiian.According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 371,000 people who identified themselves as being "Native Hawaiian" in combination with one or more other races or Pacific Islander groups. 156,000 people identified themselves as being "Native Hawaiian" alone.

The majority of Native Hawaiians reside in the state of Hawaii (two-thirds) and the rest are scattered among other states, especially in the American Southwest and with a high concentration in California.

The history of Native Hawaiians, like the history of Hawaii, is commonly classified into four major periods:

the pre-unification period (before c. 1800)

the unified monarchy and republic period (c. 1800 to 1898)

the US territorial period (1898 to 1959)

the US statehood period (1959 to present)

State Policy Network

The State Policy Network (SPN) is an American nonprofit organization that functions primarily as an umbrella organization for a consortium of conservative and libertarian think tanks that focus on state-level policy. The organization serves as a public policy clearinghouse and advises its member think tanks on fundraising, running a nonprofit, and communicating ideas. Founded in 1992, it is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, with member groups located in all fifty states.

United States federal recognition of Native Hawaiians

Federal recognition of Native Hawaiians refers to proposals for the federal government of the United States to give legal recognition to Native Hawaiians (Hawaiian: kānaka maoli), providing them with some form of indigenous sovereignty within a framework similar to that afforded to Native Americans and Alaska Natives.Native Hawaiians are the aboriginal people of the Hawaiian Islands. Since American involvement in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, federal statutes have been enacted to address conditions of Native Hawaiians, with some feeling these should be formalized in the same manner as other indigenous populations in the United States. However, some controversy surrounds the proposal for formal recognition – many Native Hawaiian political organizations believe recognition might interfere with Hawaii's claims to independence as a constitutional monarchy through international law.

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