By Derrick DePledge
Renwick "Uncle Joe" Tassill, who serves on the Hawaiian Homes Commission, has complained to state House Speaker Joseph Souki that he was denied an opportunity to testify on a Hawaiian studies bill before the House Finance Committee in late February.
Tassill said in a March 3 letter to Souki that both Rep. Sylvia Luke, the committee's chairwoman, and Rep. Scott Nishimoto, the vice chairman, denied his request to testify. He said he was only allowed to speak after Rep. Gene Ward asked him a question. The bill would create an instructional office of Hawaiian studies at the state Department of Education.
The committee had already moved past testimony and into the question-and-answer portion of the hearing when Tassill made his request.
Tassill is the second Native Hawaiian activist to complain about their treatment at the Legislature since the controversy surrounding Rep. Faye Hanohano's conduct. Some Capitol insiders view the complaints as an attempt to insulate Hanohano by suggesting that other committee chairmen and chairwoman occasionally treat people poorly at hearings.
Tassill specifically mentioned Hanohano in his letter to Souki:
I believe that since Representative Hanohano is being disciplined for her actions, both the chair and vice chair should also be disciplined for their actions as well. I believe I deserve an open and public apology from them. I hope and pray that the right thing is done and that others are not treated as such.
Luke said on Friday night that she intends to send a letter of apology to Tassill.